San Francisco as a Delegitimization Hub
Initial Report on the 1st Study Visit
The Reut Institute has been committed to responding to the assault on Israel's legitimacy since the fall of 2008. Our team has worked to catalyze an effective response to this challenge in Jewish communities around the world, as well as in the Government of Israel.
Reut’s conclusions are summarized in a trilogy of documents: Building a Political Firewall Against Israel’s De-Legitimization; The Gaza Flotilla – The Collapse of Israel’s Political Fire Wall; and London as a Case Study. In addition, we published a document on the BDS movement, which exposed its de-legitimizing character. This paper informed the following YouTube clip produced by StandWithUs.
This report summarizes initial insights and conclusions from an eight-day study visit to the San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA) conducted by our team. The document is based on nearly 40 meetings with individuals from the Jewish community, academia, civil society and media, and who come from across the political spectrum.
We were assisted greatly by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), to whom we remain deeply thankful.
As with London, Reut identified the SFBA as one of the few global hubs of delegitimization, due to:
Anti-Israel activity in the SFBA that stretches, at times, beyond legitimate criticism of Israeli policy and turns into an explicit or implicit form of assault on Israel's right to exist.
The role of the SFBA as a generator and driver of broader trends, or as a hub of social experiments. As one expert put it: “What won’t pass in San Francisco won’t pass anywhere else, and what happens in San Francisco doesn’t stay in San Francisco.”
Despite some of the findings contained within this document, it is important to note that the majority of the SFBA Jewish community demonstrates consistent support for Israel. Moreover, we found that SFBA Jewish organizations, both within and outside of the establishment, are committed, mobilized, and taking action to confront the assault on Israel’s legitimacy.
Nevertheless, the salient difference between the cases of London and the SFBA lies within the Jewish community. While in London delegitimization is being promoted primarily by groups who are not part of the Jewish community (with the exception of no more than a handful of Israelis and Jews), Jewish dynamics in the SFBA are essential to understanding the delegitimization phenomenon.
This is not to say that there are many ‘Jewish delegitimizers’, but that an increasing number of Jews in the SFBA have become ‘agnostic’ towards Israel, and some have been fueling the delegitimization campaign, albeit not intentionally. The ‘agnosticism’ of parts of the Jewish community is primarily the result of internal Jewish dynamics (namely, assimilation and population changes) and is also the result of the social cost that ‘pro-Israel’ supporters are paying in light of the delegitimization campaign.
As ‘visitors for a moment’ we do not presume to take the role of the local community in terms of how to deal with this phenomenon. The value of our work can be categorized in two parts. First, in suggesting principles for an operational framework that could be relevant for the local community, the State of Israel and Jewish communal organizations. Second, in shedding light on the unique local make-up of the assault on Israel's legitimacy, and modeling relevant responses and best practices.
Finally, this case study is not relevant solely to the SFBA community. Just as the San Francisco JCRC has incorporated strategies to fight BDS that were "developed by Reut," and were based on our project in London, we expect SFBA-derived insights to contribute to those who fight the assault on Israel's legitimacy in other places around the world.