FAQs on the Reut Institute's Document on Delegitimization

The launch of the Reut Institute report, entitled ‘The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall,' has generated a significant media buzz. In this document we present five frequently asked questions or arguments referring to our report.
The launch of the Reut Institute report, entitled ‘The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall,' has generated a significant media buzz, much of which is taking place in the international media. As our report has yet to be translated into English, the vast majority of the discourse, responses, and critiques are not based on its actual contents.

In this document we present five frequently asked questions or arguments referring to our report.

Is Reut is trying to block any form of criticism against Israel?

"The report fails to distinguish between criticism of specific Israeli policies and the rejection of Israel's right to exist, conflating them and collectively terming them as illegitimate."

Response: The report actually emphasizes the distinction between delegitimizers undermining Israel' right to exist, which we consider illegitimate, and those who criticize Israeli policy. Furthermore, the report criticizes some of the Israeli officials who tend to label almost any kind of criticism as 'anti-Semitism' or anti-Zionism. The report even goes as far as saying that biased and unfair criticism of Israeli policy is not necessarily equivalent to delegitimization. The key principle for fighting delegitimization according to the report is that of driving a wedge between delegitimizers, on the one hand, and critics of policy, on the other (Hebrew version, p.28, article 77).

It is interesting to note that the New Israeli Fund (NIF) chose to quote this principle in their response (in Hebrew)to the allegations levied against them of being 'delegitimizers.'

Israel's diplomatic position is not a result of fundamental delegitimization, but a direct result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The report ignores Israel's actions in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which are a major component driving delegitimization."

Response: The Reut Institute is not challenging the assumption that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the 'engine' of anti-Israel activity. Moreover, in previous projects, Reut has written extensively regarding the importance of the establishment of a Palestinian state and the political process in the context of delegitimization (see for example Reassessment of the Israeli Palestinian Political Process: Build a Palestinian State in the West Bank)

However, the paper contends that it is of vital importance to prepare for the perpetuation of the current political stagnation. This is due to the gaps between the two sides, the structural and constitutional difficulties that prevent a Permanent Status Agreement, as well as attempts by the Resistance Network to undermine the political principle of the two-state solution.

In addition, it is important to note that it is the fundamental rejection of Israel's right to exist - rather than specific policies - that drives Israel's delegitimizers, and even a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is unlikely to abate their activities against Israel.

Is it legitimate to brand cities like London, Madrid, and Toronto as anti-Israel hubs?

Response: Reut describes 'hubs of delegitimization' as geographical areas that possess a strong global impact and an internal dynamic of strong fundamental anti-Israeli activity that stretches far beyond legitimate criticism of Israeli policies. These hubs are usually global metropolises that concentrate international media, leading judicial institutions, major academic centers, international NGOs, and human rights organizations.

While standard operating principles in hubs overlap significantly, each hub is unique in terms of societal, economic, and political characteristics. Therefore, while the paper focuses on London as a case study, it is not possible to use it to extrapolate generalized conclusions regarding dynamics in other hubs such as Toronto or Madrid. However, Reut assumes that the places mentioned are not very different from London in the marginal political role played by the forces promoting Israel's delegitimization and striving for its implosion. The report emphasizes this point.

In fact, it seems that the vast majority of the Londonites do not care about Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with some polls even suggesting that among those holding opinions, Israel enjoys greater support than the Palestinians.

While Reut had no intention to 'brand' all or even most residents of anti-Israel hubs as delegitimizers, the paper did seek to shed light on the disproportionate influence of anti-Israel activity taking place within these hubs. Although the forces advancing Israel's delegitimization are weak politically, they do pose a strategic threat to Israel due to mechanisms we discuss in the full document.

Does Reut recommend that the Mossad work in hubs to counter delegitimizers?

"I have seen Reut's powerpoint presentation, and it seems to advocate "intelligence agencies focus on hubs." Is Reut advocating that the Mossad work in cities like Toronto to try to counter these delegitimizers? How would they accomplish that?"

Response: The Reut document refers to the list of critical issues - articulated in advance - that constitute the focus of Israel's intelligence units. Reut contends that in addition to issues such as global terrorism and the Iranian nuclear program, Israel's delegitimization should be featured on that list. As things currently stand, information related to this issue has been treated as irrelevant, and has not been passed on and presented to decision makers. Reut absolutely does not call for the Mossad to violate the sovereignty of foreign countries.

Does Reut call for physical violence against delegitimizers?

"Reut's call to ‘sabotage' catalysts of delegitimization implicitly alludes to physical violence."

Response: Among other recommendation, Reut contends that that Israel should selectively apply tactics of disrupting the activities of those promoting a hidden agenda to delegitimize Israel with the aim of exposing their agenda. Israel and pro-Israel organizations must shift from their defensive stance on the delegitimization issue to offensive positions

Successful examples of thwarting such attacks include journalist Ben-Dror Yemini's exposure of senior Human Rights Watch (HRW) official Joe Stork's activities, which included accusing Israel of targeting civilians in Gaza, calling for the destruction of Israel, and expressing support for terror attacks. In another example, NGO Monitor exposed then-senior HRW expert Mark Garlasco, who compiled some of the organization's most damning reports against Israel, as a collector of Nazi memorabilia - a move which led to his dismissal.