BDS: some significant progress

Summary: in recent weeks BDS has received support from a federal court ruling in Kansas and a decision of the Danish Parliament. UN blacklist of companies working in the settlements now complete.

Since our posting of 8 December there have been further developments on BDS internationally which will increase concern in Israel.

Yesterday 5 February according to an Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) report “Israel’s A-G: Countries around the world are rejecting BDS” the Israeli attorney general called for more legal action against BDS; “in the past few years, we have seen a surge in successful local advocacy in a number of countries, by lawyers and NGOs working to counter different types of pro-BDS, government or municipal, decisions… The Israeli minister of justice, Ayelet Shaked, made clear upon her appointment that the legal response to the BDS movement is a top priority.”

In an unusual setback for Israeli interests in the US, on 30 January a federal judge gave the American Civil Liberties Union what it described as an “an early victory”, ruling that a Kansas law requiring a public school educator to certify that she won’t boycott Israel violates her First Amendment rights, “the first ruling addressing a recent wave of laws nationwide aiming to punish people who boycott Israel.” The ACLU represents Esther Koontz of the Mennonite Church which decided not to buy consumer products made by Israeli companies and international companies operating in Israeli settlements in order to protest against Israeli treatment of Palestinians. The legal case concerns her employment as a teacher trainer; as a condition of employment she was asked to certify that she does not participate in a boycott of Israel, she refused to sign, and she was refused the job. The judge’s ruling specifically declared that the first Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott and cited the 1982 Supreme Court ruling protecting the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People from punishment for boycotting white owned stores in Mississippi. The ACLU is currently fighting a similar case in Arizona.

In Denmark last week Parliament voted by a majority of 81 – 22 to exclude settlements from bilateral agreements with Israel and to strengthen government guidelines against investing in the occupied territories. All parties except the far-right Danish People’s Party voted in favour. The move is compliant with UN Security Council resolution 2334 of December 2016. The resolution also expresses support for the “black list” of Israeli companies operating in the occupied territories being prepared by the UNHCR (see below). According to Ha’aretz “Sampension, Denmark’s third-largest pension fund with assets of $43.5 billion, announced its divestment of Israeli companies operating in the territories as a result.”

The Irish independent senator Frances Black last week proposed a bill banning purchasing goods or services from the settlements. The bill was withdrawn for Parliamentary reasons, not before Netanyahu had summoned the Irish ambassador in Tel Aviv to protest. The Irish Times comments “that momentum continues to build in Dublin towards a significant gesture of solidarity with the Palestinians. The most obvious would be recognition of a Palestinian state. The Government favours this in principle but opposes doing so now for the same reason that it opposed the Seanad Bill – it believes the EU should act in unison. But pressure is building. Both the Dáil and Seanad have passed resolutions endorsing the idea and the Trump administration’s decision to drop any pretence of impartiality by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has produced a stronger case for global solidarity with Palestine. Unless the Government can show some progress towards a common EU position in the coming weeks, the pressure for a unilateral move will be irresistible.” Unusually a number of distinguished retired Israelis headed by the veteran peacenik Uri Avnery wrote to the Irish Times urging Ireland “to support any legislation that will help enforce differentiation between Israel per se and the settlements in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

A Norwegian member of Parliament and member of the Oslo city council, the only representative of the “Red Party” in Parliament, has nominated the BDS movement for the Nobel Peace Prize

The UN human rights office has completed a list of 206 companies doing business in the settlements and expects to publish the names; Israel and the US continue to press against publication. 143 of the companies are domiciled in Israel or the settlements, 22 in the US and 19 elsewhere including Germany, the Netherlands, France and Britain.

Finally the New Zealand pop star Lorde, twice reportedly included in Time magazine’s list of the most influential teenagers in the world, has cancelled a concert in Tel Aviv, following urging from Palestinian solidarity activists to support BDS.

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