Cotler Israel news photo: Denise Rocha

“Deligitimization is a generic buzzword," according to Irwin Cotler, Canadian member of Parliament and former Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney General, “and it is laundered by using civic engagement issues and causes to condemn Israel.”  He explained that the first step in the laundering process was the reconfiguration of the Middle East conflict to Israel-Palestinian instead of Israel-Arab. The next was using the now accepted norm of universal jurisdiction, aiming it only at Israel in what has come to be known as “lawfare”. 

When war and terror failed to destroy Israel, its enemies decided to try the law courts and the court of public opinion. Examples he cited are the Goldstone Report and the anti-Israel politicization of global Human Rights NGOs, academia and

Lawfare is the waging of war under the cover of law.

trade unions whose actions are accepted by Western political elites.

Cotler spoke at the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem on Wednesday, at a panel discussion called Lawfare! Fighting False Legal Actions and Boycotts that Demonize Israel. The event was organized by the proactive Anglo group, Hadar Israel, in collaboration with Europeans for Israel.  Other speakers were  IDF Lt. Colonel (res.) David Benjamin, former director of the international division of the IDF Advocate General, and D.J. Schneeweiss, the anti boycott coordinator for Europe at the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

“Lawfare is the waging of war under the cover of law," said Cotler, who is also an International Human Rights lawyer. “At the UN there are constant agency meetings at which Israel is condemned in legal language. Those present are committed to the principles discussed and do not know enough to judge for themselves whether Israel is violating them or not. Israel is presented there as an 'international outlaw.'" 

He told the audience that the UN Human Rights Council has made the seventh item on every meeting’s agenda the condemnation of Israel, while item number eight deals with the entire rest of the world.

Cotler added that the struggle against Apartheid, defined as a crime against humanity, is now focused on dismantling Israel after doing the same to South Africa and that  “portraying Israel as a Nazi state makes that morally obligatory. It is a catch 22 situation for Jewish students on campus.”  He also believes that Israel should form its own non-military committee to investigate the Cast Lead Operation as an answer to the Goldstone Report.

Lt. Colonel (res.) Benjamin disagreed with that, stating that the IDF is no different from the United States, Canada and the UK whose defense forces conduct their own internal investigations. 

He explained that Israel obeys international law, does not fight terror with terror, but deals with terrorists according to the

Anti Zionist Israelis and Jews add fuel to the fire of lawfare.

laws of armed conflict.  In armed conflict, targeted killing of enemy personnel and preventive operations against terrorist forces are legitimate.

Goldstone, he said, says terror should be dealt with using criminal law. That model calls for apprehending terrorists and bringing them to trial only after the fact, making targeted killing "extra judicial execution." Goldstone suggested conducting police raids in Gaza, an idea which Benjamin ridiculed as suitable for discussion at “a psychiatrist’s seminar”.

D.J. Schneeweiss, the third speaker, reminded the audience that the Jews are strong as a people and called for refocusing and abandoning insularity and defensiveness in order to engage critics.  “We are fighting a strategic, multi-dimentional, ideologically clothed war that uses the language of values and simple, repetitive messages against us. Anti-Zionist Israelis and Jews add fuel to the fire.”  He urged all pro-Israel Jews to challenge, make the other side the issue, talk about Jewish refugees and Arab suppression of human rights, and to get on the boards of trade unions and NGO’s.

All the speakers felt that the Goldstone Report was corrupt at the core, and was guilty of accusing Israel of deliberately committing crimes as part of government policy while ignoring the Hamas charter.  Cotler urged those present to help “get Israel out of the docket and become the plaintiff” in the world of lawfare, so as to “delegitimize its delegitimization”.

Hadar Israel, who sponsored the event, is the new organization for action and leadership by English speakers in Israel. To get involved in Hadar or be added to its mailing list,  email