Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told the Knesset on Wednesday that the way to counter the international boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement is to return fire, and to “boycott whoever boycotts us.”
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“There are three things propelling the BDS movement: Classic anti-Semitism, radical Islam, and simple naiveté,” Shaked said, during a debate on how to deal with efforts to exert economic pressure on Israel. “We’re talking about ephemeral organizations; we have to cut off ties with them and stop cooperating with them.”
According to Shaked, groups that boycott Israel, “are not seeking to divide Israel, but to eradicate it,” and their goal is to smear Israel, undermine its vital interests, and eliminate it as a Jewish and democratic state. “The British group that [voted to] boycott Israel [Britain’s National Student Union] refused to boycott the Islamic State. Those are the people we’re dealing with. We’re talking about a campaign based on a lack of information and lies.” Shaked also mentioned the Breaking the Silence group, which is holding an exhibit in Switzerland of testimonies by soldiers who served in the territories, saying it “slanders the State of Israel.”
She believes that the boycott movement is motivated by anti-Semitism. “During the last century they dehumanized Jews, and today they are dehumanizing the state of the Jews. There are hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children being slaughtered in Syria and the world is silent. In the surrounding states women are raped and people are beheaded, and the world is silent. In Iran, gays are executed, and the world is silent.”
Opposition members agreed that Israel isn’t doing enough to prevent the growth of BDS, but attacked the conduct of the Netanyahu government, saying that its refusal to advance diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians is the central factor that has brought Israel to this stage.
“When the Palestinian Football Association wanted to suspend Israel from FIFA a few days ago, there was a huge outcry against mixing politics and sports, and that it’s forbidden to boycott others,” said MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint Arab List). “But who was the first to want to boycott another country? It was Matan Vilnai who wanted to suspend Austria from all sports activities, this is a blue-and-white invention,” he said, referring to then-Sports Minister Vilnai’s proposal should Austria include xenophobic politician Joerg Haider in its governing coalition.
Tibi said that settlements were illegal under international law and that it was permitted to boycott them. “It’s not just permitted, you have to boycott them,” he stressed. “The request for sanctions by international institutions is an unavoidable struggle.”
Meretz chairman Zehava Galon addressed the claim often made that there are Israeli elements that encourage international boycotts of Israel. “I want to say something very clearly: My colleagues and I oppose a boycott of the State of Israel, but we cannot tolerate the policy of victimhood of Minister [Ofir] Akunis and Minister Shaked, who portray a world in which whoever dares to criticize the policy of occupation is helping anti-Semites.”
She added, “The Netanyahu government is serving the boycott. It’s their policy, we don’t work for you and we will fight against the fact that because of you there is international delegitimization.”
MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) added that while the reality is deteriorating, Israeli policy on the BDS movement is not clear, “and essentially there is no policy. We see the struggle against the State of Israel moving to new, unfamiliar platforms, and we are not responding.”