Israel has launched a smear campaign against activists affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, labelling them "terrorists in suits".
Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry launched the campaign this weekend with a series of posters depicting prominent BDS activists as "terrorists", using the hashtag #TerroristsInSuits to smear the individuals' professional credibility and the BDS movement as a whole.
Among the activists targeted were French-Palestinian activist and research at Adameer Salah Hamouri, general-director of Al-Haq Shawan Jabarin, and Palestinian icon Leila Khaled. In one image, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Rani Sourani is shown smiling in a suit, juxtaposed with an image of a man armed with a machine gun and clad in a kuffiyeh (traditional Palestinian headdress) in an image meant to portray his "terrorist" alter ego.
Israeli daily Haaretz pointed out that the claims made in the ministry's report – which accompanies the hashtag campaign – "are very similar to earlier publications by the right-wing group NGO Monitor". Haaretz explains that the report "includes identical examples and quotes" to NGO Monitor's publications, but claims to "dig deeper than past publications and present the findings in a 'new packaging,' with a new diplomatic message, which will be translated into many languages for the purpose of waging a Hasbara [propaganda] campaign".
The campaign is being spearheaded by Israel's Strategic Affairs and Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, who said it "reveals the true nature and goals of the BDS movement and its connection to terrorism and antisemitism," the Jerusalem Post reported. Erdan continued: "When people talk about the goals of the BDS movement, they don't bother to read official statements from its leaders. If you do, it becomes clear that the goals of its leaders are the same as those of the leaders of Palestinian terror organisations. BDS rejects Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state within any borders. They want to see Israel wiped off the map. Promoting boycotts is [just] a different means to achieve this goal."
Erdan has effectively waged war against BDS during his term as strategic affairs minister. In May 2017 Israel introduced a law blacklisting NGOs and forbidding entry visas and residency rights to foreign nationals who support BDS. Erdan has since been at the forefront of efforts to ban Spanish, Jewish-American and British activists and has also overseen the deportation of prominent human rights activists already stationed in Israel, including director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Omar Shakir.
For its part, NGO Monitor has assisted Erdan in his anti-BDS war. In October, a report by the Policy Working Group (PWG) – a collective of Israeli ex-diplomats, academics and others professionals – accused NGO Monitor of "spearheading the shrinking of space for Israeli and Palestinian human rights NGOs". PWG slammed NGO Monitor, accusing it of being "a government-affiliated organisation that selectively targets human rights organisations, relies almost entirely on funding from donors in the US, shirks the transparency it demands of others and disseminates misleading and tendentious information, which it presents as factual in-depth research".