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December 22, 2015 1

Israel’s Choice: Incitement or Civility

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in the Times of Israel.

As we see in Amer­ica these days, when peo­ple are feel­ing vul­ner­a­ble and inse­cure, politi­cians and dem­a­gogues play on those fears to offer solu­tions that are often anti-democratic and that will ulti­mately weaken, rather than strengthen society.

 So it is in Israel. The coun­try faces con­tin­ual ter­ror­ist vio­lence against its cit­i­zens — more fright­en­ing in some ways than intifadas because of the ran­dom and inti­mate nature of the attacks. And as hos­tile anti-Israel cam­paigns grow around the world, some Israelis turn to sim­plis­tic solu­tions. Those include blam­ing ter­ror on those who dis­agree with them polit­i­cally and engag­ing in behav­ior that verges into incite­ment. Such trends risk sti­fling the cul­ture of free expres­sion that Israel can be so proud of.

In recent days, this phe­nom­e­non has man­i­fested itself in the con­tin­ued attacks on Pres­i­dent Reuven Rivlin for his insis­tence on speak­ing to all seg­ments of Israel’s diverse soci­ety. It has shown up in an ugly video cre­ated by Im Tirtzu, a right-wing advo­cacy group, to name and dele­git­imize left-wing Israeli activists as “for­eign agents” in what can only be con­sid­ered an act of hate­ful incite­ment. It also appears in a broader Knes­set bill that would bar non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions funded by for­eign gov­ern­ments from any con­tact with gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary authorities.

All of these together rep­re­sent a seri­ous threat to Israel’s robust demo­c­ra­tic tradition.

Let’s be clear: when a group like Break­ing the Silence airs alleged atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Israeli sol­diers abroad — instead of through the estab­lished legal chan­nels for deal­ing with such alle­ga­tions — it under­stand­ably raises the ire of Israelis who are proud of the Israel Defense Forces, the force that stands in the way of Israel’s destruc­tion at the hands of its ene­mies. And it is fair to raise ques­tions about whether such groups play a con­struc­tive role or con­tribute to Israel’s iso­la­tion in the world.

There is, how­ever, a line that should not be crossed. And of late, there are too many cross­ings of that line.

Pres­i­dent Rivlin has been a par­tic­u­lar tar­get of these attacks. Already dur­ing last sum­mer, when Rivlin harshly con­demned the arson attack in Duma, he was widely con­demned on social media for speak­ing out. This included the post­ing of pic­tures of him wear­ing a kef­fiyeh and a Nazi uni­form. Incite­ment of this nature is rem­i­nis­cent of the attacks against for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yitzhak Rabin that pre­ceded his assas­si­na­tion 20 years ago.

 More recently, when the Israeli pres­i­dent spoke before the Haaretz con­fer­ence in New York, which also fea­tured a panel dis­cus­sion with Break­ing the Silence, Israel’s Chan­nel 20 harshly crit­i­cized him on their Face­book page say­ing the pres­i­dent “mustn’t spit in the face of the sol­diers,” and that his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the same con­fer­ence with Break­ing the Silence is “con­tempt of the presidency.”

The pres­i­dent used his podium to high­light the impor­tance of speak­ing with groups with whom he stren­u­ously dis­agreed, a prin­ci­pled exam­ple of the type of plu­ral­ism that define open soci­eties. Indeed, he specif­i­cally called out his com­plaints against groups such as Break­ing the Silence, as did for­mer Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and Knes­set law­maker Tzipi Livni.

 A trou­bling inci­dent in the effort to dele­git­imize and sti­fle left-wing crit­i­cism of Israel was the egre­gious video pro­duced by Im Tirtzu paint­ing left wing activists as com­plicit in Pales­tin­ian stabbings.

 An orga­ni­za­tion has every right to be crit­i­cal of polit­i­cal activ­i­ties it deems harm­ful to the nation. But this kind of fear tac­tic — of blam­ing left-wing groups for the ongo­ing wave of Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ism in order to dele­git­imize them — is a form of incite­ment that crosses over into hate speech. Whether one agrees or dis­agrees with the work of the non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions men­tioned — and ADL strongly dis­agrees with groups like Break­ing the Silence, which refuse to con­tex­tu­al­ize Israeli mil­i­tary actions and to con­sider the hos­tile cli­mate to which they con­tribute — accus­ing them of sup­port­ing Pales­tin­ian ter­ror is poten­tially libelous, and cer­tainly unde­mo­c­ra­tic and dangerous.

This kind of incite­ment against Pres­i­dent Rivlin or against left-wing orga­ni­za­tions and activists should be rejected and con­demned. Israel has trag­i­cally expe­ri­enced what such incite­ment can lead to. Luck­ily, many have spo­ken up.

At the same time, respon­si­bil­ity for how one deals with del­i­cate issues, par­tic­u­larly at a time of great vul­ner­a­bil­ity in soci­ety, falls on all sec­tors of soci­ety. Those on the left who are crit­i­cal of Israeli poli­cies have a right to offer those crit­i­cisms. But they also should be mind­ful of the impact of those crit­i­cisms on the aver­age Israeli and on embold­en­ing forces around the world who are hos­tile to Israel.

For civil soci­ety to work in a demo­c­ra­tic coun­try, civil lib­er­ties must be pro­tected. The right to voice one’s views must be guar­an­teed, and one’s secu­rity in doing so must be reassured.

If civil lib­er­ties are dimin­ished in Israel, Israel will be diminished.

But out­side of Israel, it is essen­tial to rec­og­nize that, in any soci­ety, if a citizenry’s sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity and inse­cu­rity reaches a break­ing point, pub­lic sup­port for civil lib­er­ties dimin­ishes accord­ingly, while calls for secu­rity increase. In fact, it is worth reflect­ing on the remark­able resilience of Israeli democ­racy in the face of the unre­lent­ing exter­nal threats that it has faced since its establishment.

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November 24, 2015 2

Campus Groups Exploit Domestic Social Issues to Attack Israel

Anti-Israel groups on uni­ver­sity and col­lege cam­puses con­tinue to link the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict to issues of police bru­tal­ity and dis­crim­i­na­tion in the U.S., in an attempt to gain broader sup­port for Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns and other anti-Israel ini­tia­tives from minor­ity stu­dent groups. By employ­ing this tac­tic, groups such as Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) link domes­tic issues to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, thereby couch­ing hos­til­ity towards Israel in social jus­tice terms and mak­ing Israel look like an aggressor.students-for-justice-in-palestine-suhad-khatib

Below are a few exam­ples of these events and actions from the 2015–2016 aca­d­e­mic year:

  • Linda Sar­sour, the National Advo­cacy Direc­tor for the National Net­work for Arab Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ties, spoke at Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity on Mon­day, Novem­ber 23, 2015 for an event titled “Sol­i­dar­ity: Uni­fy­ing Com­mu­ni­ties of Color to Break Cycles of Oppres­sion.” Accord­ing to the orga­niz­ers of the event, it was held to focus on a num­ber of issues, includ­ing “mass incar­cer­a­tion, mass crim­i­nal­iza­tion, struc­tural vio­lence, apartheid, racism, state-sanctioned vio­lence, police bru­tal­ity, tear gassed for fight­ing for free­dom and equal­ity– a real­ity for Pales­tini­ans liv­ing under occu­pa­tion, and for Blacks fight­ing an unjust sys­tem here in the United States.”
  • Suhad Khatib, a mem­ber of the St. Louis Pales­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Com­mit­tee (PSC), spoke via Skype at San Diego State Uni­ver­sity on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 19 for an event titled “Resist­ing Oppres­sion from Miz­zou to Gaza.” In her pre­sen­ta­tion, she stated that African-Americans, Pales­tini­ans, Mex­i­cans, and oppressed peo­ple are con­nected, claim­ing that “Fer­gu­son taught me more about my con­nec­tion with Pales­tine than any­thing else because you under­stand racism and sys­tem­atic racism. We as Pales­tini­ans are brain­washed to think we are white when we are peo­ple of color and are oppressed.”
  • The Mar­quette Uni­ver­sity SJP chap­ter spon­sored a panel dis­cus­sion titled “Out­lets 4 Activism,” which fea­tured Ali Abunimah, founder and exec­u­tive direc­tor of the anti-Israel Elec­tronic Intifada blog, as a pan­elist. Other pan­elists at the event included Nate Hamil­ton, an activist from the #Black­Lives­Mat­ter move­ment and brother of Don­tre Hamil­ton; and Oscar Her­nan­dez, an immi­grant rights activist who works as an Orga­nizer for We Own the DREAM. The event was co-sponsored by Black Stu­dent Coun­cil (BSC), Youth Empow­ered in the Strug­gle (Y.E.S), the National Asso­ci­a­tion for the Advance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple (NAACP), and Jew­ish Voice for Peace (JVP).
  • Many SJP chap­ters and other anti-Israel groups across the coun­try co-sponsored ral­lies and demon­stra­tions held in sol­i­dar­ity with African-American stu­dents at the Uni­ver­sity of Mis­souri. At one of the demon­stra­tions, which took place at Loy­ola Uni­ver­sity on Wednes­day, Novem­ber 11, Nadine Dar­wish, a mem­ber of Loy­ola SJP and Loy­ola Divest, stated “Now is the time to hold admin­is­tra­tors accountable…No longer can we remain com­pla­cent as stu­dents and stu­dent activists. We have to put an end to the poli­cies and prac­tices that con­tribute to the sys­temic trauma­ti­za­tion of stu­dents of color on cam­pus, par­tic­u­larly Black stu­dents and my peers in SJP.”

These events are a con­tin­u­a­tion of what occurred dur­ing the pre­vi­ous aca­d­e­mic year, when anti-Israel groups worked to link the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict to Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri and when SJP and its part­ners began to pub­licly back dif­fer­ent move­ments and offer sup­port to var­i­ous groups, while broad­en­ing sup­port for BDS and other anti-Israel initiatives.

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October 20, 2015 1

ISIS Promotes Murdering Jews in New Online Campaign

A banner promoting the ISIS video "Return the Terror to the Jews"

A ban­ner pro­mot­ing the ISIS video “Return the Ter­ror to the Jews”

Offi­cial media out­lets for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have released offi­cial pro­pa­ganda videos and state­ments encour­ag­ing and incit­ing vio­lence against Jews in Israel.

The pro­pa­ganda is yet another addi­tion to the cacoph­ony of online calls for mur­der­ing Jews and Israelis, which have already been prop­a­gated by Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions, indi­vid­u­als cel­e­brat­ing and pro­mot­ing ter­ror­ism, and even main­stream Arabic-language news out­lets.

The ISIS pro­pa­ganda also serves to fur­ther demon­strate the per­va­sive­ness of anti-Semitism in ter­ror­ist ide­ol­ogy, and the way in which ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions exploit pop­u­lar anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sen­ti­ment to mobi­lize and recruit sup­port­ers. A recent ADL report, “Anti-Semitism: A Pil­lar of Islamic Extrem­ist Ide­ol­ogy,” high­lights this use of anti-Semitism with exam­ples from ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other ter­ror­ist organizations.

A screenshot from an ISIS video shows images of terror attacks in Israel

A screen­shot from an ISIS video shows images of ter­ror attacks in Israel

In its cur­rent cam­paign, ISIS has posted at least eight offi­cial pro­pa­ganda videos incit­ing vio­lence in Israel. The videos were posted on social media with an Arabic-language hash­tag that trans­lates as #BeheadThe­Jews; some were also posted under the English-language hash­tag #Slaughter_the_Jews. Trans­lated titles of the videos, which are instruc­tive of their con­tent, include: “Return the Ter­ror to the Jews,” “Slaugh­ter Them and Don’t Show Them Mercy,” “Ter­ror­ize the Jews, Oh Peo­ple of Beyt al Maqdis (Jerusalem),” “Mes­sage to our Peo­ple in Beyt Al Maqdis,” and “Mes­sage to the Mujahideen (fight­ers) in Beyt al Maqdis.”

Many of the videos fea­ture images of ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are eas­ily rec­og­niz­able as Jew­ish because of their cloth­ing, and of Israeli sol­diers, includ­ing mul­ti­ple images of Israeli sol­diers engaged in Jew­ish rit­ual activ­ity such as eat­ing matzah and pray­ing while wear­ing phy­lac­ter­ies. They also show images and footage of attacks against Jews and Israelis, includ­ing bus bomb­ings and recent stabbings.

One of the videos, pro­duced by the media divi­sion of ISIS’s Nin­veh Province, clearly defines attack­ing Jews all over the world as fun­da­men­tal to Islamic extrem­ist goals. “Remem­ber that our war with the Jews is doc­tri­nal,” the video’s nar­ra­tor states; “it is a war between faith and dis­be­lief. There­fore, you must keep going with your fight and use all the legit­i­mate means in fight­ing them, includ­ing stab­bing and run­ning them over. Do not for­get about the explo­sive devices…” In a ref­er­ence to a Qu’ranic verse in which the entire world assists Mus­lims in killing Jews, the video’s nar­ra­tor goes on to say that, “Allah per­mit­ting, the promised day is approach­ing from which the Jews will not escape.”

A sam­pling of addi­tional quotes that encour­age vio­lence against Jews includes:

A screenshot from an ISIS video shows Israeli soldiers eating matzah, overlaid with an image of flames.

A screen­shot from one of the ISIS videos

  • “Bring back the ter­ror to the Jews with bomb­ing, burn­ing and stabbing.”
  • “Oh, you Monothe­ists in Pales­tine, to become lone wolves killing the ene­mies of God is bet­ter for you than to be with groups or par­ties that claim to be work­ing for the reli­gion of God while they serve as a bar­rier between the Muja­hedeen and Jihad.”
  • “Oh you peo­ple of Jerusalem, ter­rify the Jews.”
  • “Increase your oper­a­tions against the Jews who fed the Mus­lims all types of mis­ery and suffering.”

Some of the videos also advo­cate anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries. “[Jews are] the mur­der­ers of the prophets and mes­sen­gers,” alleged one of the videos, which went on to accuse Jews of hav­ing “cor­rupted the faith of the Chris­tians” and “mis­led the Shi’a.”

Sev­eral of the videos bor­row footage from pre­vi­ous ISIS pro­pa­ganda pieces that threat­ened Israel. One of them, for exam­ple, fea­tures an image of a child exe­cut­ing a man that ISIS alleged was a Mossad spy. The orig­i­nal video show­ing that exe­cu­tion had gone on to sug­gest that the cur­rent chil­dren of ISIS fight­ers will go on to con­quer Israel in the future.

An image circulated online states that negotiations and elections will lead to destruction, calling instead for readers to "sacrifice our money and selves"

An image cir­cu­lated online states that nego­ti­a­tions and elec­tions will lead to destruc­tion, adding that what is needed is for read­ers to “sac­ri­fice our money and ourselves”

The ISIS pro­pa­ganda also fea­tures ban­ners and images released by Al Bat­tar Media, the same media com­pany that was active in releas­ing images call­ing for Israel’s destruc­tion last sum­mer; the cur­rent cam­paign has recy­cled some of the images from last sum­mer, such as one depict­ing ISIS fight­ers stand­ing in front of the Dome of the Rock, and has added new images as well.

In a notable shift from pre­vi­ous ISIS pro­pa­ganda on Israel, the cur­rent videos and posters are focused more on pro­mot­ing the vio­lence than on promis­ing a future ISIS vic­tory over Israel (although the lat­ter is depicted as well). This may be a result of the indi­vid­ual nature of the cur­rent vio­lence, which is not claimed by groups but, rather, is being under­taken by indi­vid­u­als inspired in part by the infor­ma­tion they find on social media. ISIS can there­fore seek to claim credit for inspir­ing future attacks and assert that it is active in the present con­flict sim­ply by encour­ag­ing addi­tional vio­lence online.

Sim­i­larly, the cur­rent cam­paign fea­tures a heavy focus on defend­ing the Al Aqsa mosque, with one video even show­ing footage of Israeli sol­diers and explo­sions in the mosque. This cor­re­lates with the excuse being used to jus­tify the cur­rent vio­lence, which stems from false alle­ga­tions of Israeli attempts to take over that mosque.

The videos and images were dis­trib­uted on Telegram, an app that ISIS now uses as a pri­mary pro­pa­ganda dis­tri­b­u­tion ser­vice, but they were also cir­cu­lated broadly on more main­stream social media sites due in part to the strong pres­ence of ISIS sup­port­ers on social media and the unfor­tu­nately wide­spread fol­low­ing of con­tent call­ing for the destruc­tion of Jews and Israel in the cur­rent cli­mate of vio­lence in Israel.

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