Editorial

Israel's Ministry of Strategic Harm

In recent years Israel has waged all-out war against the movement, exerting diplomatic, legal and even economic pressure

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan during a government ceremony, March 2019.
Eliyahu Hershkowitz

The disclosure, in response to a freedom of information request by the Hatzlacha organization, of the datebook of Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, showed that the ministry had cooperated with the Mossad in its wide-ranging campaign against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (“Mossad involved in fight against BDS movement,” Noa Landau, June 12).

Contrary to Erdan’s claim that his meeting with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen on the fight against BDS was merely a review, sources familiar with the ministry’s work said cooperation with the Mossad went far beyond mere reviews.

BDS is a nonviolent political civil movement that uses consumer sanctions to protest the Israeli occupation. In recent years Israel, in an effort led by Erdan, has waged all-out war against the movement and its activists, exerting diplomatic, legal and even economic pressure. The Strategic Affairs Ministry has conducted this struggle in part using front organizations operating abroad, some of them Jewish. The ministry deliberately does not differentiate between boycotts against sovereign Israel and boycotts against the settlement enterprise, considering them to be one and the same. Not only that, the Israeli campaign demands that the world consider the political boycott of Israel in the wake of the occupation to be an expression of anti-Semitism.

>> Israel lobbies German government to enforce motion defining BDS as anti-Semitic 

Now it emerges that in this battle Israel has been using its premier espionage agency, the Mossad, against foreign citizens all over the world who support BDS. All this was done under a cloak of secrecy that a government ministry in a democratic country is not meant to use.

The government treats BDS movement as a danger to security, or a terrorism threat, and uses the resources of its security agencies and other means to monitor citizens who express opinions it doesn’t like; even worse, it does so beyond the borders of the state. This is a battle against the freedom of political expression of the Palestinians and their supporters throughout the world. The means Israel employs in this battle are antidemocratic and draconian, and they often achieve the opposite of the desired effect, distancing liberal Diaspora Jews from Israel.

The next election offers an opportunity to close this superfluous ministry, which does Israel more harm than good. Instead of conducting pursuits that undermine the freedom of expression of foreign citizens, the government would do well to change the circumstances behind the BDS movement — the occupation — and let the Mossad focus on activities that are truly important to national security.