In an attempt to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, the Israeli government is using lobbies, spy agencies and think tank fronts to spy on and smear US college students that speak out against right-wing politics in Israel and fight for Palestinian rights .
Students recounted in the documentary exactly what they faced. Summer Awad, who took part in a campaign for Palestinian rights in Knoxville, Tennessee, was harassed on Twitter, and information about her, some of it dating back a decade, was posted online: ‘They are digging and digging. Somebody contacted my employer and asked for me to be fired. If they continue to employ me they will be denounced as antisemitic.’ Denunciation can end careers or make it hard for students to find a job after graduation. To get their names off the blacklist, some victims write messages of ‘repentance’, which Canary Mission posts on its site (8). These anonymous confessions, whose writers explain that they were ‘deceived’, are much like those of suspected communist sympathisers under McCarthyism in the US in the 1950s, or victims of authoritarian regimes today. Baime said: ‘It’s psychological warfare. It drives them crazy. They either shut down, or they spend time investigating [the accusations against them] instead of attacking Israel. It’s extremely effective.’ Another person told Kleinfeld: ‘I think antisemitism as a smear is not what it used to be.’
These campaigns, based on personal information gathered about US citizens, would not be possible without the resources of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. Its director-general, Sima Vaknin-Gil, said in a talk at the IAC annual conference shown in the documentary: ‘The fact that the Israeli government decided to be a key player means a lot because we can bring things that NGOs or civilian entities involved in this thing [don’t have] … We’ve got the budget. We can bring things to the table that are quite different. Everybody out there who has anything to do with BDS should ask himself twice: should I be on this side or do I want to be on the other side?’
Imagine the US government spending millions of dollars and using NGOs as front groups to spy on people in the UK who support the Minority Rights Group International because of their advocacy for Native Americans in the US and then getting them fired from their jobs, or China doing this to US citizens who oppose Taiwan reunification.
It’s really not ok that Israel does this and it’s less ok that the US lets it.