Donorbox has fallen prey to an Israeli government smear campaign to sabotage and silence advocates for full and equal Palestinian rights.
“After legal threats and false allegations from Shurat HaDin-The Israel Law Center, the donation platform Donorbox has temporarily suspended the BDS National Committee’s account, disabling its ability to fundraise for its human rights advocacy at the height of the charity season,” the civil rights group Palestine Legal said Friday.
The BDS National Committee, or BNC, is the steering group for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign for Palestinian rights.
According to the Associated Press, the Shurat HaDin complaint was “submitted in coordination with Israel’s strategic affairs ministry.”
“This decision does not mean that we consider BDS to be a nefarious organization,” Donorbox said, according to the AP. “We are merely reviewing evidence following this complaint. Their donation forms were closed as a precautionary measure.”
Shurat HaDin, an Israeli group linked to the Mossad spying and assassination agency, employs spurious and politically motivated legal proceedings in an effort to harass, silence and deter supporters of Palestinian rights.
In one recent example, Shurat HaDin sued two New Zealand human rights activists for writing an article calling on the pop star Lorde not to play in Israel, in solidarity with Palestinians suffering under Israeli military occupation and siege.
Legal experts dismissed the judgment against the New Zealand activists as meritless and unenforceable.
Lawyers are saying that Shurat HaDin’s attempt to shut down the BNC’s fundraising is baseless and illegal.
“The accusations from Shurat HaDin are false and based on flimsy legal theories,” Dima Khalidi, director of Palestine Legal, said. “Shurat HaDin are themselves engaging in unlawful interference with the BNC’s peaceful grassroots advocacy to achieve freedom and equality for Palestinians. We call on Donorbox to complete its investigation rapidly and reinstate BNC’s account.”
Maria LaHood, deputy legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, called Donorbox’s action “one more example of a widespread effort to punish Palestinian existence and thwart advocacy for Palestinian rights.”
Palestine Legal added that “accusations that the BNC’s fundraising in any way constitutes ‘material support for terrorism,’ as Shurat HaDin has insinuated, rely on unsupported and false claims that funds raised by the BNC ‘may’ go to groups designated as terrorist organizations by the US government.”
Israeli strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan called Donorbox’s decision “a significant achievement in our efforts to counter the discriminatory BDS campaign.”
Erdan’s ministry is spearheading Israel’s overt and covert efforts to smear the nonviolent BDS movement that is modeled on the global campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa.
In November, The Electronic Intifada published in full an undercover Al Jazeera documentary that revealed some of the ministry’s tactics.
The documentary was censored after Israel lobby pressure on Qatar, which funds Al Jazeera.
The leaked film can be viewed online.
It shows Sima Vaknin-Gil, the director-general of the strategic affairs ministry, claiming to have leading neoconservative think tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies working on Israel’s behalf to undermine activist groups.
The undercover footage shows Vaknin-Gil claiming that “We have FDD. We have others working on” projects including “data gathering, information analysis, working on activist organizations, money trail. This is something that only a country, with its resources, can do the best.”
In the film, FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer is heard complaining to an undercover reporter that his “research” – false allegations – that Students for Justice in Palestine groups on US campuses have ties to terrorism financing has failed to gain any traction.
Schanzer explains that he is also trying to link the BDS movement with “terrorism,” but admits he has no real evidence to back up his smears.
The documentary also reveals how another US-based group, the Israel on Campus Coalition, coordinates with the strategic affairs ministry in a massive surveillance effort targeting US college campuses.
It is clear that the Israeli ministry, along with Shurat HaDin, is using the same kinds of tactics to pressure and scare Donorbox into stopping Americans and others from participating in an entirely legal and legitimate human rights campaign.
Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement, said, “They are making categorically false allegations, threatening and bullying our partners and service providers in a desperate attempt to undermine our ability to challenge Israel’s regime of apartheid and oppression.”
Israel and its lobby are using similar tactics against solidarity activists and journalists in Europe.
Donorbox’s submission to Israel’s pressure comes at a time when ever more mainstream voices, including senators Dianne Feinstein and Bernie Sanders, and even The New York Times editorial board, are publicly opposing efforts to criminalize support for Palestinian rights as a violation of the First Amendment.