by Jerry Gordon (April 2018)
aniel Diker is the Director of the Program to Counter Political Warfare at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA). He is a former Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress. He is also the editor and co-author of Defeating Denormalization—Shared Palestinian and Israeli Perspectives on a New Path to Peace published by the JCPA. I had the opportunity to interview Dan Diker during a recent visit to the US. The discussion covers the Soviet Russian origins of the Palestinian Authority’s political warfare campaigns including Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS. They were developed by Palestinian Authority and its allies in the West seeking to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish nation of Israel. Denormalization refers to the attempt to divide Israel from the international community by depicting it as a South African-type of apartheid state. This is compounded by lies and libels from Palestinian Authority leaders and spokespeople presented before international forums including the United Nations. We discuss the development by the State of Israel of a leading edge public diplomacy program to counter Palestinian political warfare using legal, economic and high tech social media messaging and intelligence analysis. Diker reveals the research developed by the JCPA and US sponsors supporting the eponymous US Taylor Force Act and related Knesset legislation. They are endeavoring to end US and other foreign donor funding of hundreds of millions of dollars annually to the so-called “pay for slay “program incentivizing Palestinian terrorism against Americans and Israelis. We characterize this effort as “entrepreneurially-driven counter-terrorism.” Diker provides a brief preview of “Defeating Denormalization.”
Jerry Gordon: Dan, what is the Program to Counter Political Warfare at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs?
Dan Diker: We have noticed at the Jerusalem Center, for some years, an assault on Israel’s legitimacy as the nation to the Jewish people. It is known as BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, delegitimization, anti-normalization and the identification of Israel as an apartheid state. All of these accusations represent a 21st Century version of Soviet style political warfare which is a non-military, multi-front warfare using finance, economics, legal, political, diplomatic and historical methods in order to uproot Israel as the nation of the Jewish people. These campaigns have been designed to cause an implosion of national confidence in Israel and isolate it internationally as a ‘leper’ state among the nations. Therefore, we see it in the way observers of traditional Soviet-style political warfare saw it as a complement to terror and military warfare.
Gordon: How far back does that Russian model go in terms of history and how did the U.S. combat it during the Cold War?
Diker: First of all, the Soviet political warfare against the West was really the main feature of the Cold War following the Second World War. The Russians have been particularly skilled at propaganda information warfare. Everything—from creating conflict within the society of adversaries similar to what the Russians have been accused of doing in the last election in the United States. As former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a great expert on Russian politics recently observed on CNN, the Russians have excelled at creating internal divisions in America through what has been called fake news, fake narratives, internet-driven bots reporting fake results on polls and other forms of propaganda warfare. This is precisely what we have seen in the PLO and later Palestinian Authority strategy fighting Israel’s ongoing war for security and legitimacy.
Gordon: Can you give us some examples of the kind of campaigns that we are talking about that the Palestinians are conducting to delegitimize and demonize Israel, particularly in their effort to gain world acceptance of the Palestinian state?
Diker: The Palestinian Authority, which is a subset of the PLO and its leading faction, the Fatah movement, under the stewardship of Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, otherwise known as Abu Mazen, have excelled since the days of Arafat in the 1970s in creating propaganda warfare against Israel. More recently, this has expressed itself in Mahmoud Abbas speaking in international forums and insisting that Israeli Rabbis call for poisoning of Palestinian water supplies, that Israel sterilizes Palestinian women and undertakes experiments on African refugees. These are equivalent to the early 19th Century blood libels in Damascus. We have been witness to Palestinians using the media to create a completely false reality. One example was faking the death of Muhammad al-Durrah, the 12 year old boy who allegedly was shot by IDF troops in September 2000 that started the Second Intifada. We know now, with ninety-nine percent certainty, that Al Durrah was shot by Palestinian snipers if he was killed at all. There are several investigations that concluded that (the shooting of) Al Durrah was staged. Another example was the so-called Jenin massacre in 2002. In fact, we have intelligence videos of Palestinians who apparently had been killed being carted away on stretchers and then falling over and getting up and running away. These are just two small examples of an organized premeditated campaign to position Israel to the outside world as the incarnation of evil—especially through the Israel Defense Forces whose purity of arms doctrine and commitment is without parallel in the international community.
Gordon: Who are some of the international allies in this Palestinian political warfare against Israel that we in the West should be concerned about?
Diker: We have been observing for some years now what is called the Red-Green Alliance. This is an alliance of Islamists and very far-left radical organizations particularly in Europe and increasingly on North American university campuses that are of concern.
For example, the Islamist Hamas has become the poster child for the political warfare campaign by anarchists and far left BDS organizations on campuses in the US. Palestinian ex-pats, such as Professor Hatem Bazian at the University of California Berkeley Law School, has been very active in promoting and advocating lies, libels and slander about Israel as an apartheid state. He also called for an “Intifada” or violent uprising in America. It is an example of these types of political warfare campaigns that cast Israel as the modern incarnation of former racist apartheid South Africa. The truth is very different. Israel is a liberal democracy that guarantees by law equality to all of its Christian, Muslim and Jewish citizens. Despite its democratic character, Israel has been assaulted in this political war.
This attempts to recreate what Yasser Arafat tried to do in the 1970s at the United Nations—which is to demonize Israel as having no right to exist as a nation state in his “Zionism is racism” speech at the international body. He promoted the libel that Israel is by definition an apartheid state. These politically grotesque distortions have intended to assault Israel’s self confidence as a nation and isolate it internationally.
Gordon: Speaking about human rights, we also have the UN and its agencies being used by the Palestinians and their allies to conduct political warfare against Israel. What has Israel done to combat it?
Diker: Israel has taken very substantial steps. When we say Israel, we mean the government of Israel. Since 2016 it has upgraded efforts to combat the international political warfare against the very existence of the nation state of Jewish people. The best example of this is the government of Israel, under Prime Minister Netanyahu, assigned a government ministry to fight BDS, directed by the Minister of Strategic Affairs and Public Security, Gilad Erdan. They established an office with a $45 million budget and scores of employees. These include experts in communication, propaganda, public diplomacy, online graphics, social media and a number of intelligence analysts. The objective is to expose who are the perpetrators, and where are the hubs of this type of political warfare. This aggressive activity against the political subversion of Israel has resulted in recent legislation passed by the Knesset prohibiting those people leading the anti-Semitic multi-front assault against Israel from entering the country. This is justified as it has become a national security problem because BDS attempts to destroy Israel’s international legitimacy. It is not a question of free speech; it is a question of people who uniquely target Israel as a country to be dismembered. they are doing it by every means possible and Israel is countering that.
Gordon: Here in the United States we have had a continuing problem on college campuses with exactly this campaign that you are talking about internationally. It prominently features groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and even Jewish Voices for Peace arguing for the deligitimization and demonization of Israel on campus. Why is that?
Diker: The American academic tradition has set an example for freedom of speech in the fair and peaceful exchange of ideas. The problem is that those freedoms that America is founded upon have been raped and pillaged to the extent that they do not prevent BDS and delegitimization political warfare from exploiting the free exchange of ideas on campus and from silencing the voices of people who are friendly to Israel. These BDS and Delegitimization movements on campus have become highly anti-Semitic in character—even targeting Jewish students with violence and hate speech. At New York University, as one example, Students for Justice in Palestine sponsored a fake eviction notice campaign where they identified the names of Jewish-sounding students and posted eviction notices on their dorm doors. We saw this as one example of a national campaign by nearly two hundred branches of Students for Justice in Palestine. In truth they are not really Students for Justice in Palestine, but students for terrorism against Israel. They do this against Jewish students or pro-Israel students on American campuses.
Campus administrations are reluctant to take action against these Students for Justice in Palestine or the similarly radical and anti Israel Jewish Voice for Peace because they are afraid of generating a major conflict over the issue of free speech on campus. However, we see some administrations such as Fordham and Northeastern Universities that have taken strong positions. The President of Vassar College took a strong position arguing that the Students for Justice in Palestine are violating the free speech principle on campus and should be sanctioned. We are seeing some pushback from some American college and university administrations, but not nearly enough.
Gordon: At the recent AIPAC Plenary session in Washington, New York U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke of the importance for Congress to pass the Taylor Force Act addressing the nearly $403 million dollar Palestinian so-called “pay for slay” program. Who was Taylor Force and how would the act named for him reduce U.S. funding for Palestinian terrorism?
Diker: The Taylor Force Act, which looks like it might become law in the United States, has inspired a similar law that will likely be passed in the Israeli Knesset. It was named after a very brave and patriotic young American named Taylor Force who was a military veteran and an MBA candidate at Vanderbilt University. He was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Jaffa just a few years ago when he was there with his business school class. The Palestinian Authority had been using foreign donor funds to pay terrorists like the one that murdered Taylor Force. The so-called “pay for slay” program provides a guaranteed stipend to their families of up to $3,500 a month which is five to six times the average salary of a Palestinian worker. Even more problematic, we discovered that the Palestinian Authority in 2017 paid over $315 million dollars to Palestinian terrorists who are incarcerated in Israeli prisons, or killed in terror actions as subsidies to their families. The Palestinians look at these incarcerated people or people killed while committing terrorist crimes as heroes. They look at them as POW’s or martyrs, what are called in Arabic -Shahids, martyrs. We know them in the West as terrorists with blood on their hands. A gentleman in the United States by the name of Sander Gerber, who is a very successful hedge fund manager, and also a scholar on issues connected to terrorist financing. He has been the energizer and prime mover behind the campaign to get the Taylor Force Act passed by Congress.
Gordon: That is a credit to entrepreneurial counter terrorism. So Kol Hakavod to Mr. Gerber and the combined efforts of the U.S. Congress and the Knesset to make sure the world understands we can no longer fund Palestinian terrorism.
Diker: This is the most successful example of a public private diplomacy partnership to execute what you called very well, a counter terrorism entrepreneurial campaign. I think that this very much serves as a model for what public diplomacy should be on the part of Israel and its allies. It has been extremely successful and impactful with the laser-like focus of Mr. Gerber on this issue. Key to the success was the research done by General Yossi Kuperwasser of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. General Kuperwasser has been a prime mover in Israel researching and exposing this phenomenon. Anyone interested can receive a free PDF file of the book at JCPA.org and read the important research done by General Kuperwasser that reached important decision makers in the United States and Europe. It was also published in Hebrew so that the Israeli decision makers in the government and legislative echelons have all read it. It went to the top of the Israeli political and international diplomatic agenda as well as the American political agenda. It is a prime example of the public and private cooperation both in Israel and in the United States on this counter terrorism issue.
Gordon: You are the editor of a JCPA monograph entitled, Defeating Denormalization. It presents a range of both Palestinian and Israeli views. What does denormalization refer to and what is the range of new ideas expressed in the book?
Diker: The book is just coming out. It’s still embargoed. we are going to make a press announcement in the coming days. The book is entitled Defeating Denormalization—Shared Palestinian Israeli Views on the New Path to Peace. The book presents a path-breaking approach to Palestinian-Israeli relations for the following reasons: It is the first policy book that has ever been authored by both Palestinian and Israeli authors who present a perspective which is on the shared economy. All ten authors, yours truly included, believe that the way to get the path to peace is paved through shared economic goodwill and shared economic profitability and benefits. The book’s articles are authored by several Palestinian professors, Arab Israelis, Palestinian managers of companies such as the International Soda Stream Company and the path-breaking Rami Levy Supermarket chain in Israel. They have built established branches throughout Judea and Samaria on the West Bank, especially in areas where Palestinians and Israelis live in close proximity. These Israeli companies are hiring both Palestinians and Israelis on the bases of pure meritocracy without any bias on racial, ethnic or religious grounds. These companies located in industrial zones throughout the disputed territories were established about twenty years ago by then Commerce and Trade Minister Natan Sharansky. 30,000 thirty Palestinians work close to their homes in these industrial zones protected by Israeli labor law equally applicable to their Israeli Jewish counterparts. This book documents the excellent results of this experimental economic situation for Palestinians and Israelis in Area C of Judea and Samaria on the West Bank, as well as, in parts of Jerusalem.
Denormalization is the policy that the international community driven by Palestinian Authority policy has taken in the last several years against Israel. It is based on the anti-normalization policy that was used against former apartheid South Africa. That messaging was developed by the Palestinian Authority and bolstered by NGOs, non-government organizations in Ramallah and on college campuses in the United States and in Europe. That effort was directed at characterizing Israel as the new illegitimate South African-type apartheid regime. Just as the world behaved to isolate the apartheid South African regime until it was disbanded in 1994, the Palestinian and their allies in the US and Europe are trying to do that to Israel. What we are saying in the book is that both Palestinians and Israelis suggest that is an absolutely absurd comparison. That if anti-normalization continues to be executed it just hurts Palestinians economic life and the proposition of a Palestinian state going forward. That message is conveyed by both Palestinians and Israelis in Defeating Denormalization.
Gordon: Thank you Dan Diker for this important discussion. Where can our readers reach you?
Jerome B Gordon is a Senior Vice President of the New English Review and author of The West Speaks, NER Press 2012. Mr. Gordon is a former US Army intelligence officer who served during the Viet Nam era. He was the co-host and co-producer of weekly The Lisa Benson Show for National Security that aired out of KKNT960 in Phoenix Arizona from 2013 to 2016. He is co-host and co-producer of the Middle East Round Table periodic series on 1330amWEBY, Northwest Florida Talk Radio, Pensacola, Florida.
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