“There’s no such thing as a Palestinian person,” key Israel lobbyist says
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 25 June 2016
“Why are we using the word Palestinian? There’s no such thing as a Palestinian person,” Brooke Goldstein declared to enthusiastic applause at a meeting of key Israel lobby operatives in New York earlier this month.
Goldstein is the director of the Lawfare Project, a legal group that aims, in her words, to “make the enemy pay” – that “enemy” being mainly comprised of Palestine solidarity activists and students.
The Lawfare Project was founded with the support of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an important forum for anti-Palestinian organizing in the US.
The clip of Goldstein denying outright the existence of Palestinians can be seen above.
At the event, she and other Israel lobby leaders revealed their latest strategies to try to defeat the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
A 58-minute edited video of the event was originally published on YouTube by the Jewish Broadcasting Service on 16 June, but was hidden a day after the journalist Ben White and other supporters of Palestinian rights began to circulate it on social media, drawing attention to Goldstein’s negation of Palestinian existence.
The Electronic Intifada is republishing the whole video under the Fair Use doctrine of the US Copyright Act:
In her presentation, Goldstein acknowledged that efforts to promote Israel as a democracy with “great beaches” had failed to stem the support for Palestinian rights, so “we have to focus on the offense, on Islamists and how they violate the basic civil rights that liberals hold very, very dear.”
Efforts to exploit and promote Islamophobia as a way to build support for Israel are not new, but the New York meeting heralded a renewed push in that direction.
Following the advice of pro-Israel pollster Frank Luntz to appropriate leftist and human rights language, Goldstein said the anti-Muslim message would appeal to the sensibilities of liberal and progressive college students.
She argued that pro-Israel advocates had to speak about the BDS movement “in the terminology that Millennials will understand, which is the civil rights terminology.”
“[Students] want to be against apartheid? Let’s give them what to be against,” she said, “Let’s give them [sic] to be against Islamist gender, race and religious apartheid that is occurring in every single Muslim-majority country on the planet.”
As its contribution, Goldstein explained that her organization would be launching what she called “Islamist Apartheid Week” on campuses across the US, an apparent effort to counter Israeli Apartheid Week.
And while Goldstein markets herself as a “human rights attorney,” she proudly touts her friendship with Geert Wilders, the anti-Muslim Dutch politician who has been funded by a key player in the US Islamophobia industry.
Wilders’ anti-Muslim agenda is so extreme it has even been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League, a major pro-Israel group.
Goldstein was speaking at an event on 2 June titled “BDS: The new anti-Semitism?”
Organized by the World Zionist Organization, the American Zionist Movement and the UJA-Federation of New York, it was addressed by Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon.
It came just days after Israel’s major anti-BDS conference held at UN headquarters.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-president of the Conference of Presidents, told the meeting that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement was like a deadly disease.
“We let this cancer metastasize until now on campuses across the United States,” Hoenlein said.
He claimed that the BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality was indistinguishable from the persecutions Jews had faced throughout history.
“This started when the Romans changed the name of Judea to Philistia,” Hoenlein asserted in a bizarre appeal to ancient history and myth, “that was the beginning of BDS.”
But he was clear that the purpose of the New York gathering was to create a movement “that uses all of our resources, all of our energies” in order to “put an end to this threat.”
Hoenlein said that pro-Israel activists need to reach youth who “communicate in 140 letters,” an apparent reference to the social media site Twitter.
Overlooking the fact that this is the most diverse and integrated generation of American college students ever, Hoenlein went on to insult the intelligence of the very youth he wants Israel to connect with. “This is an ignorant generation, a superficial generation,” Hoenlein said.
The Lawfare Project’s Brooke Goldstein also indicated that her legal group was preparing another Title VI challenge against US universities, naming San Francisco State University and the University of California, Irvine, as likely targets.
In recent years, pro-Israel groups lodged complaints against several universities under Title VI of the US Civil Rights Act, alleging that administrators were failing to protect Jewish students from a hostile environment created by Palestine solidarity activists.
But these complaints were thrown out by investigators from the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
Goldstein’s revelation casts the latest attacks by pro-Israel groups on Palestine solidarity activists at UC Irvine and San Francisco State University in a new light.
Goldstein said her group was encouraging Jewish students on those campuses to file police complaints against Palestine solidarity activists, “so we can pressure the [district attorney] to bring criminal charges against those students, just like was done with Michael Oren’s speech.”
She was referring to the Irvine 11 case, in which 10 students faced criminal charges for protesting a 2010 speech at UC Irvine by Oren when he was the Israeli ambassador to the US.
These cases would also presumably be used as the pretext for the Title VI complaints.
Goldstein also used the New York gathering to argue that contrary to the unanimous opinion of the international community, Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are not illegal and that the EU was violating international law by requiring that products manufactured in Israeli settlements have accurate labels indicating their origin.
In warlike language, Israeli ambassador Danon told the gathering that their efforts to suppress support for Palestinian rights had the full support of the Israeli state.
“We will stand against our enemies. We will stand against the people who are going to boycott Israel, and we will win,” Danon said.
The violent and dehumanizing language was echoed by Yuval Abrams, a student and activist against the Palestine solidarity movement at the CUNY Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
“We need to raise the stakes for those who engage in this sort of behavior, let them know their nose is going to bleed,” Abrams, who identified himself as a former Israeli soldier, said in reference to fellow students who had advocated for a boycott of Israeli institutions complicit in military occupation and violations of Palestinian rights.
While speakers asserted several times that advocates should share positive messages about Israel and Zionism, Goldstein was frank that only repression of protest and BDS would shore up Israel’s eroding base of support.
“The goal is to make the enemy pay,” Goldstein said, “and to send a message, a deterrent message, that similar actions such as those that they engage in will result in massive punishments.”