BDS – Israel counters

Summary: BDS suffers a setback in Germany. Controversy as usual mainly in the Israeli media. Nothing new from the UN.

Since we last considered the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel (BDS) (our posting of 13 March) it has continued to be of almost obsessive interest to the Israeli government which sees it as a long-term threat to its legitimacy, and to be widely covered in the Israeli media, but not elsewhere. It has had no important successes and a significant setback in Germany.

The movement’s website as usual has a list of current issues which is perhaps even thinner than usual, headed by a campaign to get the “iconic Brazilian musician Milton Nascimento” to cancel a show in “apartheid Tel Aviv” on 30 June.

In April Umar Barghuti, co-founder of BDS, was refused entry to the US, where he was to make a speaking tour, despite having a valid visa. He had previously had problems exiting Israel, but not entering the US.

On 17 May the German parliament passed a motion condemning BDS; “The argumentation patterns and methods used by the BDS movement are anti-Semitic.” The motion was welcomed by Benjamin Netanyahu; “I hope that this decision will bring about concrete steps and I call upon other countries to adopt similar legislation.” A motion submitted by the far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party calling for a total ban on BDS was defeated, as was another motion submitted by the far left Die Linke party opposing BDS and committing the German government to work for a Palestine solution based on UN Security Council resolutions. These moves coincided with the Eurovision Song Contest final which took place in Tel Aviv, and against which BDS had lobbied vigorously with little success.

The Israeli media have followed closely reactions in and outside Germany, including those opposed to the Bundestag motion such as an attempt to “sabotage” a lecture in Aachen on “Myth ‘Nakba’ – The Origin of Israel and the Expulsion of Jews from the Arab States.” On 3 June 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars wrote to the German government condemning the motion and arguing that it was counter-productive, undermining the fight against anti-Semitism. The director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin resigned a year before he was due to retire, because of controversy about a tweet from the museum sharing the article, saying that he did so “to prevent further damage to the museum”. He was supported by a number of “Talmudic scholars” and others.

On 18 June the Israeli minister of public security and strategic affairs Gilad Erdan spoke at a conference attended by “Jewish and pro-Israel leaders from over 30 countries” which he described as “the most important gathering of the pro-Israel and anti-BDS community… We moved from defense to offense and put BDS on the defensive… we’re exposing the unholy trinity of BDS, terror and anti-Semitism…The ground-breaking resolution of the Bundestag recognizing the anti-Semitic nature of BDS was the most important step yet.” Successes in BDS happened because of the commitment of Israel’s friends and the work of his ministry including “the success and strength of the GC4I [Global Coalition for Israel], LNI [Legal Network International], and Digitell networks.” BDS’s true goal was to isolate Israel and end its existence as a Jewish state.

n 20 June senior officials from the Israeli ministry of strategic affairs told the Jerusalem Post that efforts to deprive the BDS movement of funding and branded as supporting terrorism had in the past been sporadic but “that fragmented approach has now been replaced with a high-intensity, systematic counter-movement.”

There has been no further news of the delayed UN report and database of firms linked to Israeli settlements since the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in March that her office aimed to finalise the study “in coming months”. Her agenda includes more urgent issues of Palestinian rights on which her committee will report in November: “the recent spike in settlement expansion and settler violence, especially against children and schools… The killing and injury of Palestinians, resulting from the use of live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas… Night raids to arrest children in the West Bank… Severe, arbitrary and punitive restrictions on the fishing zone in Gaza and lack of safe drinking water.”

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