The efforts of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel are growing, as is the concern in the Jewish State over the movement’s potential impact, The Jerusalem Post reported. The Israeli English-language paper’s Hebrew counterpart, Ma’ariv Hashavua, obtained several cables, recently exchanged by members of the diplomatic service and the Foreign Ministry, revealing the new reality.
In Barcelona, Spain, members of the extreme left-wing party CUP called on the local city council to alter its existing agreements with Israel and cancel its sister-city partnership with Tel Aviv. As the Israeli diplomatic delegation noted in its telegram to Spanish authorities, the response of the local council was particularly troubling.
“Even more concerning is the answer by the ruling party that they will check the issue,” reads the telegram, “because other organizations have already turned to them on the same matter. In response to the claim that the agreement with Tel Aviv strengthens the occupation, the deputy mayor answered that this must be given the utmost consideration, without expanding.” The telegram goes on to state that the local opposition party foreign secretary has already promised to oppose the move.
The cable chillingly concludes, “The phenomenon of anti-Israeli activity in Spain is bothersome and concerning, but in the past was centered in small cities. When it arrives in Barcelona, and is voiced among elected officials, the subject takes on entirely different proportions.”
Meanwhile, in the Belgian city of Liege, organizers of an annual dance festival, to which the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company had been invited, turned down an offer from the Israeli embassy to help sponsor the event, citing boycott concerns.
“At a later stage,” a cable sent from the embassy in Belgium to the Foreign Ministry reads, “they informed us that they did not want to be tied to the embassy, were forgoing our support and returning the money. All of this because of the threat of a boycott. Our discussions and protests to the festival organizers failed.”
In Chicago, the participation of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance in a LGBT conference was severely hampered by anti-Israel pressure and protest. Even before the scheduled event, participants were warned of a possible boycott. A cable from the local Israeli diplomats details described how they had been happy to help with the conference “without being in the forefront, and without Israeli flags in the building, as long as the representatives from the Jerusalem Open House were given a chance to address the audience.”
In a surprising turn of events, conference organizers cancelled the Israeli LGBT group’s participation, claiming it was “dividing the community”, but later backtracked, allowing the event to go on as planned.
“After the Sabbath prayer service,” a cable sent from Chicago read, “we made our way to the center where the conference was taking place. In front of the door to the building, some 400 noisy protesters awaited us, blocking our way. Ten minutes before the beginning of the conference, several pro-Palestinian activists burst into the building, bringing the event to a halt.”
Finally, in the state of Georgia, Israeli diplomats were disappointed — though not surprised — by the lack of response from Jewish students at Emory University when they tried to garner student support to prevent the Students for Justice in Palestine regional conference, scheduled to take place at the school, which boasts the largest Jewish population in the region. The purpose of the gathering was to turn Christian support away from Israel and towards the Palestinian cause.
The Foreign Ministry and the Strategic Affairs Ministry consider last spring’s confrontation at FIFA to be a turning point in Israeli isolation on the world stage. In May, Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub called for Israel to be expelled from the international soccer body.
“In the past, the boycott movement would only act in the political arena – protests in front of embassies and against members of parliament who support Israel,” a senior Foreign Ministry source said. “Ever since Jibril Rajoub appeared at the FIFA conference and pulled out a symbolic ‘red card’ for Israel, we see that the movement has moved in a more civilian direction. Probably because they noted that it garnered more attention and was more effective.”
Foreign Ministry sources acknowledge the battle for international acceptance is not easy. “The boycott movement against Israel is building its case in every field, and we need to prepare counter-arguments, legal arguments and more. Our deployment on the ground is critical. We admit that the activity against boycotts is a case of version vs. version, word vs. word, but there is no substitute for diplomatic work on the ground.”
The Strategic Affairs Ministry, tasked recently with fighting BDS with a NIS 100 million budget, noted, “We are now only responding to boycotts in the world and not initiating. However, we are building a staff, with dozens of people, that will work together with all of the government ministries. For example, if there is an attempted boycott in the field of sports, we will inform the Sport Ministry ahead of time and prepare an effective response. The same goes for agriculture, finance or any other ministry. Our goal is to be an influential factor in the fight against boycotts and the delegitimization of Israel.”