Israelis seek to uncover government’s secret war against BDS

Israel is trying to stop the growing boycott movement with covert operations targeting activists around the world.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler ActiveStills

A group of Israeli citizens is seeking information on their government’s covert activities against the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Meanwhile, the Israeli embassy in London has warned in a leaked cable that some of Israel’s tactics against the BDS movement may violate UK law.

Attorney Eitay Mack and human rights activists Sahar Vardi, Ofer Neiman, Rachel Giora and Kobi Snitz have filed requests under Israel’s freedom of information law, to both the foreign ministry and the strategic affairs ministry.

They are asking the government to reveal its financial support to foreign organizations, individuals, journalists or bloggers assisting Israel in its battle against what it calls “delegitimization.”

The strategic affairs ministry, led by Likud minister Gilad Erdan, has taken the lead, gearing up to fight the nonviolent BDS movement as if it were a military challenge.

Armed with a $45 million budget for this year, the ministry is engaging in what a veteran Israeli analyst is calling “black ops.”

This may include defamation campaigns, harassment and threats to the lives of activists as well as infringing on and violating their privacy, according to the analyst.

“We want most of the [strategic affairs] ministry’s work to be classified,” its director general Sima Vaknin-Gil recently told the transparency committee of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

Earlier this month, Erdan’s ministry and the Association of University Heads of Israel were linked to a “secret” effort to push for the cancellation of a course on Palestine at the University of California, Berkeley.

The course was suspended, but later reinstated after an outcry from students, faculty and defenders of academic freedom.

“The sweeping secrecy exercised by both ministries is inappropriate, especially in view of the Israeli government’s position regarding human rights organizations supported financially by foreign countries,” the Israeli citizens said in a press release.

Earlier this year Israel adopted a so-called transparency law forcing human rights groups to reveal foreign government funding. Critics say the law is meant to brand human rights groups as illegitimate and chill criticism of Israel’s record.

Under the freedom of information law, the Israeli ministries have 120 days to respond. If they reject the requests, the citizens seeking the information can file an appeal in court.

Using Jewish groups

The information request comes as a cable, leaked to the newspaper Haaretz, has cast more light on the covert efforts against BDS.

The cable from the Israeli embassy in London to the Israeli foreign ministry complains about the activities of Erdan’s strategic affairs ministry.

It accuses the ministry of “operating” British Jewish organizations behind the embassy’s back in a way that could put them in violation of UK law.

The context is a turf war between the two ministries over who should get more money and authority to lead the fight against BDS.

The foreign ministry has so far been on the losing end of that bureaucratic battle.

As Haaretz reports, the cable reveals that the embassy met with Erdan’s officials during his visit to London two weeks ago “to coordinate activities against the local boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

The embassy officials emphasized that while they would coordinate with Erdan’s operation, only the foreign ministry would work directly with people or organizations overseas.

Haaretz says Erdan’s officials agreed “not to pose as the embassy.”

“Behind our backs”

But just days later, according to Haaretz, Asher Friedman, a senior strategic affairs ministry official, “asked a senior official in Britain’s Jewish community to use his connections to thwart an anti-Israel campaign by the Palestinians.”

“Attempts to act behind our back have happened before and will again, but ‘operating’ Jewish organizations directly from Jerusalem, with no coordination and no consultation, is liable to be dangerous,” the embassy cable said.

“Operating like this could encounter opposition from the organizations themselves, given their legal status; Britain isn’t the US,” the cable added.

It also warned that such behavior “could be considered political activity, or even activity on behalf of a foreign government on British soil,” Haaretz states.

The leak would seem to confirm that the Israeli government increasingly views Jewish organizations and communities abroad as mere extensions of its state propaganda apparatus.

This is unlikely to do much to tamp down criticism of Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians, but it does pose a danger to Jews who do not wish to be identified with a foreign government that is increasingly seen as a pariah.

Notably, as Haaretz reports, it was the British Jewish official himself who “immediately voiced his objections to the embassy, both orally and in writing, as well as to the heads of other British Jewish organizations.”




Perhaps at last we'll begin to get a sense of what's been going on within the coordinated media onslaught against Corbyn and the resurgent Labour Party. It is to be hoped that more leaks will produce more information. It's beyond doubt that the Israeli government plays a large role in the domestic politics of Britain. No mainstream press or broadcast outlet will commission its own investigation into the shadowy activities of this hostile foreign power, so it really is up to the new media, including this site, to uncover and publicise the manipulation of opinion carried out in the name of combating anti-Semitism. Thanks for keeping us informed.


We Moral Jews who fought the Evil, Occupying, Invading Nazis as Freedom Fighters in Poland stand with all the Occupied and Oppressed People in the world.
It is the SAME fight. Against murder, genocide and unending war.
Zionism is NOT Judaism. Zionism threatens the freedom, dignity and existence of ALL Human Beings.
We will prevail It was the Zionists who took up the sword of oppression and muder.
We will defeat them as well.
Morality, Justice and Freedom ordains it.


We must give support to Jews who support BDS or are critical of Israeli actions against the Palestinians.
What the Israeli government and its supporters do not understand by their tactics,of demonization and financial ruin of people.They are not stopping criticism but fueling intense scrutiny upon Israel.
To cover a lie you must tell a bigger lie,until that lie becomes so ludicrous no one believes it.This is the problem with Israel their lies no longer are believed.They say one thing and youtube video's tell another story.
The policy of killing Palestinian children by IDF soldiers, sanctioned by the Terrorist State of Israel tells us how morally bankrupt this country is.I call Israel the Middle East Pyschopath
This is a State heading for disaster and those funding it do no seem to realize it


A people that oppress and war with other peoples can never be free or happy. I hope the Zionits and the zionistas will one day come to realize this because as you sow so shall you reap.


Worldwide spread of information of the crimes of the Israeli's against the Palestinians is needed.Constant information flow is the best strategy.The Zionists and their friends are expending millions of dollars to destroy BDS and anybody associated with it.
It will not work the truth is out on alterantive media,even though the mainstream media continue with Pro-Israeli lies and propaganda.The mainstream media is losing credibility fast.People simply ring up on tv and radio shows contradicting the Pro-israeli narrative.TV and radio presenters often end looking like fools trying to defend the Israeli line(it is embarrassing).
I do not watch tv or read papers,its all propaganda and lies.I do my own research and read books by leading experts and listen to youtube lectures and documentaries

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.