Israeli government officials involved in monitoring and fighting BDS have claimed that the movement has “suffered several blows in recent weeks”, in unattributed remarks made to Hebrew news site NRG.
The examples of ‘failure’ cited are a mixed bag, none of them significant in the way presented by the officials. It includes, for example, the stated opposition of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Parliament President Martin Schulz to boycotts – hardly a surprise or major setback for campaigners.
Interestingly, the officials favourably contrasted the situation of Israel today with the eventual isolation of Apartheid South Africa. This is a disingenuous and misleading comparison, not least given how long it took for South Africa to become that isolated and the short amount of time that BDS strategies have been embraced by international activists.
Assuming readers will take their word for it, the unnamed government officials claimed that BDS efforts have “failed miserably”, since the Israeli economy has continued to grow. Yet this discourse of ‘failure’ is in direct contrast to the approach taken by Netanyahu’s senior ministers and various Israel lobby groups, who are clear about the seriousness of the threat posed by boycott and divestment initiatives.
The two seemingly contradictory messages are, however, related. As the Israeli government begins to ramp up its pushback against BDS, it will need to show that it is getting results. Thus, like the spinning of the ABP decision not to divest from Israeli banks, officials are looking to target Israeli citizens themselves for some reassuring hasbara.
The final paragraph of the item makes for interesting reading, and is worth reproducing in its entirety (thanks to Ofer Neiman for translation):
“We have been facing this phenomenon for 14 years”, says one of the Israeli sources. “At any given time, there are scores of thwarting actions being taken [by us] all over the world, which do not reach public awareness”. The embassies in every country are monitoring the [BDS] groups on a regular basis. In a large part of the cases, we prefer to ignore [the actions], so as not to play into the hands of the enemy. In other cases, we take actions, thwarting provocations through campus administrations or embassy representatives. We draft spokespersons or activate the Jewish community. It’s constant war and long term strategic work.”
This certainly fits with past experiences of legal actions, propaganda drives and lobbying conducted by community organisations, and the role of embassies in fighting BDS. Given the government’s view of the situation as “constant war”, perhaps it is no surprise it is pushing propaganda to its own citizens.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.