Israel steps up dirty tricks against boycott leaders

Israel/Palestine
on 9 Comments

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed cohorts of Israel loyalists in the United States by video link last week at the annual conference of Aipac, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee.

They should, he said, follow his government’s example and defend Israel on the “moral battlefield” against the growing threat of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. In Netanyahu’s simple-minded language, support for Palestinian rights, and opposition to the settlements, is equivalent to “delegitimisation” of Israel.

The current obsession with BDS reflects a changing political environment for Israel.

According to an investigation by the Haaretz newspaper last month, Israeli agents subverted the human rights community in the 1970s and 1980s. Their job was to launder Israel’s image abroad. Yoram Dinstein, a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, led the local chapter of Amnesty International, the world’s most influential rights organisation of the time, running it effectively as a wing of Israel’s foreign ministry.

Dinstein’s interference allowed Israel to falsely characterise the occupation as benevolent while presenting the Palestinians’ liberation struggle as terrorism. The reality of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians rarely reached outsiders.

Israel’s task is harder five decades on. The human rights community is more independent, while social media and mobile phone cameras have allowed Palestinians and their supporters to bypass the gatekeepers.

In the past few days, videos have shown an Israeli policeman savagely beating a Palestinian lorry driver, and soldiers taking hostage a terrified eight-year-old after he crossed their path while searching for a toy.

If concealment at source is no longer so easy, the battle must be taken to those who disseminate this damning information. The urgency has grown as artists refuse to visit, universities sever ties, churches pull their investments and companies back out of deals.

Israel is already sealing itself off from outside scrutiny as best it can. Last month it passed a law denying entry into Israel or the occupied territories to those who support BDS or “delegitimise” Israel.

But domestic critics have proved trickier. The Israel government has chipped away at the human rights community’s financial base. Media regulation has intensified. And the culture ministry is cracking down on film productions that criticise the occupation or government policy.

But the local boycott movement is feeling the brunt of the assault. Activists already risk punitive damages if they call for a boycott of the settlements. Transport minister Yisrael Katz stepped up the threats last year, warning BDS leaders that they faced “civil targeted assassination”. What did he mean?

Omar Barghouti, the movement’s Palestinian figurehead, was arrested last month, accused of tax evasion. He is already under a travel ban, preventing him from receiving an international peace award this month. And Israeli officials want to strip him of his not-so “permanent” residency.

At the same time, a leading Israeli rights activist, Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, was detained by police on suspicion of promoting BDS while leading activists on a tour of an illegal settlement.

These are the first signs of the repression to come. The police minister, Gilad Erdan, has announced plans for a database of Israelis who support BDS, to mirror existing spying operations on BDS activists overseas. The information will help a “dirty tricks” unit whose job is to tarnish their reputations.

Erdan also wants a blacklist of companies and organisations that support boycotts. A law passed in February already shames the few companies prepared to deny services to the settlements, forcing them publicly to “out” themselves.

Why is Israel so fearful? Officials say the immediate danger is Europe’s labelling of settlement products, the first step on a slippery slope they fear could lead to Israel being called an apartheid state. That would shift the debate from popular boycotts and divestment by civil society groups to pressure for action by governments – or sanctions.

The inexorable trend was illustrated last month when a United Nations commission found Israel guilty of breaching the international convention on the crime of apartheid. Washington forced the UN secretary-general to repudiate the report, but the comparison is not going away.

Israel supporters in the United States have taken Netanyahu’s message to heart. Last week they unveiled an online “boycotters map”, identifying academics who support BDS – both to prevent them entering Israel and presumably to damage their careers.

For the moment, the Israeli-engineered backlash is working. Western governments are characterising support for a boycott, even of the settlements, as anti-Semitic – driven by hatred of Jews rather than opposition to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Anti-BDS legislation has passed in France, Britain, Switzerland, Canada and the US.

This is precisely how Netanyahu wants to shape the “moral battlefield”. A reign of terror against free speech and political activism abroad and at home, leaving Israel free to crush the Palestinians.

On paper, it may sound workable. But Israel will soon have to accept that the apartheid genie is out of the bottle – and it cannot be put back.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is jonathan-cook.net.

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9 Responses

  1. Maghlawatan
    April 4, 2017, 3:36 pm

    Israel will go as far as assassinations . Always has

    BDS is possibly the only antidote to Zionism

    Mondo article from 2011
    Who profits from the occupation?
    by Alice Rothchild on January 15, 2011 · 3 comments
    Like 8 Retweet 2

    As we learn more about the BDS movement, a critical question emerges: what companies are involved with which activities that ultimately sustain the occupation? In Tel Aviv we meet Dalit Baum, an Israeli member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and specifically, the group Who Profits? She explains that the organization was developed to understand the economics of the settlement project. A short haired woman with intense black eyes and an ironic sense of humor, she states that the project aimed to investigate corporations directly involved in the occupation, to figure out the specifics, the financial interests, and who is making money from whom. After meticulous research, four years later they have a website, whoprofits.org, that has a partial data base listing approximately 1000 companies.
    The criteria for inclusion on this list involves work in building settlements, marketing settlement goods, using industrial space within settlements, providing crucial services to settlements such as transportation, and providing equipment to the military such as for building walls and checkpoints. She notes that Israel has exploited the Palestinian labor pool and the Palestinian market, it is a captive market where Israeli policies have shut down much of the competition. For example, Palestinians are only allowed to grow agricultural products that are not as profitable as Israeli products and do not compete in European markets when compared to Israeli goods.
    Who Profits is a unique grassroots organization that does impeccable economic research with careful documentation using concrete proof with governmental and company documents. They are very careful to stay within the letter of the law, as any suit for damages would be disastrous in the Israeli courts. An example of their work involves “Crossing the Line,” a fast train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem that crosses the Green Line into the West Bank in two sections. The Israeli neighbors did not want the train and noise near their property so the project was moved and this will entail almost the entire destruction of the Palestinian village of Beit Iksa. Painfully there is now a petition to the world from the Palestinian village to put the train on land that is ALREADY expropriated. The train is being built by European and American companies.
    Then there is the issue of financing of the occupation. All six Israeli banks are directly involved in supporting settlements. Dalit reminds us that you cannot separate the economy of the occupation from the economy of Israel from the economy of the US for that matter. For instance, Soda Stream, an Israeli company that makes carbonated water, just went public on Nasdaq.
    She turns her attention to what does it mean to boycott settlement markets. She describes 18 tycoons that control the large corporations that are involved and notes that if they start losing money, they will pull out of the settlements. She describes living in Israel both as frustrating but “We feel effective.” As an example, her group will go to a checkpoint, they will document the infrastructure, the telecommunications, etc, and then google the companies, do the appropriate research, and put the information on the website. “Direct action with no gas! We use our privilege to see the occupation.” They also go to security industry exhibitions and meet with people eager to sell a host of weaponry. She focuses on crowd dispersal, what is called in the business, “nonlethal weapons” although everyone knows that these weapons can be lethal in high enough doses or with direct impact. For her she feels this is personal, as an activist who has been faced with tear gas and other methods used at demonstrations.
    Another aspect of this macabre business Dalit describes is weaponry produced in the US. Because the US gives Israel an enormous amount of money to buy American military equipment, there are now Israeli entrepreneurs who establish companies in the US and then benefit from the largesse of our tax dollars. Thus there are many forces within the US that have strong economic interests in maintaining this lucrative arrangement where the US is basically financing its own war industries. This lead a group of activists, after a demonstration, to return empty tear gas canisters to the US ambassador. They were promptly arrested for possession of weapons, but the charges were later dropped.
    Dalit reminds us that there is a lot to be done in the US and any effort contributes to the cause. It is important to pick strategic targets that also involve an educational component. She feels boycotting computer companies or generic drug companies, for instance, are not strategic activities. She is very optimistic, both because this movement is led by Palestinian activists and because there is a response in the Israeli Knesset that implies that people in power are worried. The Anti BDS law in process will make individuals personally liable for any damage to companies. The Association Law aims to outlaw any NGO that provides information to foreign entities that might lead to charges of war crimes against Israelis. The Fighting Terrorism Law targets any Israeli or Palestinian activist who does any activity against Israeli soldiers or State symbols, and vaguely and obscurely defines all of these activities as terrorism. This could include nonviolent, legitimate resistance to the occupation. The Prohibition on Instituting Boycott Law will criminalize Israeli citizens who support local and international BDS activities. Recently the Knesset began an investigation of the funding of NGOs.
    Dalit sees these rightwing trends as plunging into fascism and of particular concern is that these anti-democratic assaults are originating in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, which is supposed to be the cornerstone of a democratic society.
    I leave this meeting with the sense that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done in the US which is actively enmeshed with the military machinery and corporations that make the Israeli occupation possible. In addition, the “only democracy in the Middle East” seems to be heading rapidly in a dangerous direction; I wonder how many “Israel right or wrong” supporters fully appreciate this and when will supporting the actions of the Israeli government become untenable to a wider group of people. I am impressed that a small group of thoughtful and dedicated activists can have such a significant impact on the process. I only hope that the next time I visit Israel, I will not be visiting them in prison.

  2. Maghlawatan
    April 4, 2017, 3:38 pm

    This is an excellent resource :

    https://whoprofits.org/

  3. Maghlawatan
    April 4, 2017, 4:03 pm

    The BDS related lawsuit against the Olympia food coop was backed by Israel and has dragged on since 2011

    http://www.theolympian.com/news/local/article62771667.html

    The key problem for Israel is that more and more goys have had enough of the bullshit. If you want a Jewish state, run it on Jewish rather than Aryan values

  4. RafinSFastur
    April 5, 2017, 12:21 am

    The Zionist silence BDS project is to make “Not liking Israel” illegal around the world. UK, Spain, US are just a few examples of where this has already happened.

  5. genesto
    April 5, 2017, 12:20 pm

    ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win’.

    – Gandhi.

    Cheer up, folks, we’re at stage 3 with only 1 more to go!

  6. Ossinev
    April 5, 2017, 1:31 pm

    @genesto

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win’”

    It would appear that Zio dirty tricks and or money are feverishly at work here in the UK to keep the fire burning on the hilarious “endemic anti-semitism” scenario in the Labour Party and in poor old Ken Livingstone in particular.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39499640

    To his eternal credit Ken is sticking to his guns and has not been bought or bullied in any way by the cowards and hypocrites now running the Labour Party. As a longstanding Labour Party supporter and voter and I am completely disgusted and ashamed by the comments and actions of the spineless Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson. I would expect blatant arslikhan reactions from the likes of the moronic John Mann and Joan Ryan (see below) but the reactions of Corbyn and Watson show that even they have immersed themselves in the Zio swamp.

    There must be hundreds of thousands of traditional Labour supporters watching this Zionist pantomine and thinking yes the right wing and the centre of the Labour Party going along with this Zionistcharade is predictable to an extent but our new pure unbought unsullied Corbyn led party WTF is going on ?

    Hopefully they will be obliterated in the coming council elections and in any future national elections if they survive that long.

    As I said disgusted and ashamed by what the Labour Party has become. Gerald Kaufmann must be turning in his grave.

    http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/open-letter-joan-ryan-mp-chair-labour-friends-israel/

  7. Susan A
    April 5, 2017, 4:09 pm

    Although the BBC, this morning (Today Programme Radio 4) only interviewed Lord Levy regarding Ken’s suspension for a year, he predictably was horrified that KL was merely suspended and not expelled, they did at least, for once, mention the letter signed by 30 Jewish Labour Party members in support of Livingstone and even mentioned four of the names who signed another letter as in the link below:
    http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/jewish-labour-party-members-slam-decision-suspend-ken-livingstone/ They will not silence us, even if they rarely give any of us a platform…

  8. Susan A
    April 5, 2017, 4:13 pm

    PS> The link above also gives the texts of the excellent testimony from five Jewish Labour Party members in support of Ken. As for Corbyn, yes, as a former patron of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, we are horrified how he has been cowed into silence. Tom Watson? Yuk! He’s detrimental to Corbyn. Many, including myself, feel like leaving the party as a result, but this would mean that our adversaries would win, so we also have to resist this too.

  9. MHughes976
    April 5, 2017, 5:39 pm

    It’s a very strange business, this Livingstone row. I don’t really know why Livingstone brought the Haavara agreement so prominently into the discussion. Even if it were to be proved to the hilt that Hitler went through a strongly Zionist phase that would not discredit Zionism or even reduce whatever plausibility it may have. If Hitler for a time or always believed strongly in evolution that would not show that Richard Dawkins should be ashamed of himself or even needs to sit down and have a re-think. A bad person can believe a true thing. A truth can’t imply a falsehood but a falsehood can imply a truth. So what was Livingstone talking about?
    Livingstone’s opponents are making a huge thing of his ‘wilful misinterpretation’. They can’t deny that Hitler did not rule out all forms of cooperation with Zionists: neither, evidently, did all Zionists rule out all forms of cooperation with him. There is a difference between that and Livingstone’s claim that Hitler took this position because of some active, temporary sympathy with Zionist ideas. But how does that further step of ‘interpretation’ make such a difference to one’s view of anything? Does historical clarity depend on being absolutely certain that Hitler never seriously changed his mind?
    Perhaps the concern is over something not explicitly said, i.e. that those Zionists prepared to cooperate in this degree with Hitler had some active sympathy with National Socialist ideas. Again, it seems strange to insist without further thought that this has to be inconceivable. Even were it true of some Zionists it would not discredit Zionism. Even if you are sure that Stalin and his henchmen were monsters that would not show that Marxist views of society were false.
    The truth about the states of mind of historical characters is not to be determined by how keen to hear – or how offended by hearing – certain
    ideas people in the present are.
    The whole thing is a bit crazy.

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