Shurat HaDin, an organisation with links to Israel’s government and security services, is holding a seminar this week in Jerusalem “to train lawyers from abroad to litigate BDS.” The gathering follows a period of intensified attacks by Israeli officials on the Palestinian-led boycott movement, including reports of imminent Justice Ministry-initiated lawsuits.
According to media reports, some 70 lawyers from around the world, including the US, Singapore, the Netherlands, South Africa, Germany, Canada and Belgium, will attend. The goal – to “equip” them with “the tactical tools and broader courtroom strategies they need” to fight BDS.
The schedule of workshops and lectures covers topics such as “Learn to Combat BDS and other Anti-Semitic Movements” and “Prepare to Defend Israeli Soldiers Against War Crimes Complaints”. Speakers include Alan Dershowitz and former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler.
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of Shurat HaDin, believes that attendees will go on to implement “proven strategies” in Israel and worldwide. “The anti-Israel BDS and delegitimization movement has been ramping up its efforts at the campus and corporate-organizational levels,” said Darshan-Leitner, and “we must expand the fight dramatically.”
Shurat HaDin uses courts around the world “to go on the legal offensive” against those it perceives to be “Israel’s enemies.” In its own words, “as an NGO operating in the private sector”, the organisation “is positioned to undertake actions that the Israeli government is unable to formally engage in.”
The group is often presented as a “civil rights organisation” working “to stop the flow of terror money” – as Newsweek put it, “attacking the terrorists in their pocketbooks”. In fact, as revealed by Wikileaks, Darshan-Leitner “privately admitted to taking direction from the Israeli government over which cases to pursue and relying on Israeli intelligence contacts for witnesses and evidence.”
In other words, as an Israeli journalist wrote in 2013, Shurat HaDin “files lawsuits at the behest of the Israeli government”, yet still “dares to define itself as a ‘human rights organisation’.”
One of Shurat HaDin’s most infamous attempts to undermine the BDS campaign was their ‘anti-discrimination’ case brought against the pro-boycott Australian academic Jake Lynch, which ended in failure in July 2014.
Even before the courts dismissed the case, Israel advocates had warned that litigation was “inappropriate and likely to be counter-productive.” Shurat HaDin’s track record also includes an unsuccessful lawsuit against Jimmy Carter, and threats to global charity Oxfam.
Shurat HaDin’s focus on counter-BDS lawfare comes as Israel’s Ministry of Justice is “preparing to file lawsuits against [boycott] activists”, with a “plan of action” being put together that will reportedly form part of “a wider plan to combat the ‘delegitimisation’ of Israel.”
On Sunday, meanwhile, a major Israeli think tank presented its recommendations to PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet on how best to fight BDS, including “the denunciation of American college faculty who demonise Israel.”
The report urged the Israeli government to “promptly adopt an appropriately budgeted comprehensive strategy, and task a senior government official, who reports directly to the prime minister, with coordinating its operational implementation.”
Here in Britain, UK Lawyers for Israel is currently recruiting a “full-time Director of Operations” on £40,000-50,000. In the job advert, the organisation describes itself as “increasingly recognised for its valuable efforts in combating BDS and other attempts to undermine Israel.”
As the Israeli government and international lobby groups escalate their efforts to undermine Palestine solidarity and the BDS campaign, an increase in ‘lawfare’ tactics is almost certain. Whether this will prove effective, however, is much less clear.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.