Israeli state power and the Zionist movement in the UK: the case of the counter-campaign against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights

  • Hilary Aked

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis examines the Zionist movement in the UK and how it enhances Israeli state power. It conceptualises the Zionist movement in transnational context as a movement ‘from above’, and explores responses to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, a transnational movement ‘from below’ contesting the hegemony of Israel and Zionism in the west. Grounded in a historical comparison with the strategies used by the UK Zionist movement to counter the Arab League boycott of previous decades, the study demonstrates the longstanding importance of state-private networks within the Zionist movement. It is argued that the civil society-led (as opposed to state-led) nature of the BDS movement has heightened the importance of Zionist organisations in civil society. Increasingly seeking to work through and with local Zionist networks, the Israeli government’s modus operandi is shown to accord with the prescriptions of some ‘new public diplomacy’ theorists. In effect, it is seeking to enlist civil society in support of state power.Counter-BDS initiatives and hasbara more broadly have been shaped, the study also suggests, by the changing nature of power relations under neoliberalism. The private sector orientation of ‘neoliberal Zionism’, the currently dominant pro-free market strand of the movement, has informed a preference for public-private partnerships, outsourcing and ‘privatised public diplomacy’. As well as mapping out key organisational structures and networks, the thesis demonstrates that the concept of ‘delegitimisation’, the idea of a ‘new anti-Semitism’ and so-called ‘lawfare’ strategies can be seen as responses to the post-2000 crisis of Zionism in which the BDS movement presents a profound counter-hegemonic challenge. An original investigative methodology is employed to research political influence in case studies focused on the academic, cultural and economic arenas. New and empirically rich material is presented, drawing on archival sources, interviews and documents obtained via Freedom of Information requests.
Date of Award19 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorDavid Miller (Supervisor)


  • Israel lobby
  • Zionist movement
  • social movements
  • civil society
  • state-private networks
  • Power Structure Research
  • new public diplomacy

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