While antisemitism in Britain is dominating the news, it is in no way the only country with a Jew-hatred problem. And make no mistake, BDS is antisemitism in politically-correct clothing. Sadly there seem to have been several losses as well as a few rare but important gains in the battle against BDS.
For example, the JPost reports, the Netherlands declares BDS to be “free speech”:
In a huge blow to Israel, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders announced Thursday that calls to boycott the Jewish state fall within the limits of free speech, undermining intensive Israeli diplomatic efforts to sway European capitals to outlaw the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment Movement.
“Statements or meetings concerning BDS are protected by freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as enshrined in the Dutch Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights,” Koenders said Thursday during a debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the Dutch parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in The Hague.
He added that the Dutch government has explained to Israel that it opposes any boycott against it, but that BDS endorsement is a free speech issue. Sweden recently made a similar declaration.
I cannot understand how calling for a boycott is permissible, but imposing a boycott is wrong. Surely if something is considered to be wrong, then calling for that action must also be impermissible!
Even in Canada we see a similar trend, as the Ontario Parliament shot down an anti-BDS law:
A bill that would have banned the Canadian province of Ontario’s public institutions from doing business with companies which support an anti-Israel movement was shot down Thursday, reports The Toronto Sun.
The bill, co-sponsored by Progressive Conservative MPP Tim Hudak and Liberal MPP Mike Colle, would have prohibited the government from entering into contracts with businesses that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Hudak challenged the majority government to adopt the measure and accused Liberal MPPs of trying to “play footsie” with the BDS movement.
“Look: If somebody said they weren’t going to buy from a business because the owners were gay, you guys would go crazy,” he was quoted as having told the Liberals. “If somebody said they weren’t going to buy from a business because they came from Pakistan or they’re Sikh, people would go nuts. But somehow, because they’re Jewish or from Israel, oh, it’s free speech all of a sudden? Come on.”
I’m glad that Mr. Hudaq pointed out the inherent hypocrisy in calling BDS “free speech” even though his protest fell on deaf ears. At least there is a record of his protest, and maybe that will be the basis for reversing the decision in the future.
Over in New Zealand, while not directly concerning BDS, delegitimization of Israel still reigns when the Foreign Minister refuses to call anti-Israel violence “terrorism” (via Elder of Ziyon):
From Shalom Kiwi:
While Prime Minister Key “stands with Belgium in the fight against terrorism”, and Foreign Minister McCully “stand[s] with the people and Government of Turkey in their fight against terrorism”, neither can bring themselves to stand with Israel against their fight against terror.This double standard was brought into sharp focus again at an event last week, where Minister McCully said he makes “no apology for calling it as it is” when it comes to Israeli settlement building yet could not bring himself to use the word “terrorism” to describe the Palestinian attacks against Israelis in recent times.
One final example of BDS and delegitimization all in one nasty package comes from old Blighty – aka England – and never has there been a more appropriate nickname: a UK professor has snubbed an Israeli prize for what she calls “political reasons”:
Historian Professor Catherine Hall of University College London (UCL) said she declined an estimated £250,000 which was to be awarded to her for her work.She told the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) that it was “an independent political choice, undertaken after many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine, but with differing views”
I’m sure those “differing views” included those who hate Israel, those who hate Jews, and those who “only” hate settlers. I’m will to bet that she didn’t hold any discussions with the Board of Deputies or the Israeli Embassy or even any Israeli college.
Her decision of course gives a strong tail-wind to Israel’s delegitimizers:
In a statement, BRICUP said Hall’s decision was “a significant endorsement of the campaign to end ties with Israeli institutions” and that she had “placed principle above financial gain”.
However, despite the insult to Israel I am actually glad she refused the prize. Why should an Israeli institution’s hard-won money go to such an Israel-hater? The solution for the prize money is much more acceptable in my eyes:
The unclaimed prize money, which is awarded by Tel Aviv University and the Dan David Foundation, will instead be used to fund scholarships for young history students in Tel Aviv University and around the world.
One of the only lights in this sea of darkness is the United States where several states and counties have banned Israel boycotts. The latest addition is Nassau County, on Long Island in New York State, which recently passed an anti-BDS law.
Avi Posnick, managing director of the New York chapter of StandWithUs, said he was “prouder than ever to live in Nassau County.” State legislators introduced a similar bill last fall. That bill would prohibit New York State from doing business with companies engaged in BDS.
Other small glimmers of sanity can be found here in there. For example, the Swiss Parliament has launched an inquiry into anti-Israel NGOs:
The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has allocated funds in the millions to anti-Israel NGOs linked to terrorism and working in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, according to a report that appeared in Switzerland’s Basler Zeitung on Monday.
The front-page story by veteran journalist Dominik Feusi, […] stated that MP Christian Imark had introduced a motion supported by 41 lawmakers from across the political spectrum calling on the FDFA to stop all direct or indirect funding to organizations that sponsor “racist and anti-Semitic actions” or are involved in BDS campaigns.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, spoke with the The Jerusalem Post about the development.
“The detailed and unprecedented article… reflects the concerns of many MPs in Switzerland, who were surprised to learn of the very negative and counterproductive impact of their government’s funding for radical anti-peace NGOs,” Steinberg stated.
“As in the case of the EU and many individual states, the funding process, which supports Al-Haq [an NGO based in Ramallah] – the leader of the ‘lawfare’ campaign – and Breaking the Silence, as well as other Israeli groups, has been strictly hidden from the media and MPs until now,” he said.
Steinberg, along with Olga Deutsch, head of NGO Monitor’s Europe research desk, briefed Swiss MPs in Bern in March on the alleged misconduct of certain NGOs and their financial irregularities.
Kol hakavod to Prof. Steinberg and NGO Monitor. Their work has proven invaluable in countering defamation, delegitimization and BDS.
The elephant in the room that has hardly been addressed in all this is where is the Israeli Government? Where is Binyamin Netanyahu, who was so eloquent in defending Israel during his tenure as ambassador to the UN?
As the Jewish News article above points out, Israel is floundering when it comes to BDS:
Hall’s snub is the latest embarrassment for Israeli prize-givers. Last week Hebrew University’s Professor David Shulman gave his $20,000 award money for the Israel Prize to Ta’ayush, an Israeli non-governmental organisation working with Palestinians in the West Bank.
The government is only just beginning to wake up and still seems to be sleep-walking, as noted in the Jerusalem Post article linked at the beginning:
But Koenders’ statement struck a chord in Jerusalem where the Foreign Ministry is in the midst of a massive legislative campaign to outlaw BDS throughout western parliaments. Jerusalem argues that BDS falls into the category of “hate speech”, pitching itself against international human rights organizations and left wing parliamentarians in Europe and other Western countries.
Israel’s position is based on the argument that by calling to divest and boycott Israel, BDS supporters are seeking the destruction of Israel. It believes therefore that it should be illegal.
Human rights organizations and left wing parliamentarians in turn are using European governments to affirm that BDS is protected by the laws of free speech.
It is almost too little, too late. The Israeli government should take advice and learn lessons from all the those amateur bloggers and media watchers (see my right-hand sidebar for examples) as well as from outfits like NGO Monitor. And of course they need to invest much more money in this new front on Israel’s legitimacy and very existence.
One practical idea is suggested by Judith Bergman, who asserts we should take BDS to court:
It was judges on the panel of a Spanish administrative court who ruled that boycotting Israel is not compatible with the ECHR, as well as being in violation of the Spanish constitution.
The pro-Israeli group ACOM brought the case before the court. In its ruling, the court stated that the boycott constitutes “infringement of the fundamental rights of equality and nondiscrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion, or convictions expressly proscribed by our constitution as well as by international treaties.”
The answer to this tide, of course, is to stop the BDS malaise from spreading once and for all. BDS is already illegal in some European countries, such as France, but it seems to make little difference in the overall European picture, where BDS motions still flourish. What is needed is a final judicial ruling on the utter illegality and incompatibility with human rights legislation from the highest authority on this issue in Europe, namely the European Court of Human Rights.
This is another excellent idea that should be explored to the full by the Israeli government, and not left simply to NGOs and people of goodwill. The answer needs to come from the top.