Palestinians In Global Push For Statehood

The U.S. is continuing diplomatic efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks but the prospects do not look good. The Palestinians are now bringing their fight for independence into the global arena.

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The prospects do not look good for U.S. efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and Palestinians are now bringing their fight for independence into the global arena. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Jerusalem.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: This month, a delegation from South Africa came to the occupied West Bank. In the press, it was called a fact-finding trip. It's real name was something else.

Mr. HUSSAM ZOMLOT (Fatah Movement): We need to start a South Africa-like international campaign, international solidarity movement, whereby this movement would put pressure on the occupation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is already an international boycott disinvest and sanction campaign, targeting Israel. But Hussam Zomlot, from the Fatah movement that controls the West Bank government, says that Palestinians want to create more momentum. To that end, Zomlot says, there's a lot to learn from how South African groups operated under apartheid.

Mr. ZOMLOT: We need to learn from their ability to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people around the world. We have a lot to learn from their non-violent actions to delegitimize injustice, to expose racism. And their number one message for us: Do not invite Israel's security might. Face them in the moral arena.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This week, over a hundred Palestinian youths were sent to South Africa, to learn strategy and how to use non-violent resistance to highlight the injustices of the occupation. And Palestinians are reaching out in the diplomatic sphere as well.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in Brazil this week. His visit follows announcements from Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador this month, recognizing an independent Palestinian state within 1967 borders. Other Latin-American countries are considering the same move. Deputy Secretary General of the Fatah Revolutionary Council Sabri Saidam says eventually, the Palestinians will take their drive for recognition to the United Nations.

Mr. SABRI SAIDAM (Fatah Revolutionary Council): Israel is certainly feeling the heat. The reason for that is the number of countries that have, over the last few weeks, recognized the Palestinian rights. After years of years of waiting, the Palestinians are looking for major breakthroughs.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Needless to say, Israel isn't happy about what's happening, and it's begun its own campaign to counter it. At a meeting of the World Union of Jewish Students this week, Chaya Singer, the chairperson, told the audience that criticizing Israel equals anti-Semitism.

Ms. CHAYA SINGER (Chairperson, World Union of Jewish Students): Some people criticize Israel. They criticize the Jewish people. Delegitimization of Israel is anti-Semitism, when you criticize Israel's right to exist.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In wordplay that so often characterizes this conflict, Israel says that Palestinian campaigns like boycott, disinvest and sanction seek to delegitimize Israel. One of the brains behind the operation is the Reut Institute, a think tank that has ties to the Netanyahu government.

Mr. ERAN SHAYSHON (Reut Institute): Delegitimization, for us, is the rejection of Israel's right to exist, the negation of the Jewish people's rights to self-determination. This is very different from criticism over Israeli policy. Now many time, Israelis tend to not make this important distinction, and they play to the hands of the delegitimizers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Eran Shayshon leads the Reut Institute's team on national security. They recently authored a report, called "Building A Political Firewall Against Israel's Delegitimization." Shayshon says Israel's government is taking the problem extremely seriously.

Mr. SHAYSHON: Ideas that were considered to be radical 10 years ago are now being mainstream - radical ideas towards Israel. They kind of created a zeitgeist, the spirit of the time, which is very anti-Israeli. And the result is that Israel loses its support among the liberal, progressive elite.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Shayshon says they've determined that London and San Francisco are what he calls global delegitimization hubs. In a report on London provided to NPR, the institute recommends steps like mobilizing Jewish Diaspora communities, developing public relations and branding practices, as well as negative branding of the other side. It also says it needs to quote, out-name and shame the delegitimizers; quote, systematically exposing information about them, their activities. The goal is to eventually frame them, the report says, as anti-peace, anti-Semitic, or dishonest purveyors of double standards.

One of the groups named in the London report is the Palestine Return Center. This week, Israel lodged a formal complaint against the group, saying that quote, the center is involved in initiating and organizing radical and violent activity against Israel in Europe, while delegitimizing Israel's status as a nation. It's a battle that will only get worse in 2011, Shayshon promises.

Mr. SHAYSHON: The year 2011 will be the first year that we will be punching back.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The Palestinians, too, have said they are going to intensify their activities as the two sides try and sway global opinion.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News.

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