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Fighting BDS in the courts

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January 4, 2017

A significant blow was inflicted to the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement recently when a Spanish court ruled that a decision to boycott Israel by the northwestern municipality of Santiago de Compostela violated Spanish law and would be repealed.

Spanish courts have previously repealed similar decisions by other municipalities to endorse a boycott, and this is clearly a judicial trend. Judicial policy in Spain prohibits a boycott of Israel, which is an immense achievement for supporters of the Jewish state.

It is also proof that Israel and its allies have learned the secrets of judicial warfare — lawfare — which until now has been mostly directed against us.

In times past, all wars took place on the battlefield, and the weapons caused direct physical harm to the enemy. Trade and conscience wars, meant to harm morale, followed later. Now judicial wars have been added to the arsenal, in which political or other bodies try to inflict or contain damage through the courts: petitions, prosecutions, legal proceedings and litigations.

Israel has become the first major target of lawfare. Enemies of the Jewish state have learned to abuse legal systems and have shamelessly taken advantage of every mechanism originally intended to fight actual criminals. This hostile takeover caught the enlightened world — including Israel — unprepared. When Britain and Spain adopted legislation that allowed for the arrests, trials and sentencing of tyrants and war criminals, anti-Israel activists immediately took advantage of the system to try to bring about the arrest of Israeli leaders and officers.

Democratic countries worked to establish the International Criminal Court to put an end to war crimes in Africa — and that too quickly veered from that path and directed its fire at Israel.

In a terrible role reversal, the victim was placed in a pillory. Humanitarian law became a joke, exalted principles became pawns in the hands of the worst extremists, and the courts became refuges for people who fan the flames of murderous hatred toward Israel. It seemed the state of the Jewish people would forever remain a permanent defendant in every legal forum. The attempts to harm Israel even reached the judicial system of Israel itself: As Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently stated, Israeli courts have been inundated with petitions and legal proceedings by foreign-funded radical leftist organizations, with the aim of wearing out the system.

Nevertheless, when it became clear that judicial warfare is a fact, ideas to harness the methods in Israel’s favor arose. If terrorists’ supporters can take advantage of legal loopholes, why not turn the lawfare weapon against them? Non-governmental organizations acting in the spirit of freedom, democracy and human rights took this important role upon themselves. The Shurat Hadin organization began to file claims for compensation from the perpetrators of terrorism, the American Lawfare Project organization successfully proved that the policy of companies in the Arab world to discriminate against Israelis violates U.S. law, and Spain’s ACOM lobby group is waging a noble war against every attempt to boycott Israel on the Iberian Peninsula.

The weapon of judicial lawfare can pose a threat in the hands of a trained enemy, but it can also provide new opportunities. Now is the time to learn how to take up arms skillfully and wisely.