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Israel secretly using US law firm to fight BDS

Image of a BDS rally [McGill Daily/Flickr]
BDS rally [McGill Daily/Flickr]

Israel has secretly been using a US law firm in order to fight the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement in Europe, North America, and elsewhere, according to Haaretz.

The Israeli goverment has paid Sidley Austin, a Chicago-based firm, hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past two years, to manage court proceedings, prepare legal evaluations and handle activities deemed “extremely sensitive” by the Justice Ministry and the Strategic Affairs Ministry.

The Strategic Affairs Ministry is primarily in charge of Israel’s fight against the BDS movement, and is also involved in gathering intelligence and attacking individuals and organisations that encouraged other businesses to back the boycott.

The documents obtained by Haaretz from the Justice Ministry withheld the specific services the Israeli government required from the firm, prompting suspicions that lawyers were also hired to prepare lawsuits against those supporting BDS activities.

“It is deeply worrying that the military terminology used by senior officials in the Strategic Affairs Ministry is being used in the fight against civilians abroad who criticize the State of Israel,” attorney Eitay Mack said.

Sidley Austin is one of the most prestigious law firms in America, and formerly employed both Barack and Michelle Obama.

Read: Texas refuses aid to American supporters of BDS

Israel has long held a vendetta against businesses and humanitarian organisations that choose to boycott Israeli produce in protest of the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories. It has accused those who support the boycott of being anti-Semitic and has applied pressure on foreign organisations and universities to oppose the campaign.

This summer, Amnesty International launched a new campaign calling for a ban on settlement-made products; Israel responded by threatening action against the NGO.

Last month, the UN sent a letter to several companies doing business in the illegally occupied West Bank asking them to clarify their commercial activities there, a move widely condemned by Israeli politicians. The global institution is also compiling a list of businesses that continue to work in settlements, which could be made public by the end of the year.

Read: American Civil Liberties Union files lawsuit against anti-BDS legislation

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