Editorial

Minister Erdan's Thought Police

After launching a division that collects info on foreigners active in the BDS movement, Erdan now seeks to expand the espionage to Israeli citizens. It's time to speak up.

Minister Gilad Erdan: The Israeli heir to notorious U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Minister Gilad Erdan. Mark Israel Salem

With frightening speed, Minister for Public Security and Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan is becoming the Israeli heir to notorious U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy.

On Tuesday, Haaretz reported that Erdan is trying to establish a database on Israelis who are involved in or support the BDS movement. Having recently launched an intelligence division in his ministry tasked with collecting information on foreigners who are active in the movement to boycott Israel, Erdan now seeks to expand his ministry’s espionage and monitoring to Israeli citizens. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and Deputy Attorney General Avi Licht have already voiced their opposition to the move, stating that the Public Security Ministry has no legal authority to gather intelligence and maintain a database on Israeli citizens.

But Erdan forges ahead regardless. Rather than learn some lessons from his ministerial failures, the worst being his shameful incitement in connection with the Umm al-Hiran incident, Erdan continues to pursue his war against all those he deems to be opponents of the government and its policies. It is beyond belief that the minister in charge of law enforcement not only engages in incitement, but also seeks to act illegally.

Databases on political activists have always been a hallmark of the darkest regimes. It is there, under the darkness of tyranny, that authorities gather information on regime opponents and compile blacklists. With his actions, Erdan is aspiring to have this sort of regime in Israel. Ever since he declared war on BDS, the minister has been ready to stoop to any means to advance his battle — from legislation; to closing Israel’s gates to its critics; to preparing blacklists of foreign opponents of the occupation, including organizations and companies calling for a boycott of Israel or the settlements, with the aim of punishing them with sanctions. So it comes as no surprise that Erdan now wants to extend his war to critics within Israel.

Opposition to the Israeli occupation, whether it comes from inside Israel or from abroad, is legitimate, just and moral, and anyone with a conscience can take part in it. Moreover, the types of tactics in question — nonviolent boycotts and sanctions — are legitimate, given the illegal status of the settlements. Therefore, even those who do not agree with everything that is said as part of the fight against the occupation ought to speak out against the government’s efforts, led by Erdan, to muzzle its critics, and the undemocratic measures to which it is resorting.

The only way to end opposition to the occupation would be for Israel to end the occupation. The effort to quash this opposition is not a fight that can be won by force, for opinions and viewpoints cannot be imposed by force. When Erdan’s draconian measures were directed against foreigners, the Israeli public kept quiet. Now that he wants to direct them against Israeli citizens too, it is time to speak up.