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Israel forced closure of 30 BDS fundraising accounts

June 11, 2019 at 11:45 am

A tourist photographs a sign painted on a wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on 5 June 2015, calling to boycott products coming from Israeli settlements [THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images]

Israel has forced 30 fundraising accounts associated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to close in the past two years.

The Ministry of Strategic Affairs – which oversees Israel’s anti-BDS efforts – announced yesterday that it had forced the closure of ten US-based fundraising accounts and a further 20 in Europe. It did so by directing pro-Israel activists to report the accounts to their host platforms PayPal and DonorBox, the Times of Israel reported.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement: “For years, boycott promoters have disguised themselves as ‘human rights activists,’ managing to raise tens of millions of euros from Western countries and citizens who thought they were contributing to causes supporting justice and equality.”

“Over time,” he continued, “we have revealed that the supposed ‘human rights’ NGOs are in reality filled with anti-Semitic operatives with deep ties to terrorist groups fixated on destroying the State of Israel”.

Among those organisations targeted by the shut downs were the BDS National Committee – the movement’s Ramallah-based arm – as well as human rights organisation Al-Haq and UK-based charity Interpal.

READ: Birawi warns against campaign discrediting Pro-Palestine activism around world

A number of organisations pushed for the closures, including infamous legal advocacy group Shurat HaDin which regularly fights court battles on Israel’s behalf. In April, holiday rental platform Airbnb reversed its November decision to delist properties situated on Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank after Shurat HaDin encouraged Jewish-Americans affected by the delisting to take the holiday giant to court.

In February, Shurat HaDin intervened to halt International Criminal Court (ICC) investigations into the Israeli assault on the Mavi Marmara in 2010. The group filed an official legal submission to the ICC as part of smear campaign presenting the ship’s passengers as “radical activists” with violent intent, an interpretation vehemently denied by activists who were on board the flotilla at the time.

In December, the same group filed a complaint to DonorBox and requested that BDS’ fundraising account be shut down. BDS founder Omar Barghouti criticised Shurat HaDin for its actions, calling the group “a repressive organisation with clear connections to the far-right Israeli government” that is “engaging in McCarthyite tactics”.

“They are making categorically false allegations, threatening and bullying our partners and service providers in a desperate attempt to undermine our ability to challenge Israel’s regime of apartheid and oppression,” Barghouti argued.

READ: Israel government urged to revoke residency of BDS co-founder

Israel has been waging a de facto war against BDS for many years, spending millions of dollars on initiatives to discredit the movement.

In February, Israel launched a smear campaign against BDS in which a series of posters depicting prominent activists as “terrorists” were shared on social media using the hashtag #TerroristsInSuits. Designed to smear the individuals’ professional credibility and the BDS movement as a whole, the campaign targeted French-Palestinian activist and research at Adameer Salah Hamouri, General-Director of Al-Haq Shawan Jabarin, and Palestinian icon Leila Khaled, among others.

Israeli daily Haaretz pointed out that the claims made by the “terrorists in suits” campaign and accompanying report were almost identical to those made by right-wing group NGO Monitor, raising questions about the latter’s involvement.

NGO Monitor is known to have assisted Erdan in his anti-BDS war in the past; 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.”

READ: Palestine FM condemns Germany’s vote to define BDS as ‘anti-Semitic’