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Will progressive Jews aligned with Muslims really have a ‘destructive consequence’?

January 19, 2022 at 11:43 am

Pro-Palestine protesters march on May 15, 2021 [BRIDGET BENNETT/AFP via Getty Images]

Every now and then the influential Tel Aviv based think tank the Reut Institute publishes a report on the growing threat to Israel’s privileged status within the American body politic. Although its reports are often described as conspiratorial, bordering on Islamophobic, its assessment of the forces aligned against the occupation state occasionally serves as an indication of the direction towards which the Israel-Palestine issue is headed.

It was the Reut Institute which in 2010 predicted that Israel will face a global delegitimisation campaign and warned of the risk this would pose unless confronted with a powerful Israeli counteroffensive. Pro-Israel groups have since been hell-bent on discrediting pro-Palestine campaigns groups by claiming that criticism of Israel is “anti-Semitic”, including the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Released at the height of the post-Operation Cast Lead global outrage in 2009, that particular Reut report predicted the rise of anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses, protests when Israeli athletes compete abroad, moves in Europe to boycott Israeli products, and threats of arrest warrants for Israeli leaders visiting London. The think tank listed London, Brussels, Madrid, Toronto, San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley as major hubs of anti-Israel activism. It recommended setting up a counter-network with Israel’s embassies serving as “front positions”, a fact exposed sensationally in 2017 by Al Jazeera in The Lobby.

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Unsurprisingly, the institute was less than honest about the reasons for what it called the delegitimisation of Israel; it ignored the brutality of Israel’s 2008-9 military offensive against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, for example, and its decades-long occupation of Palestine. Nevertheless, some of its predictions have turned out to be true. Ten years on, Israel’s star has not only plummeted, with its pariah status cemented like never before but it has also been labelled as an apartheid state by leading human rights groups B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch. This has galvanised global solidarity with the Palestinians.

In a somewhat Cassandra-like fashion, during that period Reut has issued report after report warning of social and cultural cleavages around the world coalescing against Israel. With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, the think tank concluded that the alliance of progressive groups combatting racism posed a threat to Israel — what can be more racist than an apartheid state? — and advised pro-Israel lobby groups on how to divide the left so as to weaken the growing ties with Palestine solidarity. Intersectionality, which unites oppressed groups and minorities, “undermines Jewish communities’ agendas, including support for the State of Israel,” said Reut.

The think tank’s latest report, The Red Green Alliance is Coming to America, also contains a number of interesting insights. It highlights once again the “anti-Semitic” conspiracies that exist in the mind of Israeli policymakers and the surprisingly clear-eyed assessment of the many historical fault-lines in the Israel Palestine issue that are now coming to a head.

One of these conspiracies, says the institute, is that “radical” progressives on the left are allied with Muslims associated with “Muslim Brotherhood organisations” that are “driven by a vision of establishing an Islamic Caliphate.” It goes on to suggest that those Muslims are gaining power in America and points the finger at US Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar as if they are part of the conspiracy.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) arrive before participating during a town hall hosted by the NAACP on September 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. [Zach Gibson/Getty Images]

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) arrive before participating during a town hall hosted by the NAACP on September 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. [Zach Gibson/Getty Images]

The clandestine Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the US and the West is a debunked conspiracy theory popularised by far-right groups, and which for decades has been peddled by the Islamophobia network. Mass murderers like Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in July 2011, and Brenton Tarrant, a white supremacist who killed 51 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand mosques in 2019, believed that they were in a civilisational battle with Islam, and that European Muslims are conspiring to take over the West. Given the conspiracy’s origins, some may be surprised to see a think tank advising Zionist establishments peddling these dangerous tropes about Muslims. However, given recent revelations of the collaboration between Israel and the global Islamophobia industry, many would say that this is to be expected.

Despite its eerie parallels with the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion — a publication which details the alleged Jewish plot to gain global domination — another hateful and debunked conspiracy theory — the Reut Institute pushes the conspiracy about Muslims even further, by suggesting that they are at the head of an alliance with the left that has influenced US Jewry and American foreign policy. Astonishingly, Reut suggests that it is not Israel’s seemingly never-ending occupation or the fact that it is widely regarded as an apartheid state that is causing division within the American Jewish community. This split is instead said to be happening because of the growing assertiveness of what it calls the “red green alliance” of Muslims and progressive groups on the left.

The report complains about “Jewish-Israeli erasure” within the progressive discourse, but does not mention that many progressive Jews have abandoned Israel, triggering what some have said is a “messy breakup” of American Jews over the occupation state. Reut bemoans the ejection of the Zionist cause from progressive movements and calls on pro-Israel groups to “challenge” such “erasure”. With the daily human rights abuses that are part and parcel of Israel’s brutal military occupation of Palestine, as well as its racist laws, routine dehumanisation of non-Jews and institutionalised discrimination of its own Palestinian-Arab citizens, that looks like an near impossible task. The ability of social media and civil activism to counter a usually pro-Israel mainstream media has made sure of that.

As with its prediction of the “delegitimisation” of Israel a decade earlier, Reut is clear about the deepening schism within the US Jewish community. “The distancing of Jewish mainstream from Israel” is a threat that could collapse the “concept of peoplehood” which is central to Israel, it predicts.

“In recent years, mainstream American Jewish support for and identification with Israel has eroded,” says the institute. This erosion, it argues is due to demographic changes in which the affiliation of the younger generation of Jews with Judaism and traditionally pro-Israel community organisations has weakened. “One of the most prominent changes is that Israel has become a wedge issue in Jewish communities, due to the erosion of Israel’s image in their eyes as a peace seeking, pluralistic, and democratic country.”

The report goes on to mention that “many Jews see Israel’s conduct as a threat on their identity and standing as American citizens, and increasingly experience Israel turning from an asset to a liability. In this reality, many organisations are reducing their allocation of resources to Israel and their activities related to Israel, and many even encourage complete disassociation from dealing with Israel.”

The choice for so-called liberal Zionists between their universal values and their support for Israel was also set out in powerful language. “The Jewish-Israeli erasure in the progressive discourse is accelerating an identity crisis among many American Jews. Many Jews feel that they are forced to choose between their loyalty to Israel in community structures and their liberal values.” The institute pointed out that this tension is challenging community cohesion and “the collective Jewish political vitality.”

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Acknowledging that “one of the key drivers of the special relationship between the US and Israel is the political influence, power and prosperity of American Jews,” Reut warns its many patrons that the relationship with the US to a large degree rests on their connection with American Jews which is in danger of being alienated to such a degree that would be costly to Israel’s security and economic interests.

The Reut Institute’s main message to the Zionist establishment in the US and around the world could not have been starker: “The gap between Israel and mainstream American Jews undermines the legitimacy of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.” It warns of what it calls the “destructive consequence” of the distancing of many Jews from Israel and the eventual “collapse of the ideal of Jewish peoplehood.”

If this means the end of apartheid Israel and its occupation of Palestine, all well and good. However, it won’t have been due to progressive Jews being aligned with Muslims; it will have been down to the growing alliance between seekers of peace and justice from all faiths and none in the struggle against the injustice, racism and brutality of the occupation state.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.