Israel is ramping up its efforts to fight the growing campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
Anshel Pfeffer reveals in Haaretz this weekend:
Today’s battle is BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign being waged against Israel. Significant efforts are being invested by the government and pro-Israel organizations to fend off BDS. This week I discovered that in the Israeli embassy in London alone, there are two people (one diplomat and a local employee) whose full-time brief is to monitor and counter BDS attempts. Apparently the Foreign Ministry with its diplomatic corps is not enough and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has added fighting BDS to the responsibilities of Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz.
This revelation follows a decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year to hand responsibility for fighting BDS to the ministry of strategic affairs.
Netanyahu said the ministry would coordinate “efforts with NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] in Israel and all over the world,” a role which would include “the establishment of a professional special staff for countering delegitimization.”
Could this be the first indication of these increased efforts?
Monitoring, sabotaging BDS efforts
Haaretz’s Pfeffer does not reveal the names or specific duties of the anti-boycott embassy staff, but in 2010, Israel’s Reut Institute identified London as one of the major “hubs” in a so-called “delegitimization network.”
The Reut report, which was embraced by the Israeli government and Israel lobby groups around the world, called on Israel to “sabotage” and “attack” members of the Palestinian solidarity movement.
Early this year, Haaretz revealed that after Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla and the Mavi Marmara in May 2010, “Israeli intelligence began to concentrate on monitoring the social networks of Islamic organizations and foreign left-wing activists.”
Is BDS working?
Pfeffer himself downplays the importance of the Palestinian campaign, asserting with bravado that “BDS has failed to create any form of pressure on Israel to change its policies” and has done nothing to dent Israel’s economy.
But he acknowledges that BDS has had a deep psychological impact on Israelis from “generals and politicians who feel an unease landing in some countries” where they could face arrest, to “academics looking for a university for their post-doctorate year and business people trying to drum up interest in professional conferences.”
Pfeffer claims that as a result of these pressures “Israelis have made themselves prisoners in their own minds” and urged them to “break the siege.”
This is an ironic phrase since it is, in part, Israel’s brutal and ongoing siege of Gaza, that Palestinian solidarity campaigns aim to draw attention to and help end.
Pfeffer misses the point that it is precisely this kind of pressure Israelis are feeling that successful boycotts generate.
Many Israelis are starting to understand that there is a price to be paid for imposing an intolerable injustice on millions of Palestinians.
It is indeed this kind of pressure and growing isolation – especially the sporting and cultural boycott – that helped convince white supporters and beneficiaries of apartheid in South Africa that they had to radically change direction.