The Mossad is famous for its assassinations, sabotage of enemy capabilities, espionage and thwarting terrorism plots.
But the name Mossad is actually the first word of a name meaning “the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations.” Should “special operations” include combating BDS?
Over the years, ethical questions have been asked about the activities of the Mossad, the CIA and other intelligence bureaus.
While those involved with national security acknowledge the need for intelligence agencies, there are always concerns about those agencies going beyond the pale, particularly since there is little public oversight. For example, former US president Richard Nixon abused America’s intelligence agencies for political purposes.
On Wednesday, Haaretz
reported that Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan met with Mossad director Yossi Cohen as part of his efforts to fight BDS. While Erdan’s office implied the meeting was routine and that the Mossad was not otherwise involved, there were signs that the spy agency may be involved in fighting BDS. The report raised the question: Should the Mossad should be involved?
To clarify this, The Jerusalem Post
spoke to a number of former intelligence officers and government officials. Most requested anonymity, but former national security council chief and IDF Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Amidror spoke on the record.
Contrary to intuition that human rights groups oppose the Mossad’s involvement in fighting BDS as interference with political debate and free speech, the groups the Post spoke to either view the idea positively or neutrally.
Some called BDS a real potential threat to the security of Israel, saying that the country must do its best to combat it.
While saying that they do not know if the Mossad is involved, they said it was a good idea to utilize the agency to perform surveillance and sabotage some BDS activities.
Amidror, who is also a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said: “The BDS movement
is run by elements connected to the PFLP terror organization who are looking for ways to harm Israel – which could mislead some states into viewing it as a legitimate struggle against stopping the settlements, when really it is to undermine the existence of the State of Israel in the Middle East.”
“Therefore, all – and I mean all – that Israel can do to fight BDS needs to be praised and acted on. What are the tools? The state needs to decide. I have no idea if [the Yossi Cohen] meeting is connected [to Mossad involvement] or not, but it is legitimate for the state to rally all means to stop a movement which is trying to go after the legitimacy of Israel,” he said.
Some of the interviewees expressed concern that the Mossad is not just targeting radical BDS activists who want to use economic isolation to destroy the Jewish state, but also softer supporters – like widely respected journalist Peter Beinart – who say they support Israel but oppose the settlements.
But surely the Mossad can distinguish between hardcore and dangerous BDS supporters and “useful idiots” who are naively manipulated to endorse aspects of the BDS campaign.
Amidror said that Beinart is “a smart person who is being used as a tool due to his being naïve.” He said hardcore BDS activists use less hardcore people “toward their purpose to destroy Israel as a Jewish state” even if that is not the goal of those who oppose only the settlements.
Regarding an incident in which security personnel at Ben-Gurion Airport interrogated Beinart, he said: “It was a mistake. They needed to apologize, but should keep fighting against BDS as if no mistake had occurred. Small incidents cannot be used to curb the fight against BDS.”
Others note the that Mossad’s mandate includes “special operations” that might not be thought of as conventional intelligence work.
These activities have included dealing with Arab countries which Israel had no diplomatic relations with; saving kidnapped or endangered Jews in foreign countries; and bringing large numbers of Jews to Israel from lands where they were persecuted.
Thus, they said, the Mossad should be employed in the struggle against BDS, providing the operations are legal and discrete.
Moreover, they said, it would be preferable that the Mossad - with its discrete skills in spy craft – carry out the assignments rather than another less experienced agency which might leave “fingerprints.”
The Mossad knows best how to carry out activities which leave people guessing about whether anything was actually done and who acted, they said. Less experienced operatives from different agencies could even harm the Mossad’s reputation if their actions were clumsily revealed, they said.
Some were also concerned that the Strategic Affairs Ministry might utilize the Mossad without the prime minister’s full knowledge, or engage it in activities ill-suited to its expertise.
They said the Mossad should be able to refuse an operation beyond its core mission, such as fighting BDS. But in the final analysis, most of those the Post
spoke with support the Mossad being integrated into the fight against BDS.
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