BDS Poses No Threat, Says Israeli Minister in Charge of Fighting It

Gilad Erdan invokes Hitler and compares pro-boycott advocates to Nazis in speech in Tel Aviv to 500 evangelical businesspeople, church leaders

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, June 2018.
\ Ilan Assayag

The Israeli minister spearheading a heavily funded government campaign against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement said Tuesday that the international group poses no threat whatsoever to the local economy.

“From an economic perspective, the so-called BDS [movement] has been a failure,” Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan told a large gathering of evangelical Christians in Tel Aviv.

“Foreign direct investment in Israel continues to rise, our credit rating is at its highest level ever, we have more startups per capita than any other country, and just last month we had a record number of tourists,” he said.

However, in virtually the same breath, Erdan compared those supporting a boycott of Israel to those who had supported a boycott of Jewish businesses in Nazi Germany.

“Just as the Nazi Party called for a boycott of Jewish businesses as a first step in their plans to wipe out the Jewish people, so too the BDS campaign calls for the boycott of the Jewish state as a means to wipe it off the map,” he said.

Erdan then cited “Mein Kampf,” noting: “As none other than Adolf Hitler explained in his book, if you repeat a big lie long enough, people will come to believe it. The big lie that Hitler repeated was that the Jews were responsible for all of Germany’s problems. The big lie the BDS movement is repeating is that the Jewish state is responsible for all of the Middle East’s – in fact, all of the world’s – problems.”

The BDS movement defines its mission as working “to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, and pressure Israel to comply with international law.”

As part of his ministry’s ongoing campaign against the BDS movement, Erdan has ordered a number of left-wing activists critical of the Israeli occupation be detained and interrogated at the country’s borders. In some cases, they were deported after questioning. The Israeli government has allocated tens of millions of dollars to Erdan’s ministry for the purposes of fighting BDS.

Erdan was the keynote speaker at a first-of-its-kind conference targeting investors in the evangelical community. Some 500 evangelical businesspeople and church leaders from over 40 countries attended the event, organized by U.S.-based nonprofit ARISE (Alliance to Reinforce Israel’s Security and Economy). Among the sponsors were the Israeli government and the International Christian Chamber of Commerce.

The minister told the audience that the only people suffering from the boycott were Palestinians, who stood to lose their jobs in what he described as “joint Israeli-Palestinian industrial zones.” This was a reference to Israeli-owned companies in the settlements that rely heavily on Palestinian labor.

“The joint economic zones are islands of coexistence,” Erdan continued. “Thousands of Jews and Arabs work together every day there in harmony, and Palestinians manage Israelis and Israelis manage Palestinians.” With few exceptions, though, Israelis are the managers and Palestinians the laborers in these West Bank factories.

“The BDS extremists can’t stand the notion that Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze, are working together in peace,” Erdan added, noting that Israeli-owned businesses in the West Bank have been a prime target of the BDS movement.

Last month, two Israelis were murdered in a terror attack at a factory in the Barkan industrial zone, which is located near the West Bank settlement of Ariel. The attack was carried out by a Palestinian previously employed at the factory.

By building relationships with Israeli businesses, Erdan told participants at the event, they would be “better prepared to counter misconceptions about the BDS campaign.”