I went to Haifa University to attend a conference on “Rethinking the Challenges of Israel’s PR.” First let me describe the journey there, I was not sure of the way, so on my smartphone I used Waze, a wonderful Israeli app that uses GPS and shows the way accurately and also reports back any problems en route, such as road works. Although in Israel the map is in Hebrew, I can read the names, and I just typed in Haifa University in English and it found it and the spoken directions were in English.
It told me to turn off the main road to Haifa at Atlit and then I went through the Carmel Forest up to the top of Mt. Carmel. It was a great drive, like a Swiss mountain road, and the view from the top of the coast both south and north of Haifa was breathtaking. I was warned that there was no parking inside the campus, but I drove to the gate anyway and asked, and the guard turned me away. So I drove back to a parking lot nearby (free) and parked there. Then I walked back to the gate and asked where the conf. was meeting. Now another guard said to me, “Oh, you’re an old guy going to that conference, Ok we’ll let you in.” So now I walked back again to my car and this time drove in. Luckily I found some empty parking spaces at the far end of the lot near the main building, and the conf. was just there.
The convenor of the conference was Prof. Eli Abraham, Head of the Comper Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Haifa Univ. The keynote speaker at the conf. was Prof. Irwin Cotler, former Canadian MP, and former Minister of Justice and Atty. Gen. of Canada. He spoke eloquently about the “new” anti-Semitism, which is the old anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Israelism. It only discriminates against Israel and not against any other country, such as occupying countries, including China (that occupies Tibet), Turkey (that occupies North Cyprus), Morocco (that occupies Western Sahara), and the many dictatorial, repressive regimes, such as Iran, Syria, N. Korea, Cuba, etc. As a measure of this bias he pointed out that the Gen Assembly of the UN passed 20 resolutions against Israel in 2015 and only 3 against all other countries in the world. If this isn’t anti-Semitic bias what is?
Cotler said that we need new metrics to understand the phenomenon of the new anti-Semitism, the old biases about Jews controlling the media and the banks are no longer appropriate. He pointed out four types of the new anti-Semitism (as), 1. Genocidal as: perhaps the most lethal; he noted that incitement to commit genocide is itself a crime under international humanitarian law, but it is never prosecuted, as in the case of the leaders of Iran; 2. Racist as: Israel is considered to be a racist, imperialist, colonialist apartheid state, one of the worst insults one can make against a state in the modern world, that puts it outside the international system; 3. Political as: the denial of fundamental political rights to a recognized state; 4. Laundering of as: Israel is delegitimized and is considered to be the enemy of all that is good.
Since the UN resolution of “Zionism is racism,” Israel and its supporters have been fighting an uphill battle. The conferences in London and more recently in Ottawa, that have defined anti-Semitism and resulted in Parliamentary resolutions in Canada might herald the beginning of a legal fight-back against all the Israel haters.
There were then four panels, each with four speakers, who were supposed to keep to 15 mis, but rarely did. I only comment that one lady speaker admitted her left-wing bias, said that the issue being discussed was “not a great problem” and called for inclusivity of Arabs and Diaspora Jews. I thought this was a ridiculous and irrelevant contribution, would she countenance the inclusion of haredim also?
Here is the official summary of the conference panels: HAIFA CONFERENCE SUMMARY: Summary of the 4 panels on “Rethinking the Challenges to Israel’s PR.”
ACADEMIA: A book should be published which will include the contents of each speaker and the conclusion of each panel; The Haifa Conference should be an annual event; Campus Anti-Zionism is affecting Jewish and pro-Israel students who need support. More Israel education is needed to enhance the centrality of Israel in Jewish lives; Faculties need to work together and with Jewish communities; We need a variety of voices; BDS should be seen as unfashionable and politically incorrect.
DIPLOMACY: Initiate a task force within the government ministries of Strategy and Hasbara; There ought to be a mutual recognition between government and non-government efforts in advocacy. Private initiatives cannot be 100% of the effort because there will always be a need for government intervention no matter how good the ideas are.
LAW: There is a need to increase legal action and advocacy; There is a need to widen and strengthen a global network of lawyers for Israel; There should be training of European legal practitioners relating to Israeli affairs; There is a need to define and adopt a clear definition of Anti-Semitism, including new Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism; There is a need to criminalize boycotts but also the incitement to boycott Israel; Legal advocacy should be used to work with parliaments to end funding to UNWRA; Lawyers should work against genocide and incitement of genocide against Israel and the destruction of Israel.
MEDIA: There is a need for additional professional monitoring of the media. This should include academic supervision and research into media bias against Israel. Results of this research should be published; The social media should be used to challenge biased print and TV media; There should be cooperation with civil society. Local communities should be informed and recruited to address media bias and the media’s negative image of Israel; There is a need for a central bureau to build, maintain, and distribute a database for Israeli advocates to discuss controversial issues from an Israeli perspective and to add this perspective to controversial social media sites; There is a need to establish a central authority to advance Israeli advocacy and non-governmental advocacy and diplomacy; There is a need to convince the government to censure and punish long term media offenders.
In my opinion there was a lot of wishful thinking and irrelevant issues raised at this meeting, but it was a good start.