With all the panicky talk of Israel’s diplomatic and economic isolation due to BDS, the stories of academic boycotts (or at least attempted ones), and the upcoming academic pogrom known as “Israel Apartheid Week” which is slated to take place on campuses worldwide, the BDS bigots have suffered two huge fails this week, one in America and one in Britain.
In the United States, the White House announced that, following the addition of an anti-boycott amendment last April to the Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority bill, President Obama is to sign a trade bill that lumps Israel and the settlements together – despite his objections:
WASHINGTON — The White House announced Thursday that President Barack Obama will sign a trade bill despite it containing a provision that lumps together Israel and “Israeli-controlled territories.”
Such language, meaning that the bill is applicable to Israel and the settlements, “contravenes longstanding U.S. policy towards Israel and the occupied territories, including with regard to Israeli settlement activity,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement, hours after the measure was approved in the Senate by a vote of 75-20.
Nonetheless, while the president objects to that particular facet of the legislation, Earnest suggested his accepting it, and signing the bill, was part of the nature of bipartisan compromise. “As with any bipartisan compromise legislation, there are provisions in this bill that we do not support,” Earnest said.
The legislation, The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, is part of a package that was presented to the US Congress last summer. It is designed to strengthen enforcement rules, address currency manipulation and bolster efforts to block evasions of trade laws.
But the bill also includes a clause that addresses politically motivated acts to limit or prohibit economic relations with Israel — targeting corporate entities or state-affiliated financial institutions from engaging in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. This clause earned the commendation of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee).
“The provision puts the US firmly on record opposing BDS and supporting enhanced commercial ties between the United States and Israel,” AIPAC said in a statement Thursday. “This measure builds on the important work of Congress … passing into law firm anti-BDS negotiating objectives for American trade negotiators.”
Within 180 days after the bill becomes the law, the US administration will be required to report to the Congress on global BDS activities, including the participation of foreign companies in political boycotts of the Jewish State. It also includes a number of legal protections for American companies that operate in Israel.
Obama’s objections were described thus: (emphases added):
While the Obama administration has long expressed adamant opposition to BDS tactics targeting Israel, there are several references in the legislation to “Israeli-controlled territories” or “any territory controlled by Israel” as being applicable to the terms of the bill.
The conflation of Israel proper with contested territory runs counter to long-standing US policy that settlement activity is an obstacle to achieving a two-state solution, an administration official told The Times of Israel on Thursday. For that reason, the US government abstains from pursuing policies that it sees as conflicting with that objective.
The official stated that the White House seeks to strengthen its economic ties with Israel while at the same time maintaining the policies it considers integral to preserving and advancing the prospect of a two-state accommodation with Palestinians.
Kol hakavod to all the American Congressmen and Senators, not to mention the AIPAC and other pro-Israel activists who worked behind the scenes to get this legislation passed.
Meanwhile, in Britain, a similar piece of legislation has also been passed, in which boycotting Israel has now become illegal: (via Brian Goldfarb):
Local councils, public bodies and even some university student unions are to be banned by law from boycotting “unethical” companies, as part of a controversial crackdown being announced by the Government.
Under the plan all publicly funded institutions will lose the freedom to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Any public bodies that continue to pursue boycotts will face “severe penalties”, ministers said.
Senior government sources said they were cracking down on town-hall boycotts because they “undermined good community relations, poisoned and polarised debate and fuelled anti-Semitism”.
Considering the huge spike in antisemitic attacks in Britain over the last few years, this is excellent news! However, the haters and the bigots are furious, as to be expected:
But critics said the move amounted to a “gross attack on democratic freedoms”.
A spokesman for the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The Government’s decision to ban councils and other public bodies from divesting from trade or investments they regard as unethical is an attack on local democracy.
“People have the right to elect local representatives able to make decisions free of central government political control. That includes withdrawal of investments or procurement on ethical and human rights grounds.
I don’t think these people would recognize an ethic if it bit them on the nose. Considering that a British lecturer refused to help an Israeli girl in her research on horses, or that George Galloway declared Bradford an Israeli-free zone or that an obscure Scottish town banned Israeli books from its library (it had none to ban anyway), it’s long past time that the UK government settled this matter.
There are those who object furiously to this government ban on boycotts, calling it “death to democracy” and “not even-handed“. In fact this legislation is the exact opposite. It is utterly un-democratic for local councils to impose a boycott on a country or its goods or people without putting the idea to a vote of the local populace. No one elected local councils or student unions etc. to deal with foreign policy, and it is not within their remit to make such decisions. Similarly, the idiotic “as-a-Jew” letter-writer who complains that the ban is not even-handed has reversed the truth. If no other country is boycotted, then surely Israel or even the settlements should not be boycotted. There is nothing not even-handed in this law.
Adam Levick of UK Media Watch has an excellent column in the Independent (!), asserting that the British Government has shown that it is on the side of the Israeli victims with this legislation:
Polls of British Jews demonstrate that most believe such anti-Israel boycotts are not merely immoral and hypocritical, but represent a form of intimidation against their community, and recognise that violent anti-Semitism has historically been preceded by such ostracism, the nurturing of a climate in which Jews were rendered (to use Daniel Goldhagen’s term) “socially dead”. The boycotters are not only ostracizing and demonizing six million Jews, but sending a message to the millions of non-Israeli Jews in the world who are Zionists that they are morally beyond the pale.
This is the context in which to view UK Government plans to prevent local authorities from participating in boycotts against Israel, a policy reflecting not only the government’s concerns about undermining British foreign policy, but a growing realization regarding the connection between BDS and antisemitism in the UK. Indeed, as has been reported by The Independent, senior government sources attributed the new policy to fear that BDS “undermine[s] good community relations”, and “fuel[s] anti-Semitism”.
Most Jews around the world indeed view current calls to exclude Israeli Jews from the international community in the context of the dark history of such measures.
They also naturally question the motivation of putatively sophisticated Europeans. They see the unimaginable brutality and oppression in the Arab Middle East – which includes the violation of the rights of women, gays and political dissidents, and even (as in Syria) industrial-scale killing and torture. Yet perversely they believe that the only country whose citizens deserve to be boycotted is the one that, according to a 2013 study by the NGO Freedom House, has the best human rights record in the region. It also just so happens to be the only one with a Jewish majority.
Adam’s concluding words sum it all up perfectly:
Especially given the recent upsurge in anti-Semitism in the UK, legislation against such discriminatory boycotts puts the Government on the side of the victims, and gives those who have always viewed the movement through the lens of racism just cause to feel morally vindicated.