In an interview to promote her new book Harpoon, Darshan-Leitner this month laid out just how intimate the organization’s ties with Mossad are.
Soon after the group’s foundation, she told Reuters, “she was invited to Mossad headquarters for a consultation.”
She said that she “explained to them what we do, how and where lawsuits are filed, what evidence and jurisdiction is required … Their response was: What do we have to do to file more lawsuits? What do you need?”
Also known as the Israel Law Center, Shurat HaDin is notorious for attacking Palestine solidarity organizations with frivolous lawsuits.
Although the group portrays itself as “bankrupting terrorism - one lawsuit at a time,” a primary Shurat HaDin target is BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement which aims to hold Israel accountable through non-violent campaign work.
The early Mossad contact “evolved into regular briefings, held in quiet cafes,” Reuters reported. The group would “get tip-offs about suspect finances to focus on during the US courts’ discovery hearings.”
These early links seem to have continued until the present day.
In the 2007 cable, it is noted that Shurat HaDin “continues to receive evidence and witnesses from Israeli intelligence.”
Her new book is praised on its cover by Tamir Pardo – Mossad director until last year – something Reuters describes as “the closest that the secretive Mossad can come to a public endorsement.”
Darshan-Leitner and her co-author Samuel Katz willingly submitted the book to Israeli military censors, who then “cut a fifth of the text to suppress some details about intelligence methods and personnel,” according to Reuters.
Shurat HaDin now has a long record of harassment targeting human rights campaigners. It does so using the threat of expensive lawsuits, usually on flimsy grounds. This is a tactic it calls “lawfare.”
Civil rights group Palestine Legal showed in a 2015 report that Shurat HaDin “threatened or initiated legal action against several organizations that have contemplated or passed BDS initiatives, including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the ASA [American Studies Association] and the Park Slope Food Coop.”
The report also details how Shurat HaDin in 2011 sued former US President Jimmy Carter for $5 million after he published his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
The group also stopped a 2011 boat of activists headed for Gaza to break the Israeli siege by filing an anonymous legal complaint which alleged the vessel was not seaworthy.
BDS a threat
All of this gives a good indication of how much of a threat Mossad considers BDS and the wider Palestine solidarity movement to be.
Reluctant to suffer potential political consequences from using Mossad’s normal methods of assassination, torture and kidnapping against the movement for Palestinian rights, Israel’s spy agencies instead use front organizations and “lawfare” harassment.
In the 2007 cable Darshan-Leitner explained that the Israeli government “saw the use of civil courts as a way to do things that they are not authorized to do.”
In a 2012 talk she said that “The Israeli government has some constraints … they have international treaties they are signed of and they cannot do what private lawyers can do.”
Israel’s strategic affairs ministry is now also involved in this dirty war against Palestine solidarity, having been tasked in 2015 with leading the fight against BDS.
This campaign has included death threats against and harassment of Palestinian lawyers who are working to file human rights cases against Israel in the Hague, as well as cyber attacks on pro-BDS websites.
“Sabotage” and “attack”
The ministry has an “intelligence section” run by former spy operative Shai Har-Zvi and receives assistance from “a special unit” within Israeli military intelligence and from the Shin Bet secret police.
But this year it issued a report to some of Israel’s supporters, admitting that this campaign was failing, and that the BDS movement had achieved “impressive growth” and “significant successes.”
This week, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz quoted Erdan as saying that he had now “set a policy of moving from defense to offense concerning the fight against [BDS],” after he banned a European delegation from entering the country.
The evidence shows, however, that Israel has actually been “on the offense” against BDS for years – and yet the movement only continues to grow.
As long as Israel continues to deny Palestinians freedom, equality and the right of return, it is likely to continue doing so.
- Shurat HaDin
- Nitsana Darshan-Leitner
- Tamir Pardo
- Samuel Katz
- Palestine Legal
- Presbyterian Church USA
- American Studies Association
- Park Slope Food Co-op
- Jimmy Carter
- Gaza Freedom Flotilla
- Max Blumenthal
- Shai Har-Zvi
- Gilad Erdan
- Ministry of Strategic Affairs
- Reut Institute