The global BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement has become such a concern for Israel that a new minister has been appointed expressly to combat it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed Gilad Erdan, his number-two man in the right wing Likud coalition, as minister of public security, strategic affairs and public diplomacy.
Erdan’s major focus, however, will be attempting to dismantle the BDS movement and handling conflict with Iran.
“I don’t think the main issues are politics and disputes.” Erdan said in a Facebook post, “The questions that must be asked are about our personal security, the values of the police, and the attempts to boycott and delegitimize Israel around the world. Because I have been promised the proper tools, I will have the ability to take action and bring about real change.”
Erdan detailed how he would fight the movement, which Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called, “a first-rate strategic threat,” and said his past government experience has prepared him for his new position. “As a member of the cabinet, I am well aware of the danger that faces us due to the anti-Israel activities of the BDS movement,” he said. “As part of my job, I will take on anti-Israel activities in the international arena, such as attempts to attack us in the International Criminal Court, attempts by the Palestinians to have us expelled from FIFA, and more.”
Erdan is also tasked with finding a person to be the “head of a tarnishing unit,” that will seek to uncover incriminating and possibly embarrassing personal information on BDS activists in order to discredit them. The Israeli government is calling this tactic “counterdelegitimization.”
Israel mounted an institutional response to BDS prior to Erdan’s appointment. Anat Berko, a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, formed an anti-BDS lobby inside the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Berko said in an interview last year that “I have no problem with self-criticism, but the real meaning behind this delegitimization and boycott campaign is a call for our destruction. People have to understand that what happened in FIFA was terrorism, no matter how you look at it.”
The same day Berko made her comments there was a special session in the Knesset to talk about how to address BDS.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said, “There is a de-legitimization campaign against Israel happening right now. These are ephemeral organizations and we need to stop cooperating with them and cut ties, have them pay for their boycotts.” Shaked added, “Today, it’s ‘super in’ to be anti-Israel.”