Tony Greenstein | 03 January 2018 | Post Views:

This is an Older Post From 2013 Which Has Been Updated

Amir Sagie’s of Israel’s Foreign Office has some novel advice – shoot the messenger not the message

Update at Sussex University

A magnificent victory at Sussex University for the BDS campaign.   The significance of this vote isn’t simply in the massive majorities, but the fact that students today are tomorrow’s decision makers.  Everything points in one direction – that the Zionists have lost the propaganda war and it is but the last lap to ensure that that translates into action.

Those who argue for the ‘piss process’ (as Israelis call it) are really trying to put off the day of judgement.  When asked what they mean by ‘peace’ they have nothing but the status quo to defend. 

Below is an interesting article from our enemies on how they think they can defeat BDS.  One thing is for sure; notwithstanding defeatists like Norman Finkelstein, BDS is the only show in town.  Notice how the racism oozes into Sagie’s speech – ‘Muslim money pouring into Academia’ now if a supporter of Hamas were to speak of ‘Jewish money pouring into Academia’ there would be the inevitable cries of ‘anti-Semitism’.  But Muslims are fair game.

You can see the essential  weakness of the Zionist argument by the fact that their main defence is not ‘expropriations are justified’ but ‘why pick on us when there’s Syria and China etc.’.  Their only resort now is that of South Africa in its dying days of Apartheid – to say they may be bad but there are others who are worse!

The results were:

Should the University of Sussex Students’ Union lobby the University to end its contract with Veolia Environmental Services?

Total valid votes –  1467
Yes – 1111 – 76%
No – 356 – 24%

Should the University of Sussex Students’ Union continue to boycott Israeli goods?

Total valid votes – 1639
Yes – 1179 – 72%
No – 460 – 28%

The anti-Veolia referendum result was   won by over 3-1!!

And the specific motion calling for a boycott of Israeli goods was won by over 2.5-1 or 44%.  Let’s see how the Zionists turn that into a victory!!

Tony Greenstein

Israel’s top anti-BDS man

Wed, 02/06/2013 – 04:33

Trends to expect from BDS & how to klap them


Amir Sagie, the director, civil society affairs department, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs was the Keynote Guest speaker at Sunday’s overwhelmingly successful Israel Advocacy Seminar in Joburg.

This speech, by the man at the forefront of combatting the global BDS movement, was extremely informative and useful to all present – given that it was an Israel advocacy seminar.

MyShtetl took a complete transcript of the speech. However, the information has been edited to exclude strategically sensitive information from the eyes of anti-Israel forces who are becoming increasingly common users of the website.  [now I wonder what ‘strategically sensitive information’ might be?  Surely these democrats don’t have anything to hide?!! – TG]

“Combating BDS Internationally”

The issue of Settlements is increasingly becoming more of the core campaign in fighting BDS.

OVERVIEW – there are seven eminent issues in the current phenomena of the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement globally:

Labelling of goods is becoming a bigger issue

Labelling of goods – which has been a major issue in SA but which is also of much concern in EU and, most recently, within the UN.

South Africa’s Jewish community distinguished itself by its support of Apartheid – it is the most pro-Zionist Jewish community in the world

In recent weeks in the EU, political will was translated into operational activity with legislators trying to find the legislative mechanisms to label goods from occupied territories.

They have found that they only have an existing legal framework covering labelling of agricultural products. But even there concerns about discrimination have been raised by Denmark, Holland, the UK and others. We are watching the situation closely.

The workers most affected by any such changes will be the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who are working in the Jordan Valley and other areas.

Boycotting international cultural exchanges

Attempts to boycott international cultural exchanges are another growing phenomenon. The UK is a major problem area which is growing. It has targeted Madonna and other leading musicians.

In the UK Israeli culture has been a huge success, the critics and the public liked the Israeli culture.

But one of the recent consequences has been that the increased investment in security and keeping order in and around venues is of concern to promoters and local authorities. Now this additional cost is scaring event organisers off.

BDS hasn’t been able to scare any major performers from coming to Israel. Even though artists have been getting threats (even on their lives) but they keep coming.
[presumably being Black, Stevie Wonder isn’t a major artist, nor Roger Waters nor Santana to name but 3]

Researching the legal frameworks

Legal sphere: various ministries have been investing heavily in this area – in research, mainly in key countries in the EU. For us to challenge BDS initiatives we need to understand the legal environment. Over the last six months Israel has taken on two (court) cases in partnership with UK Jewry. We are trying wherever possible to challenge BDS morally and legally. But some legal systems are not geared to this. France’s legal system (provides ways to challenge boycotts) while the UK (legal) system is not (similarly geared).
[a pity then that one of those legal challenges, against the Universities College Union] was described by a spokesman for Lawyers for Israel as an ‘act of epic folly’!!]

Problems on university campuses

Academics and campuses are another area of concern. Most of our work is around North American campuses and we have to apologise if we are not spending enough time here. The good news is that most US campuses are not infected by BDS – but we have found that students are ambivalent about Israel.

In reality we have 10 West Coast campuses, most in California, that have been troublesome.

Apartheid Week is declining in its support and numbers of participants. We are not making too much fuss over this. Sometimes it is better to not add traction (to these initiatives).

We have found that we have bigger problems with faculty members. The newer faculty members are informed by the growing anti-Israel environment that exists today.

We are following developments closely and we have had issues over the last few days at a Brooklyn College.

We are trying to restrain the pro-Israel groups from lashing out at BDS-ers. We would prefer not to give traction to (their initiatives) and focus our enrgy to use more productively and proactively.

Muslim money pouring into Academia [substitute ‘Jewish’ for ‘Muslim’ to get a racist flavour of the comment]

Money is being poured into North American universities by wealthy countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

There is a proliferation of increasingly strong faculties of Islamic Studies adding strength to both students and faculty.

Civil society groups being infiltrated by BDS

Certain civil society groups are increasingly being infiltrated by BDS. The most noteworthy areas of their influence are:

Churches – we are trying to build partnerships but this has become a bigger challenge recently.

Labour unions – national unions, and more particularly international union groups, are areas we are addressing.

Boycott, divest & sanction campaigns

The boycott, divest and sanction campaigns have been concentrated on two popular product ranges – Ahava and Sodastream. Their impact has been negligible.

Sodastream have appointed lobbyists – an initiative that is paying dividends.  [how interesting! and also given journalists all-expense paid trips, like John Keenan of Brighton’s Argus, to come and visit]

Of more concern and a bigger potential threat to Israel is the multinationals who are being accused of being active in occupied territories. There is a concern that a number of international companies who are under pressure may come to us and tell us they have to leave as their activities in Israel are standing in the way of their global operations.

Challenges and threats

Hard-core BDS-ers are in the minority – but we are increasingly seeing ‘spill-over’ into some sensitive constituencies – mainly liberals.

We accept that we won’t be able to change the minds of BDS-ers. We are more concerned about trying to fine tune our strategy to target the spill-over.

We need to reclaim the narrative. For too many years we have left it for the Palestinians to build the narrative – even domestically in Israel.

What is now important is the need to develop a more provocative message with regard to explaining the reality about the peace process and settlement development.

Dispelling the Myths

The Palestinian-driven narrative has resulted in numerous myths having taken hold over recent years. These can be grouped into three major groups of myths:

1. Israel is jeopardising Palestinian statehood by doing everything it can to frustrate their efforts;

2. New settlements and expansion – by building relentlessly Israel is making sure there will never be the possibility of a viable state; and

3. Israel is opposed to reconciliation and is working pro-actively against the reunification of PA and Hamas.

Let’s debunk these three common myths:

MYTH #1: Frustrating Palestinian Statehood

In recent years the number of checkpoints has been reduced to the minimum required to make it easier for Palestinians to move around. The economic growth rate is incredible in Palestine: building of homes and malls, the proliferation of cars – Israel is fully supportive in every way it can be (of this growth).

We have been working with the Palestinian Authority on all aspects of preparing for their Statehood. This is happening in respect of security – with a lot of help from the US mainly, and the Europeans.

In the past year not one single Israeli was killed in the West Bank.

Israelis is doing everything we can to help build a strong economy in Palestine, to build strong institutions that will be required for Statehood, building new towns and cities.

Some Palestinians talk about boycotting Israeli goods. But the two economies are so interconnected that there is no viable possibility of an economic boycott. Palestinians even use Israeli currency.

MYTH #2: New settlement development

No new settlements have been added in the West bank in at least four years. The (geographic) footprint hasn’t changed at all. We have only added buildings within the existing (settlement) borders.

Netanyahu’s 10-month freeze was (absolute) – residents couldn’t even enclose a balcony.

MYTH #3: Frustrating reconciliation between parties

This is nonsense. Israel is opening its arms for the PA to return to the (negotiating) table with no preconditions whatsoever.

A large part of this myth is that the population in Israel has been moving to the right! We need to put these facts right. The (political position that) was the main claim of the left parties 20 years ago, is now supported by 60 to 70 percent of Israelis.

Support of Israelis for a two-State solution is at 80 percent. But not on terms that (creates a risk that) there will be no Israel!

Public opinion has moved to the left and that is where it is today.

The UN Human Rights Council report that follows trends suggests a process (whereby) Israel will remove 100 percent of its citizens from the West Bank.

This can never be. They are building the ladder higher and higher (to the extent that) it cannot be climbed.

How Israel can deal with these issues

How we deal with things – here are some of our conceptual strategies:

We as Civil Society Affairs have to build partnerships. We are not just there to fight against BDS – we need to keep working on this as you are doing here.

When the time comes for a resolution to be tabled anywhere, you can’t (simply) call on someone the night before and lobby (them for their vote). We have learned that these relationships have to be built over time.

Importantly, we need to reclaim the narrative – for many years we have left it for the Palestinians to build the narrative – both globally and in Israel.

Let me give you an example: How many Jews (never mind others) are aware of the role of the Palestinians played in Holocaust? They were actively promoting it. [a complete fabrication which exonerates the Nazis.  If anyone were guilty of such a role it is the Zionist leadership under Ben-Gurion which actively opposed the rescue of Jews to any other country bar Palestine which they knew was barred.  The Zionist leaders not only abandoned their own chaverim (comrades) but the masses of European Jewry who they considered anti-Zionist and not the kind of Jew they wanted].

The Palestinians have been tempted (to link up with anti-Jewish forces) three times over the years.

First there was the collaboration with the Nazis to annihilate the Jews in both Europe and in Palestine. [this myth is based on the pro-Nazi views of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj-al-Amin Husseini. But Husseini came fourth in elections to the post of Mufti and it was the British High Commissioner Sir Herbert Samuel who nonetheless appointed this reactionary buffoon.  If anyone was responsible for the Mufti’s act ions it was the Zionists themselves – Samuel had been an ardent member of the Asquith government and had long lobbied for the equivalent of the Balfour Declaration.  It should also be pointed out that the SS battallions he did form in the Balkans did not take part in the deportation of Jews, with the exception of 300 from Kosovo.  So ‘bad’ was their attitude to Jews that they were sent for ‘retraining’ to France where they promptly mutinied and joined the French resistance.  The only known instance of an SS group rebelling].This was followed by a similar collaboration with the communists. More recently, after the fall of communism, they have collaborated with Jihadists and radical Islamists (with a view) to annihilate the Jews.

We have to remember these things and we must tell (people) about it.

We have to reframe the Middle East, to contextualise it. And we have to be very frank with ourselves.

There is a belief that that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the core problem of Middle East. It isn’t! Although settlement seems to be (seen as) the biggest obstacle of peace, it isn’t.

For example, in respect of Syria and the consequences of the aftermath (of their civil war) – we can’t simply sit back and believe it will all be okay.

We are facing huge strategic weapons, the largest chemical weapons stockpiles in the world are in Syria. They are shipping these weapons to their neighbours.

[It is noteworthy that the morning after Amir Sagie made this statement in Joburg Israel acted against shipments to Lebanon -ED]

Pillar of Defence (Israel’s attack to stop Palestinian rockets in November 2012) put a lot of wind into the sails of BDS. They have been trying their hardest to build energy out of it.

Unfortunately for them, the paradox is that there are no more missiles being fired at Israel.

SA Zionist Organisations and Israel

We appreciate the (valuable) work you are doing (to counter BDS) here in South Africa. And it is not taken for granted. We wish you and us all the best (in our endeavours).

Seminar convener and FairPlay chair Ben Swartz said after Amir Sagie had spoken that there were “two significant take-aways” for him from the speech, which were:

1. That BDS are more obsessed with punishing Israel than they are about helping the Palestinians – making resolution that much harder; and

2. The importance of our driving our own narrative.

Both Agie and Swartz paid tribute to Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein who had introduced the subject of the historical lack of driving the real narrative to wide applause in the morning session – see: LIVE-BLOG 11h44 post!

Amir Sagie has been involved with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) since 1998. During his time there he has served as the Spokesman and head of the Public Diplomacy department in the Israeli Embassy in Beijing, China; he supervised the China, South Korea and Mongolia Desk in the North-Asia Department; he worked as the Deputy Director of the Information and Internet Department. He managed the MFA’s main website as well as Israel’s missions’ website infrastructure; he served as DCM of the Israeli Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal; and he worked as Deputy Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Policy Department, the Strategic Affairs Division.

Currently Amir holds the position of Director of the Civil Society Affairs Department in the Public Diplomacy Directorate.

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