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Israelis petition court to force government disclosure of law firms hired to fight BDS

September 23, 2019 at 11:59 am

A number of activists have petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to oblige the state “to disclose the identity of foreign law firms hired to fight BDS activists and groups in Europe”.

Israeli citizens Sahar Vardi, Rachel Giora, Ofer Neiman and Kobi Snitz began their legal action in November 2017, represented by lawyer Eitay Mack, seeking disclosure on the matter as support for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign grows worldwide.

Having initially filed a freedom of information request with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Strategic Affairs, the petitioners received a response from the MFA that it is the Ministry of Justice “which is in charge of contracts with third party agents in the struggle against BDS”.

“The Ministry of Justice then confirmed that it was using international law firms to fight against BDS activists and NGOs which support BDS in Europe,” a statement by the activists noted.

However, to date, the Ministry of Justice “has provided the petitioners only with partial, redacted documentation as to its actions, in response to the freedom of information request.”

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“The reason cited was that the ministry did not want to disclose the identity of said law firms and the essence of their service, for which the State of Israel pays millions of NIS [shekels],” said the activists, with the ministry arguing that to do so “would harm Israel’s foreign relations”.

The petitioned have warned of a “slippery slope” of illegal Israeli actions abroad, steps which “violate basic constitutional and human rights of activists in Europe, and may amount to the deprivation of their liberty and even inflict physical harm upon them”.

According to the latest update, “the hearing at the Supreme Court will take place after a lower instance rejected the petitioners’ appeal in August 2018, accepting the position put forward by the Israeli government, as to risk of harm to Israeli interests as a result of disclosure.”

In that decision, Judge Eli Abrabanel wrote: “There is no merit to the petitioners’ claim that their request elicits significant public interest” and that “the extent of benefit to the petitioners from the disclosure of said information is not high.”