Defamation, harassment and threats - the risk in "special operations" against BDS
Yossi Melman, Maariv
(Key points translated by Ofer Neiman)

The ministry is divided into three sections: intelligence, awareness (media) and operations.
Problems may arise when the operations section, as hinted by Erdan at the YNET conference on BDS this year, will try to carry out, directly or indirectly, attack "special ops", which may also be called "black ops". These may have the form of defamation campaigns, harassment and threats to the lives of activists in "the boycott movement and de-legitimization" groups, infringing on, and violating, their privacy

dubaiIsrael is formulating a policy for fighting the boycott movement via the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. According to concerned officials in the Ministry of Justice, in view of past experience, it would be better not to get dragged into adventurous operations.

Netanyahu's statement that BDS has been defeated was an embarrassment to Minister Gilad Erdan, whose Ministry of Strategic Affairs is now based on fighting BDS, with a new staff and a large budget. If Netanyahu is right, the Ministry is not needed.

In Israel, whose military language, imagery and culture pervade all walks of civil society, Erdan's ministry prepares to face the boycott challenge as if it were a military threat. Sima Vaknin Gil, the director of the ministry, wants to establish a "community of combatants".

Iran - out, BDS - in
Gilad Erdan has decided to focus on BDS because the agreement with Iran is a done deal, and for now Mossad can only collect data on possible Iranian violations.

Sima Vaknin Gil told MK Stav Shafir at the Knesset Transparency Committee: "We want most of the ministry's work to be classified. There are many sensitivities, and I can't even explain in an open forum why there are such sensitivities... A major part of what we do stays under the radar".

A scale of efforts
The ministry is divided into three sections: intelligence, awareness (media) and operations.
25 workers have been hired, whose names are classified. The intelligence section is run by a former investigator/researcher for the "Security System" (note: this term includes the IDF, the Ministry of Defense, Shabak /Mossad and more). Most of the info comes from open sources, but some of it comes from confidential ones. The Ministry is assisted by a special unit in the IDF's intelligence section, and Shabak assists as well.

Erdan believes his ministry should coordinate the actions of those who are dealing with BDS or supposed to be dealing with it, empowering and activating them.

One of the most important arenas in the fight against the boycott movement is cyberspace and the public sphere. In older language, this was called "Hasbara".

The Ministry of Strategic Affairs, via the Ministry of Tourism and Jewish and non-Jewish groups abroad, has started to fund visits of "public opinion shapers": journalists, bloggers, film actors, trade union leaders etc. The costs are high.

At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is attempting to convince governments to ban boycotts of Israel. There are rules or regulations against BDS in some Western states. Therefore, officials in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs believe that there should be such a law in Israel. A senior Ministry official says the Boycott Law from 2010, which requires the plaintiff to prove they have incurred financial damage due to a boycott call is merely a "defiant" law, and should be replaced by an "efficient" one. Melman notes that there would be several legal obstacles facing a new bill on this matter.

The Ministry also initiates "pressure/leveraging" actions to convince international companies not to boycott Israel. This involves the use of AIPAC and Hillel in the US, or similar groups in other countries.

The problem may arise when the operations section, as hinted by Erdan at the YNET conference on BDS this year, will try to carry out, directly or indirectly, attack "special ops", which may also be called "black ops". These may have the form of defamation campaigns, harassment and threats to the lives of activists in "the boycott movement and de-legitimization" groups, infringing on, and violating, their privacy etc.

Last March BDS accused Israeli intelligence of responsibility for cyber attacks against its website. At the same time, an anonymous speaker named "Abu Nabil" made threatening phone calls in Sweden to the family of Palestinian Attorney Nada Kiswanson, active in the el-Hak NGO in the Hague. Three weeks ago, Amira Hass published a report about this in Haaretz.

Kiswanson and a Palestinian colleague, had filed, two weeks prior to the call, a report and a demand that alleged war crimes during the "Black Friday" events in Rafah, be investigated.

Of course, no one has assumed responsibility for the "incident" against the Palestinian lawyer, and no one has addressed the BDS campaign's claims that the Israeli intelligence is running a cyber war against it. But it is no secret that at the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, as well as Israeli intelligence agencies which are assisting in the struggle against the BDS and de-legitimization movement, diverse means which may be applied are being discussed. It cannot be ruled out that these actions, if taken indeed by Israel, were a "shot across the bow".

Perhaps these actions, if they had indeed been taken, have not been continued because officials in the Ministry of Justice, which is in charge of Israel's compliance with international law, there are concerns that the passion for secret actions and operations in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs may eventually end up in mishaps which would harm Israel's foreign relations. Such was the case in the past following operational mishaps attributed to the Israeli intelligence - an elimination action, entry into buildings or the use of false passports - Israel, according to claims, did not hesitate to violate the laws and sovereignty of foreign states, including its best allies.

An inter-ministerial team of Ministry of Justice officials (Melman doesn't specify other ministries involved here...) is no examining various ideas and proposals in order to come with a legal definition of what de-legitimization is, and what are the dos and don'ts in the fight. It is advisable for the team to remember that adventurous actions may get Israel into trouble, and that with all due importance of the fight against those who call for a boycott and strive to deny Israel's right to exist, Israel's democratic values - the freedom of expression, the right to express an opinion, be it exceptional and infuriating, and respect towards international law - are the cornerstones of its existence.

article source: http://www.maariv.co.il/journalists/Article-555835 
The article should be read in conjunction with this video: https://www.facebook.com/BDSBarkan/videos/1795416750699184

 

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