Israel looking to deport BDS activists

‘World sees Israel as a pariah state,’ Strategic Affairs Director-General laments.

August 7, 2016 19:34
4 minute read.
Palestinians walk past a sign calling for a boycott of Israel painted on a wall in Bethlehem

Palestinians walk past a sign calling for a boycott of Israel painted on a wall in Bethlehem. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)

A new government task force will work to deport activists calling to boycott Israel and prevent others from entering, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Interior Minister Arye Deri announced Sunday.

The ministries’ joint task force will work to locate hundreds of boycott, divestment and sanction activists working to delegitimize Israel, who are currently in the country.

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According to the ministers, dozens of organizations in Israel collect information and use it to promote boycotts against Israel and make it more isolated.

BDS activists, the ministers said, visit the West Bank to provoke Palestinian violence and obstruct soldiers and Border Police.

Erdan, who is also strategic affairs and public diplomacy minister, said the task force “is a necessary step in light of the malicious intentions of delegitimization activists who act to spread lies and twist the reality in our region.”

Deri, whose Interior Ministry is responsible for the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, said the fight against boycotts must start within Israel.

“We have the responsibility to do all we can to crush the boycott and say clearly that we will not allow the State of Israel to be harmed,” Deri added.

Erdan also said his ministry is working on ways to fight boycotts through the judiciary.

“Boycotting Israel must have a price,” he stated.

Earlier this year, the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority refused to renew BDS founder Omar Barghouti’s travel documents, saying that though he has permanent residence status in Israel, the center of his life is in Ramallah.

Barghouti denied the charge, saying he lives with his family in Acre.

Barghouti spends much of his time traveling the world to campaign for boycotts against Israel, but was unable to leave the country without the travel documents a permanent resident carries.

The BDS founder was born in Qatar, grew up in Egypt and married an Israeli-Arab woman, gaining permanent residence status. He is a doctoral candidate at Tel Aviv University, according to media reports.

Speaking to the Knesset Committee for the Transparency and Accessibility of Government Information on Sunday, Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Ministry director-general Sima Vaknin- Gil said the dominant narrative about Israel in the world needs to be replaced.

“The bottom line is that today, among nations of the world, Israel is seen as a pariah state,” she said. “Our goal is that by 2025, no one will question whether the State of Israel has the right to exist.”

She also said the Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Ministry will present a narrative it hopes will become the dominant one, replacing that of boycotts and delegitimization.

Asked by Transparency Committee chairwoman MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) what the new narrative will be, Vaknin-Gil said the ministry is still working on it.

Vaknin-Gil explained that the ministry, led by Gilad Erdan, began working on its goal to fight boycotts and delegitimization of Israel in March, and that its goals are long-term, so achievements will not be apparent in the coming months.

“We don’t want to win the battle, we want to win the war,” she stated. “The IDF has given up on the term ‘victory’ in many places, but we must aim for victory in this war.”

She said part of the ministry’s strategy is to try to fill in gaps where there is not enough pro-Israel public diplomacy activities, citing South America as an example.

Shaffir criticized past ministers and staff for not making the Strategic Affairs Ministry’s work more transparent, saying that is the reason Vaknin-Gil has to create a new strategy from scratch.

“If you had to be accountable long ago, we wouldn’t get to a point where in 2016, over a decade after the boycott movement started gathering momentum, there’s still no organized strategy to fight for public opinion around the world,” Shaffir said.

The committee chairwoman expressed concerns that “for years, the country didn’t take this seriously and didn’t deal with the fact that the younger generation in America and Europe is distancing itself from Israel; and in another 10 years, when these young people reach the places where decisions are made about the future of their countries, they won’t recognize or care about our security and strategic interests.”

Asked about coordination with the Foreign Ministry, Vaknin-Gil said it’s complicated because they are coming from different perspectives, but that both ministries must make a maximum effort to succeed and overcome obstacles in creative ways.

Shaffir pointed out that a recent State Comptroller report about the fight against boycotts criticized the government for spreading responsibilities between several ministries, saying that there is a lack of strategic and tactical cooperation.

Parliamentary oversight is necessary to ensure a change, so that responsibilities aren’t passed from minister to minister as part of political horse-trading with no regard to the country’s needs, Shaffir said.

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