World Opinion: Israel's Right to Exist on Trial

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Next month, Israel celebrates its 62nd anniversary as a nation. With the approach of this milestone, many believe Israel faces two of the greatest threats to its survival.

The first is a potential nuclear Iran. The second could be just as dangerous: The spreading notion that the world would be a better place without Israel.

Growing Anti-Zionism?

- At the University of California's Irvine campus, Muslim students shouted down Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren 11 times.

- On Turkey's national television, a prime-time special portrayed Israeli soldiers executing Palestinian women and children in cold blood.

- Former Israel Defense Forces Chief Moshe Y'allon cancelled his trip to Spain fearing he'd be arrested on charges of war crimes.

- In March, dozens of cities held "Israel Apartheid Week," comparing the Jewish nation to the former apartheid state of South Africa.

So what's happening from the U.S. West Coast to the West Bank and around the world?

'Delegitimizing' Israel

When Israel was founded in 1948, its enemies outnumbered and out-gunned tiny Israel on the battlefield. But more than 60 years later, Israel boasts the strongest military in the Middle East.

No longer able to defeat Israel militarily, some say Israel's enemies have shifted to another battlefield -- the worldwide court of public opinion.

It's spreading the notion that Israel is so bad, so racist, and so evil, it no longer has a right to exist. It's an attempt to wipe Israel off the map, not with a nuclear bomb, but with slander and to promulgate the idea of a world without Israel.

Supporters of Israel see a very real and growing threat, a campaign - often coordinated - to delegitimize Israel, to undermine the very existence of the Jewish state.

"No more money for Israel's crimes," shouted one Anti-Israel demonstrator.

"You have an alliance of what many have called the Red/Green Alliance where you have on the one hand the leftists -- political movements both in the United States and in Europe and throughout the western world joining forces very openly with Islamists -- with radical Muslims and even moderate Muslims for that matter, saying that Israel has not a right to exist," Caroline Glick, managing editor of The Jerusalem Post told CBN News.

"My concern is that other people -- liberals, people of good will, people who don't know much about this area -- will fall into this trap and accept and slowly accept the notion that Israel is the new pariah," said Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, director of the World Jewish Affairs in Israel's foreign ministry.

Goldstone Report

Many of Israel's supporters point to latest attempt to delegitimize Israel -- the United Nations-commissioned Goldstone Report. The report accuses Israel of war crimes against civilians during Operation Cast Lead, Israel's campaign to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel's southern communities.

Ret. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin said he found such charges to be groundless.

"The Israelis were very careful not to target civilian targets - and if they did target a civilian target - to let the occupants there know that they were going to strike," he said. "The Goldstone Report tells just the opposite."

"The Goldstone Report is the son of Muhammed al-Dura," said French citizen Philippe Karsenty.

Al-Dura is the young Palestinian boy who was allegedly killed in 2000 by Israeli soldiers at the start of the Palestinian intifada. For the past decade, he's become the symbol of Israeli brutality.

Yet Karsenty took France 2 Television to court and claimed the footage videotaped by the France 2 photographer was staged. In May 2008, a French court ruled in Karsenty's favor.

Yet, he says the impact of this hoax and the Goldstone Report has been devastating, especially in Europe.

"Even the best friends of Israel, the people who want to support Israel, "Game over." We cannot defend you after we've seen the war crimes. We're even losing Jews in Europe," Karsenty said. 

"We've had people who were Jews and now they're so afraid to be associated with this kind of state, which is for them like a Nazi-like state is what they're seeing in the media," he said. 

Harbinger of Things to Come?

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold says groups like Hamas have a goal in delegitimizing Israel.

"The purpose is to tie the hands of Israel, so that Hamas retains the right of resistance of fighting Israel -- but at the same time Israel has no right of self-defense to respond," he explained.

"The state of Israel can win all the wars in the world, but if they have all the nations against them, the way it's becoming, it's very difficult. It's going to be very, very difficult for the state of Israel to survive and to defend its borders and just to defend its right to exist," Gold added.

While Israel may be the main target of this effort, some warn it may be just the first domino in a long line.

"It should be very worrying, because we have seen that when Israel is delegitimized and assaulted both diplomatically, politically as well as militarily, it is only a precursor of the rest of the free world," said Dan Diker of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

This could mean American military officers battling Al Qaeda in Iraq, or the Taliban in Afghanistan might find themselves accused of war crimes if they're responsible for unintended civilian casualties.

As Israel Goes... 

So, how can Israel fight such an effort?

"First of all, we have to point out that these delegitimization efforts against Israel are in fact a strategic threat to our existence," Glick said.

"To call all people of good will to take action," Ben-Shmuel added.

How well Israel fights on this battlefield may well determine its own survival and may also be a bellweather for democracies around the world.

*Originally published March 25, 2010. 

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