Ups and downs in the fight against BDS

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.

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8 Responses to Ups and downs in the fight against BDS

  1. Pingback: Ups and downs in the fight against BDS – 24/6 Magazine

  2. Elise Ronan says:

    As an American with an American view of free speech let me clarify a point. Freedom of speech allows you to say anything and everything you want. it doesn’t have to be “good speech or non-hatefilled speech.” It can be lies and even defame someone to a point. The idea is that the person or people offended can sue for libel and slander, and the party who objects to the political speech can counter what is said. That is why you hear all kinds of speech in the US from Louis Farrakhan to David Duke to the insanity of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

    Now laws against boycotting Israel is something else. They are legitimate; companies and people can be held to account. This in no way dims freedom of speech. Government has a right to regulate commerce. That is what these laws would fall under. In truth, if the government wanted to, it could remove the law against boycotting Israel any time it wished. It really depends upon how the political winds blow and that is why countering the lies of BDS is important.

    Moreover, the banks that have shut down BDS accounts, have chosen two paths: one is the hate speech laws of the countries in which they have their headquarters or branches and the other is the anti-terrorism laws of those countries. BDS, once seen for what it truly is, support for those who perpetrate worldwide terrorism, will fall afoul of all these laws.

    And yes, lawsuits are good, as long as they are permitted to proceed. Sadly, the recent law that was just passed in the US, which allowed for terror victims to sue Saudi Arabia, is a farce, because of the addendum that Sen Schumer placed in the bill, which basically gives an out to Saudi Arabia. So while, Shurat ha Din and some other lawyers have been able to find laws under which to sue the nations-banks and organizations that sponsor terror, the US government is still protecting the Saudi royal family, and the family of Qatar.

    Now the problem you spoke of occurs when in other countries, as you have listed, that have hate speech laws. It is absolutely hypocritical to say that a person cannot offend a Moslem by questioning the veracity of their religion, but its OK to call for genocide against the Jews. It’s not so much about freedom of speech as a sheer double standard, without question antisemitism. Also, it is important to go back and to see where any number of politicians get their funding. Every politician is a money-whore. They say things that will please their backers, whether it is right of wrong. Follow the money.

    Example; France and their votes in UNESCO and WHO which were blatantly antisemitic. France has said a mea culpa. Yet we know they are full of garbage. People forget that Qatar has given France 10 billion dollars over the last years. They want to keep Qatar happy. That is also why this so called peace conference is a huge farce. I am glad that Israel is not participating. Of course, in the first round, Israel wasn’t even invited. It is the Eu, the US and Russia thinking they are gong to decide Israel’s fate. I hope Bibi told Vallis that this is not 1938 and Israel is not the Sudetenland.

    The question of judges in the Netherlands is not unique. Remember that the Dutch Jewish community was basically wiped out during WW2. They suffered the greatest percentage loss of Jewish life in Europe ( as opposed to the larger general number in Poland). It was because of their Dutch neighbors and how these neighbors, really supported the Nazis. Why does anyone think that the grandchildren of these people who so happily turned over their Jews, wouldn’t carry the same antisemitic animus as their grandparents? The fact is that Europe is no different than it was 70 years ago. They simply covered it up and played pretend that it was something other than Jew-hatred. But they have overstepped this time. There is no way that their actions can’t be seen for what it is, antisemitism. The question is what are the Jews going to do about it and when are they going to do it?

    • anneinpt says:

      Elise, thank you for your excellent comment. You’ve enlightened me, and I’m sure many of my readers, as to the intricacies of the law regarding free speech and boycotts, and how they differ in each country.

      I think what annoys me more than anything else is that this hateful ‘free speech’ is almost solely only applied to Israel. If anyone tried defaming Muslims or blacks or any other minority, all hell would break loose. So if it’s not an issue of free speech it is certainly an issue of double standards, as Tim Hudaq pointed out in the Ontario Parliament.

      As for Europe, yeah, I have little to no expectations from them.

      I’m not sure I share your optimism that they have overstepped the mark this time, by going overboard with antisemitism. Maybe people feel a little uncomfortable, and the press are having a field day reporting on it all, but the fuss will die down when a new scandal comes along, but the antisemitism will remain.

      I hope you’re right, but I won’t hold my breath until it happens.

      As for what will the Jews do, that is a VERY good question, with no good answers. Some local communities go on the offensive, taking boycotters to court or shaming the antisemites. Some prefer the “sha sha, what will the goyim say?” attitude of keeping a low profile. Some will be proud of Israel when she hits back, some will be embarrassed. We need to have a unified front, just like the Palestinians, but the day that the Jews have only one unified opinion is the day the Messiah will arrive.

  3. Reality says:

    Then how come in Europe ,one has to be sooo careful about what you say re Islam,Muslims etc.. Or even drawing cartoons?That IS considered hate speech,but pure anti Israel/Jewish speech IS allowed.A friend recently told me,(I really don’t know if this is true)that you can’t say Merry Christmas,because it offends the Muslims! Everything is free speech ,only when the Muslims are happy apparently,and the entire European world plays along with them.They will get what they deserve one day,and will be shocked at how they “suddenly”arrived at a point when a Shaaria law complete takeover arrives on their doorstep..I will be rubbing my hands in schadenfreuden glee!

    • anneinpt says:

      That’s the whole double standard – that antisemitism is the one prejudice that is not recognized as such. Sometimes the westerners even acknowledge the hypocrisy and freely admit it’s because they’re scared of the Muslims, with justice. Jews aren’t violent therefore they can insult us with ease and keep the Muslims happy at the same time. A twofer.

      Your Merry Xmas story is partially true. The avoidance of using the wish is from the West, not the Muslims – again because they’re afraid of insulting the Muslims. pathetic. They have no backbone.

      Schadenffreude is tempting if Europe gets taken over by Sharia but our situation in Israel would become even worse. Be careful what you wish for!

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