The Israel Defense Forces routinely gathers information on foreign, left-wing organizations that it believes are working to delegitimize the State of Israel, Haaretz has learned.
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The Military Intelligence Research Division's Delegitimization Department was established as part of the lessons learned after the Mavi Marmara affair in 2010. As Haaretz revealed in 2011, the department focuses on studying the activities of anti-Israeli groups operating overseas, including some that promote sanctions on Israel.
Nine foreign nationals were killed when IDF commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, part of a flotilla trying to break the embargo on Gaza, in May 2010. A tenth died in 2014, after being in a coma for four years.
As part of its activities, the Delegitimization Department gathered proof of Hamas violations of international law during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
Among the overseas organizations monitored by Military Intelligence are dozens affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, though groups with the same goals working within Israel are not monitored by the department. Such activity inside Israel was criticized in the past, due to its political connotations.
The BDS movement conducts campaigns aimed at promoting boycotts of Israel and persuading companies to withdraw their investments from the country.
The monitoring of every BDS-linked group is approved in advance by a senior officer in the research division, following a decision not to follow groups which have indirect contacts with Israeli activists.
The IDF has emphasized in recent weeks that it does not collect information on Israeli citizens. That is the job of the Shin Bet security service, which monitors Israeli citizens involved in what are regarded as delegitimization activities.
In the past, left-wing activists belonging to the BDS movement have reported being contacted by a woman from the Shin Bet who calls herself Rona. Re’ut Mor, a media consultant for the Joint Arab List, said in June that she was questioned by Rona after returning from a trip abroad. The questioning covered a flotilla that had attempted to reach Gaza at the time and her positions on the BDS movement, the IDF and Zionism.