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Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is in London this week meeting British officials hoping to agree on a joint plan to tackle Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activism in the UK.
The Likud politician has recently been made responsible for a new task force launched to tackle the movement, which calls for the boycott of Israeli goods in protest against the illegal settlement of Palestinian land. “Great Britain is the world center of the anti-Israel BDS campaign”, Erdan claimed ahead of his visit. BDS supporters “would have no rest” under his watch and should “pay the price” for their actions.
In February 2016, a new law brought in by the Tory government banned public bodies from supporting BDS initiatives, arguing that the actions undermined “community cohesion” and “Britain’s economic and international security”. The policy was enforced on local authorities without a parliamentary vote.
“I’m going [to Britain] to battle the boycott and delegitimization in every arena, and to discuss with members of the British government –which is also committed to fighting boycotts– ways to strengthen our cooperation against the anti-Semitic boycott campaign”, Erdan told the Jerusalem Post. “I will meet with government officials and law enforcement in order to form a front of democratic countries against the worldwide threat, which includes targeted action against incitement on the Internet”.
His talks with Communities and Local Government Minister Sajid Javid were condemned by the BDS movement and pro-Palestinian campaigners. “Mr Erdan’s visit to London raises some serious questions about the UK’s relationship with Israel and its complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights and international law”, War on Want senior militarism and security campaigner Ryvka Barnard said. “Erdan’s sinister talk of human rights defenders having to "pay the price" for their actions is a dangerous incitement to violence. The UK government has a serious case to answer when it rolls out the red carpet to someone whose threatening behaviour is endangering the lives of human rights defenders”.
Veteran Israeli intelligence analyst Yossi Melman has described his country’s efforts to eliminate BDS as something akin to military operations. Writing for the daily Maariv last weekend, Melman said Erdan’s ministry is leading “defamation campaigns, harassment and threats to the lives of activists” in a way more similar to “black ops” or “special operations” than an intelligence-handling ministry.
Israel’s Public Security and Strategic Affairs Ministry director general Sima Vaknin-Gil has also recently said she wants to “build a community of warriors” to resist campaigns like BDS. The ministry’s most recent recruitment push has been fully classified, with the role of its 25 new employees hidden from Israeli taxpayers and the international community. It is also unclear how much of the department’s large budget has been allocated to anti-BDS work.
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