Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan admitted at Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Conference in New York that G4S, the world’s largest security company, stopped doing business in Israel because it caved in to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
In March, the company revoked its contract with Israel following a campaign asking the United Nations to drop its contracts with the firm. The company has claimed that the decision was among many it had taken around the world, but Erdan disputed that claim.
“While almost all companies ignore the intimidation, a tiny minority give in,” Erdan said.
“For example, BDS was a factor in the decision of security company G4S to sell their operations in Israel. The company is now trying to convince everyone that BDS was not a factor. Don’t listen to them. Giving in to BDS was a mistake, both morally and financially. Companies that take such politically- motivated decisions must pay a price, and they will.”
Erdan took a risk in exposing G4S, a British multinational security services company that has operations in around 125 countries. His announcement could be cited by BDS activists as a victory after international credit agencies said BDS had not harmed the Israeli economy.
But now G4S could be prevented from doing business in US states that have anti-BDS legislation, such as Illinois, South Carolina, Florida and Iowa, which could deter other companies from making such decisions.
In his two ministries, Erdan fights both BDS and terrorism.
He said he saw similarities between the two and the challenges they pose to Israel, calling them two sides of the same coin.
“The BDS leader has more in common with the terrorist, than with genuine human rights activists,” Erdan said.
“Though their tools are different, BDS and terrorism are united in their goals. They’re united in their language of hate. And they’re united in their victims.
They not only complement each other, they fuel each other. Their shared goal is simple and explicit: Destruction of the State of Israel.”
Erdan cited statements by BDS leaders saying they “oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine” and American professors who back the movement saying that “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the State of Israel.” He said efforts to boycott Israel were especially problematic, because one in four biotechnology solutions in the world has Israeli roots.
“If BDS succeeds, among its victims will be cancer patients, stroke victims and those with Alzheimer’s across the world, who are given life by Israeli innovation,” he said.
Erdan said the Palestinians were also not immune to the consequences of such a boycott and that the first victims of BDS are often the Palestinians themselves. He singled out some 500 Palestinians who lost their jobs at SodaStream, when the company was forced to relocate its factory.
“Unlike the boycotters, we are concerned about human rights, both, for Israelis and Palestinians,” he said. “The tragedy of BDS, is that it does exactly the opposite. Just like terrorism, it does nothing for the Palestinians. It is not pro-Palestinian, it is anti-Israel.”
Noting the role of social media in the wave of violence that began in September, Erdan urged the heads of Facebook and other social media companies to recognize that their platforms are used as a tool of terrorism and take the initiative to monitor and remove incitement on their own.
“Social media companies are happy to use the data they collect on all of us to make money, but unfortunately not to help stop terror,” he said. “If they refuse and continue to ignore their role in promoting incitement, governments must pass legislation forcing them to do so. Today they are part of the problem. They must become part of the solution.”
Erdan concluded with uplifting figures in the fights against both terrorism and BDS. He said April was the first month since September with zero Israeli fatalities from terrorist attacks, and in 2015 alone, foreign direct investment in Israel increased by 71 percent.
“We are moving in the right direction,” he said.