Minister seeks database of Israeli BDS activists

The database would collect information that is publicly available like social media activity.

March 21, 2017 11:07
3 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)


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Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan plans to compile a database of Israelis involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel or settlements in the West Bank.

The database, which would collect information that is publicly available, like social media activity, would center on “the main boycott activists working with the BDS movement” in order to “prevent their attacks,” Erdan said on Twitter on Tuesday in response to an Haaretz report on the database. The minster added that the database would monitor “tens” of activists.

Erdan, who leads Israel’s anti-boycott efforts, has been seeking to advance the project for several months, Haaretz reported. According to Erdan’s spokesman Noam Sela, the database will collect “open source” information, which means information publicly available, and will monitor around 20 Israeli BDS activists who play an active role in coordinating the movement.

Erdan met resistance from Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, who said that the Strategic Affairs Ministry does not have the authority to collect information on Israelis.
Bill banning boycotters , anti-Israel activists from visiting Israel becomes a law after Knesset approval on March 6, 2017 (credit: REUTERS/KNESSET CHANNEL)

Mandelblit said the database would be illegal unless the Knesset passes a law that takes into consideration civil rights concerns while authorizing the Strategic Affairs Ministry to collect such information. In cases where a citizen is believed to pose a security threat, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) is responsible for monitoring that citizen, Mandelblit said.

Joint List MK Ayman Odeh responded to Erdan’s plan on Twitter saying, “The thing that frightens this government the most (except for free media) is a nonviolent struggle against the occupation – we promise to continue the struggle.”

Meanwhile, attorney Sawsan Zaher, director of the economic and social rights unit at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, slammed the proposal as “a reflection of misuse of political power in order to police, name and tag citizens who support BDS. This effort is intended to silence and sanction every person who opposes both Israel’s occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory as well as its discriminatory policies against Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

Erdan’s initiative comes as earlier this month, a law passed in a 46-to-28 vote that will allow the Interior Ministry to refuse entry or residency visas to non-Israelis if they have “issued a public call” to boycott Israel – including settlements in the West Bank – or have stated their intention to participate in a boycott. However, it is unclear how a “public call” is defined and the ministry is still determining how the law will be enforced.

In December, Erdan proposed new regulations that sought to blacklist companies that advocate a boycott of Israel or settlements in the West Bank. In November, Erdan said that BDS is akin to terrorism because it “aims to delegitimize and isolate Israel and in the end to destroy it.”

The nonviolent BDS movement, which rose to prominence in the mid-2000s, is a loosely connected group of activists and organizations that seek to pressure Israel economically and politically.

According to its official website, the movement seeks to end the “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands.”

Prominent Israeli BDS activist Miko Peled said in a statement that the potential database would actually encourage BDS activists, saying it “demonstrates once again why BDS is needed, and galvanizes activists all of whom would gladly face any challenge Erdan may place.”

Peled continued, saying he would “save [Erdan] the trouble” of adding him to a database.

“I support the call to boycott Israel. In fact, I amplify that call as loud and as clear as I can. So Mr. Erdan, I’m right here, in fact I’m in Jerusalem right now, I’m the one wearing the large BDS button,” Peled said.

Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.

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