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Israeli journalists enlist against BDS

April 2, 2016 at 9:41 am

On March 11, I gave a talk on Israel’s apartheid policies at the University of Westminster’s Marylebone campus, an event organised by the students’ Friends of Palestine Society.

At the end of the event, a member of the audience approached me. The woman, who identified herself as Jewish, began by asking me about what I thought about groups like B’Tselem (an Israeli human rights group) and Yachad (a liberal Zionist campaign group in the UK).

She quickly turned the focus of the conversation to the question of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, and what a ‘one state’ would look like. I answered as plainly as I could, and felt like it had been a productive, respectful discussion.

I later received an email from someone called Adi Peleg, who thanked me for my talk and asked me for a copy of my presentation, adding: “I will be happy to keep following your work and to join and help where needed!”

But Adi Peleg was in fact Adi Cohen, an Israeli student who works as a freelance journalist while studying in London. On March 28, Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronoth, and its online publication Ynet, published an ‘investigation’ by Cohen, whose English title read: ‘Inside the BDS lions’ den’.

According to the paper, “disguising herself as a fervent and devoted BDS supporter, Adi Cohen participated in rallies, speeches and panels during Israel Apartheid Week.” In her own words, Cohen adopted “the guise of an ardent supporter”, and “taught myself to look like one of them.”

Cohen also outlined what she gave as her “cover story”, when asked who she was: “I am a former Israeli. I am shocked by what is happening in Israel and therefore I left in 2012 in order to dodge the draft. Since then, I can’t go back.”

Cohen communicated with me via an email address ([email protected]) linked to a Facebook account that uses a profile photo featuring the Palestinian flag. On her real Facebook account, she happily shared her ‘investigation’.

The paper published her story on the same day as a conference it organised in Jerusalem about the BDS ‘threat’. Government officials, as well as Israeli and international politicians and pundits, waxed lyrical about the dangers posed by the boycott campaign, denouncing it as a form of antisemitism.

Israeli Minister of Transportation Israel Katz urged Israel advocates to “expose” BDS campaigners, and in doing so, “to know how to act against them, how to isolate them, also to transfer information to intelligence agents around the world, and other agents.”

As one Israeli journalist pointed out, the conference “felt like an exercise in pro-government advocacy but was, ostensibly, an intellectual gathering run by a news organisation.”

Perhaps the most telling aspect of Cohen’s ‘investigation’ was that while it concluded by smearing Palestine solidarity campaigners with accusations of “anti-Semitism”, there were no quotes or clips in the article itself to actually support this charge, whether by speakers or participants.

The article is thus another example of how the real nature of the ‘threat’ posed by BDS is that it galvanises opposition to Israeli violations of international law, and offers solidarity with the Palestinians’ ongoing struggle for self-determination and human rights.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.