Middle East Monitor / July 22, 2020
The global Black Lives Matter movement has become a major strategic threat to Israel. At least, that’s how the pro-Israel lobby increasingly views it.
One obscure lobby group recently ratcheted up its anti-BLM rhetoric a notch. Something calling itself the “Zachor Legal Institute” has started to attack BLM online for supposed links to “terrorist organisations”.
I’ve never heard of Zachor before. This “institute” appears to have only two staff, Marc Greendorfer — a right-wing American lawyer who has argued against same-sex marriage — and Ron Machol, an Israeli “hi-tech professional”. Looking at its sparse website and minimal social media presence, Zachor looks to me to be yet another front group for Israel’s “Ministry of Strategic Affairs”.
Greendorfer’s apparent ties to Adam Milstein also seem to suggest this. Milstein is a multi-millionaire financier of the pro-Israel lobby who is known to coordinate closely with this ministry which has, for the past five years, led Israel’s semi-covert war on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid.
Without citing any evidence whatsoever, the “Zachor Legal Institute” claimed in a press release earlier this month that “BLM is rapidly incorporating the international terror playbook for its US insurrection.” To support this outlandish claim, the “institute” adduced the BLM movement’s support for Palestinian human rights in the form of the BDS campaign.
In the statement, Greendorfer called for the US government to look into the alleged ties between BLM and Palestinian “terror” groups: “We urge the Department of Justice to take action to fully investigate the ties among Black Lives Matter, their BDS partners and foreign terror groups that are promoting violence and unrest in the United States.”
Lara Friedman of the Foundation for Middle East Peace responded to these outrageous smears by saying, “If you weren’t expecting this you weren’t paying attention.” This is clearly part of a pattern.
Zachor’s social media accounts have fewer than 500 followers combined. It seems unlikely, therefore, that this particular smear has had any kind of wide impact. The “institute” is simply one of the breed of Israeli operations involved in what is called “lawfare”, a sort of legal warfare in which pro-Israel and Israeli lawyers use local courts to push and enforce a pro-Israel agenda in countries around the world.
Thanks to a combination of lawfare and political lobbying, more than 30 states in the US have now passed anti-BDS laws. Moreover, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in his first Queen’s Speech in December, declared that his government intends to pass a new law preventing local authorities in Britain from divesting from companies involved in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
Lawfare has a history, but such laws are often all bark with little bite. For all the state laws that have been passed in the US, the Israel lobby has so far failed to get a federal law passed by Congress. And the state laws are likely to be overturned for the same reason that the federal law was never passed in the first place, because they violate First Amendment protections of free speech.
Nevertheless, it’s no surprise to see the lawfare strategy being extended to the Black Lives Matter movement by right-wing groups. Just as the current solidarity between Black and Palestinian liberation struggles has a long history, so too have the oppressors of these struggles often been linked closely.
Israel, for example, backed and armed the white supremacist regime that ruled apartheid South Africa until 1994. And the Anti-Defamation League, a high-profile pro-Israel lobby group, rang a spy ring in the US which infiltrated activist groups working against both Israeli and South African apartheid in the 1980s and 90s.
It’s an appalling smear to attack Black Lives Matter as “terrorist” merely for expressing solidarity with another group of oppressed people. However, fidelity to the truth has never been a strong point of Israeli propagandists. The fact that the latest disgraceful attack is part of a long running pattern makes internationalist solidarity with oppressed peoples all the more important.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East