Targeting supporters of the BDS movement by Israel
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (also known as BDS ) is a Palestinian-led campaign promoting various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets what the campaign describes as Israel's obligations under international law, defined as withdrawal from the occupied territories, removal of the separation barrier in the West Bank, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and "respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties". The campaign is built in 2005 and is organized and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee.
Israeli authorities passed legislation against it two years ago in 2017. A spokesperson from Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs told The Independent that “the boycott movement tries to manipulate public opinion on social media and such actions only reveal the true face of BDS – they have no interest in dialogue but rather try to promote division”
Israel has taken a tough approach to the boycott movement that it accuses of having ties to “terrorism and anti-Semitism”. The involvement of the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, in efforts to actively disrupt the growing movement for boycott is not a surprise to pro-Palestine activists. “Tens of millions of dollars allocated for the anti-BDS efforts” said Akiva Eldar, a senior columnist for Al-Monitor.
According to Israeli ministry of strategic affairs, thirty financial accounts associated with BDS have been closed in the last two years due to ties between these NGOs and terrorism. Ten of the accounts were closed in the United States, twenty in Europe. According to the ministry, these closures have “significantly curtailed the influx of funds” received by these organizations.
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement. “Over time though, we have revealed that the supposed ‘human rights’ NGOs are, in reality, filled with antisemitic operatives with deep ties to terrorist groups fixated on destroying the State of Israel.”
The report cited several examples of accounts closed, such as three belonging to the boycott organization Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – one each on PayPal, Donorbox and Plaid – which were shut down at the request of the International Legal Forum. The forum had brought to the platforms’ attention Samidoun’s close ties with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The ties were originally made clear in another report, published by the ministry, called Terrorists in Suits. That report claims that there are more than 100 links between terror groups and organizations promoting boycotts of Israel, including the employment of 30 current and “retired” terror operatives. The Terrorists in Suits report showed that Samidoun’s two representatives in Europe, Mustafa Awad and Muhammad Khatib, are both members of terrorist organizations. Samidoun publicly responded to the closure of its accounts. Similarly, in May 2018, the credit card accounts of the Al-Haq organization were closed. Al-Haq is a veteran organization active in the Palestinian arena, and one of the leaders in promoting boycotts and delegitimization of Israel.
Other examples in the report include the BDS National Committee (BNC), the umbrella organization leading the global BDS campaign from its headquarters in Ramallah. BNC had its crowd funding account on Donorbox shut down. After the Donorbox closure, BNC opened another account on the website Charityweb, “but this attempt was unsuccessful, as the account was closed within a few hours,” according to the report.
Furthermore, over the past two years a number of fund-raising accounts associated with Interpal, that Israel claims they have ties with Hamas, have been closed. The organization’s MyDonate crowdfunding account was frozen, and a number of its credit card accounts were canceled.
The Israeli parliament has also passed a number of laws that have targeted supporters of the BDS movement. Foreign citizens who promote BDS are banned from entering Israel, while Israeli citizens or groups who publicly call for a boycott of Israel or products from Jewish settlements can be sued for damages and it violated core principles of freedom of expression. Moreover, it is increasingly outsourcing its anti-democratic tactics to the US.
"At the heart of what Israel is trying to do is preventing citizens across the world responding to the legitimate call from Palestinians for peaceful action to hold Israel and complicit organisations to account for ongoing human rights abuses," said the pro-Palestine campaign.