Jerusalem think tank to Netanyahu: We must go on the offensive against BDS

Israel’s counter-boycott policy needs overhaul, group says.

June 28, 2015 18:43
3 minute read.
Des militants du BDS en action

Des militants du BDS en action. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israel’s counter-boycott strategy needs a comprehensive overhaul, providing efforts to combat the delegitimization of the Jewish state with high-level support and funding in order to move beyond mere rhetoric, a Jerusalem think tank told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.

The Jewish People Policy Institute briefed the premier during Sunday morning’s cabinet meeting, presenting the government with its annual assessment of the state of the Jewish people and calling for Israel to switch over to the offensive in waging public relations battles.

The report recommended that “the government promptly adopt an appropriately budgeted comprehensive strategy [to combat Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns], and task a senior government official, who reports directly to the prime minister, with coordinating its operational implementation.”

“There has been strong rhetoric about opposing BDS, but there hasn’t been a concentrated strategy,” JPPI co-chairman and former American ambassador to the EU Stuart Eizenstat told The Jerusalem Post.

Describing the global BDS campaign as a subtle but genuine war against Israel, Eizenstat called for equally sophisticated responses that are not merely reactive but offensive.

“It is a highly sophisticated propaganda effort and the people leading this effort are hiding behind BDS and Palestinian rights, but they are really people who are trying to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state,” he said.

Eizenstat explained that he believed that efforts to combat BDS required a need to differentiate between those who form the hard core of the movement and cannot be won over and those who may be “peeled off” with expressions of Israel’s willingness to make peace.

Efforts such as refraining from building outside of settlement blocs would show an Israeli commitment to a two-state solution and would undermine the rationale of many opponents, he said.

Moreover, he added, efforts to combat BDS “need to have the broadest kind of inclusion” and arguments over who can march in pro-Israel parades or can be included in the “big tent” are counterproductive.

Several Jewish organizations accused of supporting settlement boycotts or being connected to groups that have endorsed such positions came under fire last year from other groups. In a January incident, for example, several groups running in elections for the Zionist Congress came under fire from the Right for their statements opposed to the consumption of settlement products.

Instead of coming together to fight external enemies, “we are tearing each other apart internally,” Eizenstat said.

Israel’s strategy to combat BDS must include massive educational efforts on campuses targeting Jewish students “who don’t have answers to the kinds of sophisticated but erroneous narratives BDS activists are putting out,” he said. Both Jews and non-Jews must be made to understand that the BDS movement is based on double standards applied to no other nation.

Continuing in his critique of Israel’s efforts thus far, Eizenstat said that Jerusalem’s BDS policy “has to be more than in name only” and that a counter campaign “has to have the resources necessary” and to work closely with Diaspora Jewish groups.

“The best defense is a good offense, it’s time to be on the offense,” Eizenstat told the Post, adding that one of the best tools Israel has right now is legislation.

Citing US states that have passed anti-BDS legislation that precludes companies complicit in boycott campaigns from bidding for government contracts, he said that he wants to not only see such laws in every state of the union but also on a federal level.

Citing a 1977 law that imposed financial penalties on companies participating in the Arab boycott of Israel, Eizenstat said that if Congress today “passed a law that said no company that participates in a BDS campaign will [get] US government contracts, it will have an impact.”

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