US State Department Planning Expanded Campaign Using ‘All Legal and Policy Tools’ to Combat ‘Antisemitic’ BDS Movement Against Israel
The United States government is planning to significantly ramp up its efforts to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, The Algemeiner has learned.
The initiative, led by the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, will include a “diplomatic campaign,” “all available legal and policy tools” and the involvement of other government agencies, including the Commerce Department.
Spearheading the project is Deputy Special Envoy David Peyman, who joined the office in May after overseeing economic sanctions enactment at the State Department.
In an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner, Peyman described the new campaign to oppose BDS as an “intentional, strategic objective,” and promised a “whole-of-government approach” to implementing anti-BDS policy.
“I’m actively focused, laser-focused on this issue, and we’re pursuing it relentlessly,” said Peyman. The goal, he added, was “to tackle it, to fight it, to kill it.”
US opposition to efforts to boycott Israel and other allies is not, in itself, new. In 2015, for instance, then-President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that conditioned any free trade agreement with the European Union on its rejection of BDS.
The new drive, however, marks the first effort to actively counter BDS as an antisemitic movement specifically. It’s also the first such program to explicitly include under its mandate an opposition to boycotts of companies doing business in any and all territories under Israel’s control.
Peyman made clear that the opposition to boycotts also includes those of companies operating in West Bank settlements. He affirmed that the project was designed in part to counter efforts such as the United Nations Human Rights Council’s “blacklist” of international and Israeli companies doing business in the West Bank. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sharply criticized that initiative earlier this year.
“Companies in Israel, all across Israel, I would say, from Judea and Samaria to other places, are contributing immensely to the world and to the world economy, and those companies should be supported,” Peyman said.
Direction for the initiative comes from the highest levels, Peyman said, noting that both President Donald Trump and Secretary Pompeo had “talked about using all our resources in tackling the cancer of antisemitism anywhere we find it.”
The BDS movement, he charged, was “one of the manifestations of the cancer of antisemitism.”
“The president, the secretary have really supported and backed up what they have said publicly by investing in this office, helping this office grow as it needs to, to tackle this immense global problem of the antisemitic BDS movement,” noted Peyman.
This activity from the State Department’s antisemitism envoy has been some time in the making. For the first two years of the Trump presidency, the congressionally‐mandated position was left vacant.
Now, it’s the largest its ever been. “We are going to ensure there’s adequate resources to address this,” said Peyman.
Late last year, Trump signed an executive order expanding the scope of federal Title VI protections of Jews in educational institutions. Under the order, colleges and universities that support discriminatory anti-Israel movements — the most active being the BDS movement — could be under threat of having government funding withheld by the Education Department, on grounds of lending support to antisemitism.
It’s a point Peyman’s boss, Special Envoy Elan Carr, also made shortly after assuming office last year. “If there is an organized movement to economically strangle the state of Israel, that is antisemitic,” said Carr on his first day on the job.
The selection of Peyman to lead the initiative may be further indication of the severity with which the State Department views anti‐BDS efforts.
A Harvard-trained lawyer, Peyman came to government from global investment firm BlackRock. There, according to his State Department profile, he was “Global Head of Sanctions and led the sanctions compliance framework for over $6 trillion in assets under management and offices in 30 countries.”
In his previous role at State, Peyman oversaw the enactment of sanctions on Chinese shipping giant COSCO for suspected involvement in moving crude oil from Iran. The move “sent worldwide freight costs to record highs and disrupted the global shipping market,” according to a Reuters report.
In 2019, he also threatened to take action against any company that used the newly‐established INSTEX financial barter mechanism, established by European countries to engage Iran in transactions that violated US sanctions.
The involvement of the Commerce Department provides additional indicators of the legal tools that may be used to combat BDS. It is Commerce “that ensures enforcement, rigorous enforcement over anti-boycott laws,” Peyman pointed out.
Elaborating on diplomatic initiatives that would be part of the anti-BDS initiative, Peyman said they would include “engagement with our friends and our partners overseas, to adopt anti-BDS laws, resolutions, on the books.”
“We want to create consensus around the world that clearly, on the books, statutes, resolutions, policies ‐‐ our friends and our partners and our allies agree that BDS is antisemitic,” he added.
The international diplomatic campaign will take into account efforts to boycott Israeli companies in all countries, as well as foreign companies doing business in Israeli territory, and will include “ensuring that we help support and facilitate increased trade, economic engagement, scientific engagement, cultural engagement with Israel, not only by the United States and US companies, but by the world.”
Those ties will will be developed, Peyman said, “to the point where the constant good news, positive news of increased commercial activities … is drowning out any kind of one-off story about where BDS may have discouraged this specific person or entity from investing or engaging in Israel.”
The BDS movement’s ongoing failure to inflict significant economic damage on Israel’s economy is not an important factor in the State Department’s considerations.
“I don’t know how successful BDS is ultimately at the end of the day in getting companies to succumb to antisemitism,” Peyman acknowledged.
Despite the stated goals of BDS campaigners to cause economic harm to Israel, it is the bigoted motives behind the movement that the initiative seeks to oppose.
“It’s vile antisemitic hate, and it’s discrimination against Jews,” asserted Peyman. “All you have to do is look at the United Nations Human Rights Council list and determine how many companies on that list are Jewish and how many companies on that list are Palestinian Arab companies that may be doing business in the same geographic areas. So if the vast, vast majority of the companies are Jewish. I think that’s a very good data point in revealing that this is a hate campaign, a vile hate campaign directed at the Jews.”