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Israeli Prime Minister directly involved in efforts against BDS movement

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Netanyahu speaking to the Conference of Presidents
of Major American Jewish Organizations (Photo via

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is directly involved in growing efforts to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, according to a report on the website of Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

Nahum Barnea, a leading Israeli commentator, reported June 25 that Netanyahu met with a small group of unnamed “Jewish millionaires” at the Israeli Presidential Conference last week in Jerusalem. Netanyahu “sought to raise their money and use their connections for the war against the anti-Israel boycott movement”–a movement Barnea says is “arousing great interest in Western countries, leaving its mark on the academic system, on economic decisions made by business and political organizations and on the media.”

The details from Barnea are yet another indication of how seriously the Israeli establishment is taking the BDS movement. Netanyahu’s desire to combat BDS comes about a month after Israeli businessmen warned the prime minister that without progress towards a two-state solution, foreign investments would be withheld and “no one” would “buy goods” from Israel. And in a speech this week, Netanyahu “promised to implement the recommendations of [the Jewish People Policy Institute] with regards to countering international ‘delegitimization’ and boycott initiatives,” as the Electronic Intifada‘s Ben White noted.

Barnea’s story was published a day after Haaretz’s Judy Maltz broke the news that the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations was planning to launch a new campaign targeting BDS on college campuses. The campaign was announced by Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents group.

Is there a connection between Hoenlein’s announcement and Netayahu’s meeting with a small group of Jewish millionaires on the BDS movement? The meeting took place at the Israeli Presidential Conference; Hoenlein was there, and it’s where he told Maltz the news of the new anti-BDS campaign. It’s pure speculation at this point. (I’ve put in an e-mail inquiry to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, but they have not responded.)

Hoenlein and Netanyahu are considered to be “very close,” as Haaretz’s Barak Ravid put it in 2011 in a report on Hoenlein’s meeting with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Hoenlein reportedly delivered a message from Netanyahu to Assad, though Hoenlein denied he did so for Netanyahu.

Whatever the case, the reportedly direct involvement of Netanyahu in anti-BDS efforts represents the latest effort by the Israeli government to enlist Jews outside the government to take on the movement. In 2010, the anti-BDS Israel Action Network was formed by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs at the urging of the Israeli government, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Jacob Berkman.

Alex Kane
About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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8 Responses

  1. Citizen
    June 28, 2013, 3:09 pm

    Between BDS and Snowden-Manning, I want to think there’s a chance against AIPAC & USA’s 1-5% elite. Will be interesting over the July 4h holidays, when I attend family functions, if anyone even has a clue. I think MW should do an article on this subject. Commenters can then tell us what they observed about this concern entering into mainstream USA over it’s own July 4th celebrations. Will be intersesting, if this happens, to compare MW regular commenters’experience, both Jewish and Other.

  2. yourstruly
    June 28, 2013, 10:21 pm

    after seemingly pounding our heads against a brick wall for so long, it’s natural to get discouraged, but the seriousness with which the Zionist elite look upon BDS must mean something. Not so long ago said elite ignored us anti-zionists, apparently figuring that giving us publicity would cause more harm to Israel than taking us on. so cheer up, anti-Zionists, who are we to think that Israel firsters don’t know what they’re doing & why? now is the time for us to find out whether an irresistible force can move what’s touted to be an immovable object.

  3. amigo
    June 29, 2013, 7:05 am

    So much for those who view BDS as a minor inconvenience.Obviously the goi is running scared and any way Israel and it,s supporters can be made to spend their money and effort on a lost cause has to be good.

  4. seafoid
    June 29, 2013, 10:17 am

    Netanyahu can get involved but it’s a bit like asking Dick Fuld of Lehman Bros to take charge of post crisis banking regulation in the US. Israel’s current status is in large part due to the fact that Netanyahu’s vision has been driving Israel for the best part of 20 years.

  5. piotr
    June 30, 2013, 8:10 am

    I think that the article of Nahum Barnea is totally misinterpreted. He did not state that Netanyahu IS INVOLVED, but that he SHOULD. And not by organizing platoons of trolls, training adorable spokespersons etc. but by actually changing the policies.

    Israel must do something dramatic: Either announce that it is freezing construction, or announce a massive release of prisoners, or open Area C for Palestinian construction, or all of the above. If the talks are not resumed, the Palestinians will go to the UN institutions in the fall, and the boycott movement will grow wings.

    My take on this situation is that some individuals actually think that decent behavior is in long run beneficial to all, a positive sum game, but in the milieu that stigmatizes any non-tribal motivation they have to mask their thoughts and provide sufficiently tribalist justifications.

    Barnea cites the requests of the business people as a proof that his dire predictions are not mere fantasy. The problem is that they are highly speculative, as many commentators point out. BDS is a highly marginal movement, and apart from the government of Ireland, there are few signs of any tangible actions spurred by BDS. True, there is a future potential, and it must be worrisome to business people. To invest money, you must consider risk factors for the next 10 or 20 years. But this is a relatively minor problem. First of all, Israel may specialize in industries that are immune to boycots, like weapons or riot gear (worse come to worse, you can export to countries that themselves are in similar trouble, like Azerbaijan). The most vulnerable are consumer brands, but in any case small countries usually rely on production for brands developed elsewhere.

    Thus I suspect that Barnea hides the fact that he dislikes the keeping of thousands of Palestinian prisoners, construction of settlement and draconian restrictions on Palestinians in Area C, to just mention his short list. All these policies do nothing but improve the level of life satisfaction of the advocates. It is like staying in a cafe full of smokers when you hate the smell of coffee and cigarettes.

    • piotr
      June 30, 2013, 8:47 am

      Just an example of “cigarette smoke” from comments on today:

      Only thing I would hope for is that Israel exposes this muslim favoring fraud and expose him and his dirty secrets as impeachment is sounding like music from heaven.
      Just do it already America’s hurting due to this idiot, not to mention our only trusted ally in the ME, Israel.
      Makes obama and saudi king madder than hell..
      BUILD BABY BUILD!!!! , United States (06.30.13),7340,L-4398500,00.html

  6. Sumud
    June 30, 2013, 10:39 am

    BDS is a one-way street.

    Nobody who has taken a look at the reality Israel has made in mandate Palestine, and decided to support BDS, is going to be convinced by hasbara and suddenly decide to un-support BDS.

    So spend your millions, make sure everyone in the US is slapped around the face day and night with positive Israeli PR and let’s see what happens. Wait and see…

  7. John D
    John D
    July 1, 2013, 9:43 am

    Arguably, it was the business community which brought about the end of racist white supremacy in apartheid South Africa and it will be the business community in Israel who will bring about the end of racist Revisionist Zionist Israel.

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