Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Palestinian BDS group: Israeli Mossad 'spying on us'

Shlomo Cesana,

Image from article, with caption: Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan

A Palestinian group promoting boycott, divestment and sanctions activities against Israel has accused the Mossad of targeting its activists, Israel Hayom learned on Tuesday.

In a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Palestinian BDS National Committee claimed the Israeli spy agency "is working against us," and has demanded the UNHRC recognize its members as "human rights activists," arguing that the right to boycott is a basic human right.

Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan, who heads Israel's efforts to counter the BDS movement, said the measures taken on this issue are for the most part kept out of the public eye, and that by not drawing attention to the groups preaching BDS, Israel can minimize their impact.

Around 100 million shekels ($26 million) have reportedly been allocated to Israel's campaign to fight the BDS movement.

Despite Israel's efforts to keep its counter-BDS activities under the radar, the letter can be seen as evidence that the government's strategy is working.

In the letter, the Palestinian group claimed Israeli intelligence has been spying on activists and handing over incriminating information to local authorities.

The committee demanded that the UNHRC recognize "the right to boycott" as a basic human right. Such a move, if implemented, would enable the U.N. body to condemn "the use of scare tactics" against such groups, or any limitations imposed on BDS activities, as well as require countries to reverse any legal steps taken against BDS activists, and investigate any actions taken against them.

"The time when BDS organizations could do as they please without an Israeli rebuttal to their lies is over," Erdan said on Tuesday. "We will continue to work quietly and effectively to expose the true colors of these despicable people, who are trying to undermine our country. My policy has been to move from a defensive strategy to an offensive one."

As part of this effort, Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis is currently on a visit to the U.S. to strengthen ties with American universities. Akunis has held several meetings at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he and his hosts agreed to increase collaboration. While in Baltimore, Akunis called on students and academic leaders to fight the "ugly BDS phenomenon," which he called anti-Semitic.

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