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The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Analysis of four propaganda displays in May – July 2011: background, analysis and conclusions
1.In May – July 2011 the State of Israel faced four propaganda displays which, in our assessment, constituted part of the broader anti-Israel delegitimization campaign. The events encompassed a variety of methods and took place on land, sea and air. 2.The events were orchestrated by anti-Israel networks and activists, from the Middle East and worldwide, that routinely participate in the delegitimization campaign against Israel. Some were local ad-hoc initiatives that arose mostly from online social networks. They aimed to bring the issue of the Palestinians refugees’ “right of return” to the forefront through largescale protests against Israel in the PA-administered territories and along Israel’s borders with its Arab neighbors. 3.The following is a general description of the four propaganda displays (in chronological order): a.The Nakba Day events: 1.The events took place on May 15, 2011, and were organized to mark the anniversary of Israel’s establishment, considered by Palestinians to symbolize their defeat in the 1948 War of Independence. The main idea this year was to conduct unusually massive events (in comparison with previous years) to express the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return” to Israel through
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2011. About ten rioters were killed and dozens were wounded in an attempt to invade Israeli territory. the focal points of the Naksa Day events were two locations on the Golan Heights—Majdal Shams and Quneitra—where about one thousand rioters massed (mainly Syrian civilians and Palestinians residing in Syria) and attempted to invade Israeli territory. IDF forces had prepared in advance and prevented the rioters from breaking through the border. the Lebanese army unsuccessfully tried to contain the incident. after which they broke through and invaded the village. 2. 2. where Syrian security forces did not prevent rioters from approaching the border fence. Smaller demonstrations took place in Judea. and once again the Syrian regime allowed (and apparently also encouraged) the events on the Israeli-Syrian border. Twentyfour rioters were killed in the violent confrontation. and the Gaza Strip. and attempt a violent invasion of Israeli territory. Once again online social networks played a major role in mobilizing rioters and bringing them to the borders. The demonstrators were mobilized mostly through social networks with the tacit approval (or even encouragement) of Syria. a Druze village in the northern Golan Heights. Lebanon and Jordan.2 rallies and propaganda demonstrations along Israel’s borders with Syria. The main idea behind the events was to duplicate what was considered the success of the Nakba Day events and hold mass rallies along Israel’s borders with Arab countries to try and invade Israeli territory. 3.Mass demonstrations were also planned in the PA-administered territories and in other Arab or Muslim countries (Egypt). b. which considered it a means to shift attention from the popular protest against the Assad regime to Israel.In practice. Samaria. where the PA and Hamas made efforts to contain them and keep them from getting out of hand. Four rioters were killed and dozens were wounded in the violent confrontation between them and IDF soldiers.The events took place on June 5.The Naksa Day events: 1. marking the defeat of the Arab countries in the Six Day War in 1967. . the focal point of the events was Majdal Shams. On the Israeli-Lebanese border.In practice.
for the past year. and purchasing vessels. withdrew from the coalition shortly before the flotilla set sail due to the Turkish government’s own political considerations. instead of an upgraded flotilla consisting of 15 vessels. mainly the withdrawal of Turkey and the IHH. including two large passenger ships. c. Samaria. 2. Smaller demonstrations were held in Judea. and the Gaza Strip. The deadly results of the clashes on the Israeli-Syrian border drew strong internal Palestinian criticism of the pro-Syrian terrorist organizations that had encouraged the incident. Another contributing factor was Israel’s preparation for the flotilla. radical Islamic and predominantly Jordanian group which had purchased its own ship (Noor) shortly before the flotilla’s planned date of departure.The international flotilla to the Gaza Strip—Freedom Fleet 2 (in late June): 1. the difficulties imposed by the Greek government on the departure of Freedom Fleet 2 vessels from its ports. Boat to Gaza. fundraising. One of the organizations.The events were not widely covered by international media. They were joined by an Arab. supervised and controlled by the PA and Hamas.S.In practice. the United States and West European countries. The remaining coalition members were two umbrella networks from Europe (FGM and ECESG) and an ad-hoc network from the United States called U. the Turkish IHH. and violent protests broke out in Al-Yarmuk refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus. their steering committee and nationally-based networks were involved in planning the flotilla.The organizers’ main idea was to dispatch to the Gaza Strip an upgraded flotilla which would challenge Israel and be difficult to stop. the organizers were planning to send ten smaller ships or yachts (of which only one set sail). One of them reached the naval . the Lebanese army prevented the rioters from approaching the border this time. which proved effective and could be partially credited for its failure. The idea was not acted upon due to several reasons. They participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla and. In Lebanon.3 3. enlisting activists. and the numerous reservations about the flotilla voiced on the international scene by the UN. and provide political and propaganda assistance to the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip. 3. That ship did not take part in Freedom Fleet 2.The flotilla was organized by a coalition spearheaded by four networks taking part in the delegitimization campaign against Israel. however. deface Israel in global public opinion.
The yacht was intercepted by the Israeli navy on July 19 without any violence and without generating the international media storm the organizers were hoping for. Contrary to the expectations of the organizers. inspired by its successes in the Goldstone Report affair and the Mavi Marmara flotilla. If an opportunity presented itself.While markedly different. Another 130 activists (mostly from France and Belgium) arrived in Israel. where they were detained and deported. One of the stated purposes of the organizers was to protest the restrictions imposed by Israel on the arrival of anti-Israel activists from Ben Gurion International Airport to Judea and Samaria. Israel was able to prevent some 350 activists from boarding flights to Israel from airports in Europe. three journalists and three crewmembers (most of them French nationals). the State of Israel had prepared in advance for the event. There the activists intended to conduct propaganda activities and use passive resistance against any attempts by Israel’s security forces to deport them. Some of the events were long in the . Apparently some of them took part in violent demonstrations near the Qalandia roadblock in northern Jerusalem and other friction points between the Palestinians and Israeli security forces. it was a French yacht called Dignité/AlKarama that carried ten activists.This propaganda display was organized by several dozen groups and networks mostly from Judea and Samaria and Western countries.The “fly-in”—arrival of anti-Israel activists in Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport on July 8: 1. these four propaganda displays constitute.In practice. 4. particularly France and the United States. 2. By appealing to various airlines and using diplomacy. they then intended to leave the airport to take part in a series of anti-Israel activities in Judea and Samaria or even in Israel (Bil’in-style demonstrations and protests). in our assessment. d. The main idea behind the propaganda display was to have hundreds of activists flown in to Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport on regular commercial flights. Conspicuous among them were anti-Israel networks in France and the ISM group affiliated with the radical left in the United States. According to Palestinian sources.4 blockade area on the Gaza Strip border. part of the delegitimization campaign against Israel. several dozen Palestinians managed to reach Judea and Samaria. the event was largely ignored by international media.
2 5. . they were joined by those who criticize the Israeli government’s policy towards the Palestinians but do not deny its right to exist. groups and individual activists operating against Israel. And once again.5 planning (it took about a year to plan and organize what was expected to be an upgraded flotilla). The flotilla and the fly-in were the work of a coalition that included networks and activists affiliated with the radical left in Europe and the United States. 6. which took place on dozens of campuses and locations in Western countries in March. Earth Day. which was particularly evident this time following the politically-motivated withdrawal of Turkey (and the IHH) from the flotilla’s organization. the flotilla’s organizers were at a considerable disadvantage. including the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return”. As in the past. had little success. ideologically. received limited coverage.The events were the initiative of NGOs and individual activists. For example. In addition to these events. In two cases (the flotilla and the fly-in) the events were orchestrated by umbrella organizations and activists taking part in the delegitimization campaign. received no public or media attention. However. Other events were the result of ad-hoc initiatives undertaken in advance of important dates in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflict. and more). in two cases (the 2 These activities. conducted in the first half of 2011. held on March 30. Such cooperation between delegitimization and criticism of the policy pursued by the Israeli government was also a characteristic of prior propaganda displays including the Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010. which undermined the credibility of the Goldstone Report. They joined forces with Islamist elements whose part in the flotilla event became less significant after the IHH and its Turkish allies withdrew. However. Without a state to sponsor them. between these two ideological extremes were NGOs. Their aim was to bring the methods used in the popular protests against the Arab regimes (and sometimes its slogans) into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.The recent events vividly illustrated the ideologically heterogeneous character of the umbrella networks. and the coming publication of the Palmer Commission report (which determined that the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip is legal). social activists and even activists of Jewish or Israeli descent. In the two remaining cases (the Nakba and the Naksa) a major role was played by Palestinian and Arab activists who used social networks to help mobilize supporters. the Israeli Apartheid Week. Contributing factors included the “retraction” issued by Justice Goldstone in April 2011. the hardcore of the coalition responsible for the flotilla are activists and networks that deny the very existence of the State of Israel and support Palestinian demands in their most absolutist incarnations. prosecuting top Israeli officials. the networks and activists involved in the delegitimization campaign continued with their “routine” activities (defacing and boycotting Israel.
engendering friction and violence. who support the Syrian regime. in our assessment. This was particularly true since Israel—which at times had the support and understanding of the international community—had prepared in advance to foil these ideas and learned the lessons from previous events. The plan to undermine the legitimacy of the blockade on the Gaza Strip and hamper the IDF’s freedom of action had the UN. Samaria.6 Nakba and the Naksa) the Syrian regime allowed the events to take place on the Golan Heights border and. with one local “success” (the invasion of Majdal Shams on Nakba day) which the organizers could not duplicate on Naksa Day. it is possible that the Iranians. acted behind the scenes to encourage protests on the Syrian and Lebanese borders. . and West European countries calling into question the very legitimacy of the flotilla campaign (strengthened by the publication of the Palmer Report). the United States. it was intercepted by the Israeli navy without attracting media attention. In our assessment. which was clearly demonstrated by the lack of media interest in the events—particularly the flotilla. On the other hand.It is our assessment that. and ability to mobilize and motivate anti-Israel activists from various countries across the globe to take part in a series of projects aimed against Israel. The goal of vilifying the State of Israel in world public opinion (particularly in Western countries) wasn’t achieved either. This can be contrasted with the attempts made by administrations and security forces in Lebanon. in the organizers’ view. it became evident that there was a wide gap between the (sometimes unrealistic) plans and expectations of the delegitimizers and their ability to put their ideas into action. On one hand. 7. the results of the recent events were largely negative. One such example was a visit by the Iranian ambassador in Lebanon and other Iranian officials to the demonstration site in Maroun al-Ras on Naksa Day. deadly clashes between rioters on the Syrian and Lebanese borders and the IDF. 8. even encouraged them. ability to connect and cooperate on the basis of an anti-Israel platform.In the recent propaganda displays there was usually a noticeable gap between intent and planning on one hand and results on the other: the planned upgraded flotilla was eventually reduced to one small yacht with a handful of French activists on board. Judea. The plan to motivate masses of people to invade Israeli territory through its borders and emphasize demands for the “right of return” was reduced to violent. and the Gaza Strip to contain the incidents and keep them from getting out of hand. which was supposed to serve as the leading event. they once again demonstrated their perseverance.
2. The organizers of the fly-in were likewise unable to gain political or PR support from the international community. shared by the UN. Apparently the international community fully understood that the aim of the events was to undermine any political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. whose objective was basically to bring the issue of the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return” to the forefront. However. following the Mavi Marmara event.Of particular importance were the widespread objections to the flotilla voiced by the international political system. Israel’s diplomatic and PR activity ahead of the flotilla helped prevent its departure from Greek ports and contributed towards its delegitimization in the UN and Western countries. In addition. Israel’s effective preparation for the fly-in completely disrupted its organizers’ plans. which made preparations for the Nakba Day events. The main reason for such objections. whose reaction to the events in Ben Gurion International Airport was one of relative indifference. it learned the lessons of that incident and the scenario did not repeat itself on Naksa Day. The IDF. gained no support or interest from the international community. It is our assessment that the answer can be found in a variety of reasons and factors. the Palestinians themselves tried to keep the events on a low profile and prevent an escalation in the PA-administered territories). Israel prepared in advance for the recent events. Having taken several blows in the delegitimization campaign (the Goldstone Report and the Mavi Marmara flotilla).This begs the question of why the organizers of the events failed this time. most important of which are: a. was the desire to prevent the repeat of the deadly Mavi Marmara . the United States and Western countries. The international community was also aware of the link between the popular protests in Syria and the Syrian regime’s conduct with regard to the events on the Golan Heights. b.The Nakba Day and Naksa Day events. weakened the organizers’ claim about the purpose of the flotilla being to break the “siege”.The application of past lessons and proper preparation by all levels of Israel’s political and military systems.7 9. Furthermore. was unable to prevent the invasion of Majdal Shams. and was well aware of the possible escalation they could precipitate (what is more.Reservations voiced by the international political system about the events: 1. we believe that the easing of the blockade on the Gaza Strip about a year ago.
who failed to apply the lessons learned in previous events: 1. coupled with the internal unrest prevailing in Greece at the time as a result of the economic crisis. but were met with more effective Israeli preparation on Naksa Day. Even Turkey. the organizers encountered considerable difficulties raising enough funds to purchase vessels (requiring large sums of money) for an upgraded flotilla. was wise to sense the change that occurred in the international political environment and. . inspired by the “success” of the Mavi Marmara. Eventually they did purchase about ten yachts and small ships. with the flotilla as its crown jewel. which accepts Israel’s basic claim that the closure on the Gaza Strip is legal. which shifted attention away from the flotilla campaign. coupled with the understanding that there are proper channels of delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza Strip residents that do not involve a provocative flotilla (contributing factors were the Israeli government’s policy of easing the transfer of goods to the Gaza Strip and the Egyptian government’s decision to ease movement through the Rafah Crossing). without a large flagship like the Mavi Marmara. this time.Misjudgment by the organizers of the delegitimization campaign. boomeranged on its organizers. they were met with an effective response from Israel and international reservations stemming from changes in the political map and lessons learned in the Mavi Marmara incident. at the last moment. The plan to depart from Greek ports (rather than from Turkish ports) while relying on “popular pressure” exerted on the Greek government was fundamentally flawed given the Greek government’s good relations with Israel.8 incident and avoid a new political deterioration.Without Turkish governmental support. the delegitimization campaign against Israel. And so. however. 2. which had played a key role in the previous flotilla.The organizers attempted to recreate the Nakba Day events. c. the upgraded flotilla was not as effective as the organizers hoped for. however. discrediting the “illegal siege” narrative that constitutes a fundamental component of the flotilla and convoy campaign. They attempted to recreate or even top the “success” of the Mavi Marmara flotilla. This has become more of an issue after the publication of the Palmer Commission report. reconsidered its involvement (and the involvement of the IHH) in the flotilla.
It is our assessment that they are learning their lessons.The propaganda failure of the organizers. and “violent suppression” of the Palestinians continue (Jadaliyya.It is our assessment that. which dominated the headlines. “colonization”. the international media realized the flotilla’s potential for violence and didn’t buy into its organizers’ claims that the flotilla participants were “peace activists” providing “humanitarian aid” to Gaza Strip residents. This time. The claim about a supposed “humanitarian crisis” in the Gaza Strip didn’t generate much interest either (owing in part to an article about the real situation in the Gaza Strip published in The New York Times shortly prior to the flotilla’s departure). She reiterated that the organizers are determined to keep challenging Israel as long as the “occupation”. and to a lesser extent Arab/Palestinian media. Consequently. demonstrating resolve to continue the delegitimization campaign against Israel and preparing for new propaganda displays in the second half of 2011 (in addition to the routine anti-Israel activities that take place in various countries worldwide). In this context. the four events were largely ignored by the international media.com. 11.3 deflating the delegitimizers’ plans. The media preferred to cover the popular protests in Arab countries and devoted even more attention to local events in Greece in Western countries. paid considerable attention to the events. the most prominent figure in the coalition that organized the flotilla. What’s next? 10. said in an interview that the organizers are now taking their vessels out of Greece and preparing for their next strategic moves against Israel. the events planned by the organizers did not develop into a dramatic confrontation like the Mavi Marmara incident.9 d. .The networks and activists taking part in the delegitimization campaign were not discouraged by their recent failures. stemming from the lack of dramatic developments in the flotilla campaign. July 28. conditions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on the regional scene in the next several months may lead to a resumption or even escalation of the campaign against Israel. 2011). the ongoing turmoil in Arab countries. and the inflammatory rhetoric of the Turkish prime minister can be pointed out as three ensembles with the potential of pumping new energy 3 Only Israeli media. the Palestinians’ intent to apply to the UN. Huwaida Arraf. In addition. despite the recent failures suffered by the delegitimization campaign.
12. India and in other countries brought up an idea to have activists from across the globe. In the Arab and Western world.5 c. The Iranian regime expects extensive participation in events in Iran. participation and media coverage were generally slight. march to Jerusalem. contrary to Iranian expectations. both in the PAadministered territories and from Arab countries. even though the Palestinians aspire to contain the events.The UN vote on the establishment of a Palestinian state—on September 20 Abu Mazen is expected to present a bid for full-fledged UN membership to the General Assembly.” 6 For more on the Asian convoy. It will probably be reinforced by broad – and potentially violent – popular activities. delegitimizers in Britain. 2011 Information Bulletin: “The Palestinian Authority launched a propaganda campaign to support its appeal to the UN. the Iranians joined anti-Israeli organizations participating in the campaign to delegitimize Israel”.Several upcoming events can be mentioned in this context (in chronological order): a. The organizers are also planning to secure the involvement of the governments of Arab countries bordering Israel. marked on August 26 this year.4 b.The anniversary of the UN resolution on the partition of Palestine (November 29)—to mark this day. or our August 14. The initiative is still being explored. The campaign is intended to show internal Palestinian support for the move. The vote is accompanied by popular activity organized by the Palestinians and by Western networks.” 5 4 See our September 12.World Jerusalem Day (August 26)—an annual event marked by the Iranian regime. 2010 Information Bulletin: “A convoy from India and other Asian countries left New Delhi to reach the Gaza Strip at the end of December. It was instituted by Khomeini and the government of Iran in 1979 to express their support for the Palestinians. and is marked on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Some of the people involved in pushing forward this idea are Feroze Mithiborwala (an anti-Israel activist in India who headed the Asian convoy)6 and Ismail Patel (the head of a British anti-Israel For details about Jerusalem Day events this year. some of them taking part in the delegitimization campaign against Israel. see our August 31. 2011 Information Bulletin: “Annual Jerusalem Day events organized by Iran and its proxies around the world again stressed hatred for Israel and the United States and support for Hezbollah and Hamas. strengthen international support and calm Israeli apprehensions (by downplaying the issue of the "right of return"). the Arab-Muslim world and the West (including the United States and Britain). The events are traditionally exploited for anti-Israeli anti-West incitement. In the West (especially Britain). in Iran and among Shi’ite and Muslim communities in the Middle East and elsewhere.10 into the anti-Israel delegitimization campaign both from the Palestinians and from the coalition of delegitimizers and critics of Israel’s policy across the globe. is an annual Iranian-sponsored event in support of the Palestinian cause. Among the participants are extreme . 2011 Information Bulletin: “Jerusalem Day. see our December 12. The appeal will be played out on the background of the break-in to the Israeli embassy in Cairo and Turkey's inflammatory declarations.
Appendix 4: Naksa Day events territories (the fly-in) leftist and Islamic activists who were joined by human rights activists.Appendix 1: The flotilla to the Gaza Strip b. and also arrive by sea. 2011 Information Bulletin: “Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA): a pro-Hamas British organization based in Leicester which advocates Israel’s elimination. which plays a central role in organizing flotillas”.Appendix 2: Initiative to send anti-Israel activists on commercial flights to Ben Gurion International Airport and to the PA-administered c.” .The following are four appendices that summarize the recent events: a.Appendix 3: Nakba Day events d. involvement in convoys and flotillas for the Gaza Strip. The organization takes part in all aspects of the campaign to delegitimize Israel in Britain: boycotts of Israel.11 organization called Friends of Al-Aqsa). dissemination of anti-Israel propaganda. march to Israel’s borders. 7 See our August 31. Appendices 13.7 There have been Facebook posts calling to prepare for massive non-violent demonstrations on November 29. The convoy has links to FGM. and anti-Israel demonstrations in London.
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