Israel switches from defense to offense against BDS, ‘finally gets it’

Just last week, the Israeli government allocated a whopping $72 million to fight BDS. This week, for the first time, Israel issued an official blacklist of ‘the worst’ Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions organizations.

By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

The Strategic Affairs Ministry headed by Gilad Erdan has fully revealed its new, aggressive anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) strategy that includes a $72 million budget and a blacklist of 21 organizations around the world whose leaders will be banned from entering Israel.

The budget is the largest sum ever earmarked by Israel for the purpose of combating BDS activities. Half the budget will come directly from the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, and the rest from donations from a group of at least 10 pro-Israel philanthropists.

‘Israel switched from defense to offense’

After announcing that the top leaders of the 21 blacklisted organizations will will be turned over to border authorities, Erdan said, “Israel switched from defense to offense. The boycott organizations need to know that the State of Israel will act to stop them and prevent their representatives from entering the country to harm its citizens.”

“This list is another step forward in our battle against the incitement and lies of the BDS organizations. No country would grant entrance to visitors who seek to harm it, especially those whose goal is to terminate Israel as a Jewish state,” said Erdan.

Included on the list are six US-based organizations and 10 European groups. The ban is due to begin in March and is limited to people holding senior positions in the named organizations.

One of the groups on the list whose leaders will be banned from entering Israel is the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace. Its director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, issued a statement, saying:  “We will not be bullied by these attempts to punish us for a principled political stance that increasing numbers of Jews and non-Jews support worldwide.”

Taking the issue seriously

It was over the past two years, with the hiring of Strategic Affairs Ministry Director General Sima Vaknin-Gil, that the decision was taken to launch this major government campaign to fight back against BDS and to provide an adequate budget to do so.

Already in its first months under Erdan, the Strategic Affairs Ministry gained a full understanding of the totality of the problems posed by delegitimization and BDS.  That role had been championed by Israeli think tanks such as the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), headed by former Foreign Ministry Director General Dr. Dore Gold, and others, including the Reut Institute. The Israeli NGOs produced numerous studies on BDS activities, and eventually the government began taking the issue seriously before launching a plan of action.

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In 2009, in fact, the JCPA held its first comprehensive round table on delegitimization, which was attended by senior government officials. Since that time, the JCPA has produced a number of well-documented papers on delegitimization and BDS activities that eventually convinced key officials that Israel had to fight back. Between 2010 and 2013, then-Strategic Affairs Ministry Director General  Yossi Kuperwasser developed an action plan.  The challenge at the time was that he lacked the necessary funds to execute the plan.

A matter of national security

The Strategic Affairs Ministry became convinced that BDS was a national security problem and a direct assault on Israeli legitimacy as the nation state of the Jewish People. They also came to understand that BDS organizations have similar goals to anti-Israel terror groups like Islamic Jihad, some of whose members have been directly involved in the BDS campaign. Another BDS group, Students for Justice in Palestine, has featured Hezbollah and Hamas flags while running an ominous campus network of students and faculty who actively work to subvert the State of Israel.

The Ministry of Strategic Affairs acknowledged JCPA’s efforts. A message from Vaknin-Gil confirmed, “Dan Diker and the JCPA provided amazing research on the BDS, anti-normalization and delegitimization phenomena that really needed to be done to ensure that this global campaign can be contained.”

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‘Worst of the worst’

Diker told World Israel News (WIN) that the list published by Erdan is “a well-thought-out, minimalist list that includes the worst of the worst BDS groups in the world.”

According to Diker, “Over the last two years the government has done a lot of homework to determine who are the worst violators in the BDS campaign that completely reject Israel’s very right to exist as a Jewish state.”

Diker expects that BDS leaders who most actively promote their anti-Israel goals will be effectively blocked from entering the country. “People working actively to isolate and subvert Israel economically, politically and culturally will be kept out, and the Israeli public diplomacy counter-attack against their activities and their message has moved into higher gear.”

“The government finally gets it,” Diker said.