The state of Israel will be spying on hundreds of activists and organizations in the country and in the Palestinian West Bank, as part of a new task force charged with ridding the country of foreign activists who support the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment Movement, or BDS, against Israel. The move was announced Sunday by Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan and Interior Minister Arye Dery.
According to Haaretz, the joint task force will identify organizations and activists that support BDS with the intention of gathering intelligence on their activities in order to collect enough evidence to present in favor of legally deporting them.
At a press conference, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said the task force “is a necessary step in light of the malicious intentions of delegitimization activists who act to spread lies and twist the reality in our region.”
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Arye Dery said: “We have the responsibility to do all we can to crush the boycott and say clearly that we will not allow the State of Israel to be harmed.”
The Israeli state, which has one of the most right-wing governments in its history, sees critical and leftist human rights groups as organizations seeking to destroy Israel by documenting and uncovering abuses by Israeli security forces.
A senior Israeli official, who attended the meeting and spoke to Haaretz on the condition of anonymity, said that police representatives at a meeting on the task forced agreed that BDS activists are provoking Palestinians in the West Bank to confront Israeli forces and disrupt their operations.
The official further said that many foreign activists have already been identified by the internal spies of the strategic affairs ministry and many of them are entering Israel as tourists. The task force, the official added, will define “the criteria by which a foreign activist will be marked for deportation or barred from entry,” Haaretz reported.
Israel has already begun a clampdown on local Palestinian activists who support BDS. In May, Israel imposed a travel ban on Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the peaceful movement.
Barghouti is married to an Israeli citizen and therefore is a permanent resident of Israel, which normally grants one a travel document renewable every two years.
However, Israel refused to renew his document in May in what rights groups said was an effort to stop him from traveling to different countries and events to advocate for BDS and form alliances.
BDS has grown into an effective international effort as many companies and celebrities are joining efforts to hold Israel accountable for illegal actions against Palestinians, such as settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
Israel has been feeling the effects of that boycott campaign and has been trying in recent months to take legal actions against it in Israel, as well as lobbying its Western allies to reject it and crackdown on BDS in their own countries.