Anti-Israel demonstrators march behind a banner of the BDS organization in Marseille, June 13..
(photo credit: GEORGES ROBERT / AFP)
Legislation that would exempt the government’s efforts to combat boycotts and delegitimization from the Freedom of Information Law passed a first reading in the Knesset on Monday.
The Freedom of Information Law allows people to apply for information from government that is not readily available.
The Strategic Affairs Ministry, which is in charge of the government’s efforts at fighting delegitimization, seeks to have its actions be an exception to that law, the way many security agencies are. The exemption would not apply to its budget.
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan told the Knesset that “boycott organizations are spread out geographically and act in different areas. The organizations built a network of activity and act in coordination with the Palestinian Authority. They have a campaign of falsehoods fueling hate.
“Since this is a battlefront like any other, the ministry put together a strategy for running the campaign against this phenomenon,” he continued. “One of the principles for success is keeping our methods of action secret... Since most of the ministry’s actions are not of the ministry, but through bodies around the world that do not want to expose their connection with the state, we must protect information whose exposure could harm the struggle.”
In the past, Erdan was very open about his plans. In 2016, he gave The Jerusalem Post details about a conference held with 50 pro-Israel organizations from around the world, and showing research by American pollster Frank Luntz about the kind of language that would be most effective for the NGOs to use.
The organizations participating in the conference had sought to keep it a secret.
Erdan said in his speech on Monday that “after thinking,” he decided that his work in this area should not be public.
The minister declined to comment on the reasons for the change, but a senior source close to him said that he had “made mistakes” and “learned a few things.”
Several Zionist Union MKs came out against the bill.
Nachman Shai called it “censorship in a costume.”
“If it’s that secretive, you can use the censor. Why wasn’t a law passed for the campaign against Iran? I didn’t notice that the fight against BDS was so secretive. The exceptions [to the Freedom of Information Law] can already be done so through the law,” Shai argued.