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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Cabinet members attend parliamentary debate on 16 May 2019.
Palestinian religious, political and civil society leaders protest German parliament's resolution against BDS movement, May 2019
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Protest for Palestine in Berlin, Germany, December 2017 (Reuters)
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German Parliament smears BDS as anti-Semitic,
compares to Nazi era
Palestinians and human rights defenders respond with dismay and outrage
On May 17, 2019, in a misguided
response to increasing anti-Semitic
incidents in Germany and across Europe
as well as strong Israeli lobbying, the
primary chamber of the German
parliament, the Bundestag, passed
the BDS (boycott, divestment and
sanctions) movement for Palestinian
human rights as anti-Semitic, comparing
it to actions seen during Germany’s Nazi
era and calling for a ban on government
funding for projects associated with the
The first of its kind by a major European
government, the resolution titled “Resisting the BDS movement decisively – fighting anti-Semitism,” has generated a firestorm of response from the Palestinian Authority and bodies that span all of Palestinian society, as well as hundreds of Jewish and Israeli scholars. Critics have charged that it violates international legal conventions, European Union law, and the Germany constitution.
Kairos Palestine has responded that “Christians in Palestine are saddened and confused” by the Germans’ resolution, stating: “the Palestinian BDS movement embraces the logic of peaceful means of resistance.” They urge the Bundestag to reverse the resolution and asked: “What other avenue would our German brothers and sisters ask us to take in order to overcome this historic injustice…?”
The public statement from the Palestinian Foreign Ministry says that the German resolution “disregards the fact that Israel is a state of ethnic cleansing, a state of racial discrimination, an outlawed state that commits crimes against the Palestinian people and occupies the Palestinian land while going unpunished.”
Senior Palestinian official and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat stated: "We find this resolution to be utterly biased, void of any context and an affront to the right to freedom of expression,” and described the resolution as "a clear move towards criminalizing boycott, a peaceful and legal tool in the struggle against the Israeli occupation.”
Ironically, just five months ago in December 2018, a German court confirmed that BDS advocacy falls under the rights to freedom of expression and assembly protected by the German constitution.
Also challenging the recent German resolution is the 2016 statement from the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, in response to a Parliamentary Question submitted by a representative of Northern Ireland in the European Parliament. In her “Question for written answer,” Martina Anderson noted that “more than 350 European civil society organisations recently released a statement regarding the need for the EU to protect the right to freedom of expression for BDS activists” and asked “Will the Commission commit to defending BDS activists' right to exercise their democratic freedom of expression?” The written response on behalf of the Commission from Vice-President Federica Mogherini states: “The EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is applicable on EU Member States' territory, including with regard to BDS actions carried out on this territory.”
The May 2019 motion titled
“Resisting the BDS movement
decisively – fighting anti-Semitism,
was brought by Chancellor Angela
Merkel’s party and supported by
Germany’s other largest party as
well as opposition parties. Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu
and most in the Israeli government
celebrated the parliamentary motion,
and Israel is urging the German
government to implement it.
However, at least one Israeli lawmaker
letter to German leaders calling this legislation ”disturbing and destructive for the possibility of peace here on the ground.” Former Israeli Ambassador Ilan Baruch wrote to Germany's former Foreign Minister, stating: "In Germany, permeated with guilt toward the Jews and Israel, equating BDS – however much we oppose it – and anti-Semitism … has no moral basis….There are anti-Semites who are friends of the Netanyahu government… and there are Jewish supporters of BDS. The fact that there are anti-Semites who are present in the BDS movement doesn't make it anti-Semitic. It is anti-Israel.”
While some might welcome Baruch’s assessment, there are also many who have had a role in the movement who would object to the movement’s description as “anti-Israel.” Many church organizations have taken actions of divestment and called for boycotts that target Israel’s decades-long military occupation of Palestinian territories and extensive violations of Palestinian human rights, but those actions should not be characterized as “anti-Israel.” Rather they are anti-apartheid, -colonialism, and -ethnic cleansing, and pro-universal human rights, - international law, supporting freedom, justice and equality for all Palestinians and Israelis.
Indeed, peace and justice advocates in Israel have welcomed the divestment and boycott actions by Christian denominations as being in the best interests of Israelis, taken with a view to achieving a just and lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors.
Hundreds of Israeli and other Jewish scholars including “leading researchers in anti-Semitism,” while noting that they have differing personal positions on the BDS movement, have publicly expressed to German leaders: “we all reject the deceitful allegation that BDS as such is anti-Semitic and maintain that boycotts are a legitimate and non-violent tool of resistance….it should also be noted that many Jewish and Israeli individuals and groups either support BDS explicitly, or defend the right to support it. We consider it inappropriate and offensive when German governmental and parliamentary institutions label them anti-Semitic.”
There have already been some activist responses within Germany to this resolution, and Palästina Sprecht (Palestine Speaks) is organizing a public protest for 28 June. It remains to be seen whether the outcry from German citizens, Palestinian leaders and organizations, and Jewish scholars will be heeded by the German government as it deliberates whether to enforce the non-binding resolution, which the Israeli government is lobbying Germany to do.
The German parliament
(The Bundestag) decision on
the boycott movements is a bias
towards occupation, settlement
and racial discrimination
[The PNC is the legislative body
of the PLO, the official international representative of the Palestinian people.]
Palestine Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns Germany's decision on labeling BDS as anti-Semitic
Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC): Palestinians unanimously condemn German Parliament’s attack on the right to boycott Israel’s apartheid and colonization
Palestinian Civil Society Statement in Response to the German Bundestag: Anti-BDS Resolution Violates Principles of International Law, Stands against Palestinian Civil Society and Aspirations for Freedom, Justice, and Dignity
Kairos Palestine: A Call for the German Bundestag to Reverse its May 17, 2019 Resolution
60 Jewish and Israeli Scholars: Call to German Parties Not to Equate BDS
with Anti-Semitism - 15 May 2019
Do Not Equate ‘BDS’ with Anti-Semitism - 3 June 2019
Palästina Sprecht (Palestine Speaks): We call on the German government
to fight racism and apartheid – not those who oppose them
Counterpunch: On Equating BDS With Anti-Semitism: a Letter to the Members
of the German Government – Open Letter by Dr. Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar,
Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University; prominent academic
specialist on Israel/Palestine
REPORTS, ANALYSIS, COMMENTARY
NY Times: German Parliament Deems B.D.S. Movement Anti-Semitic
Middle East Monitor: Germany votes to define BDS as anti-Semitic
Electronic Intifada: German parliament smears quest for Palestinian rights as anti-Semitic
Electronic Intifada: The perverse logic of Britain’s foreign minister
[Rebutting UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt’s argument for the German resolution: that boycotting “the world’s only Jewish state” is anti-Semitic.]
Jewish News Syndicate: In backdrop of increased incidents against Jews in Europe, German lawmakers declare BDS anti-Semitic
Haaretz: German Parliament Passes Motion Condemning BDS as anti-Semitic
Ma’an News: Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemns Germany's vote to define BDS as 'anti-Semitic'
Haaretz: Palestinians: Germany's anti-BDS Motion 'Punishes Nonviolent Resistance'
Haaretz: Editorial Board: A Win for Deniers of the Occupation
Palestine Chronicle: Perpetuating Racism: the Motivations behind the
Could Be Declared Illegal
Haaretz: Israel Claims Victory After Germany's BDS Ban at the Expense
+972 Magazine: In Germany, the anti-BDS zeitgeist has taken over
ON ENFORCING THE GERMAN RESOLUTION
Middle East Monitor: 240 Israel and Jewish professors urge Germany not to enforce anti-BDS law
Haaretz: Israel Lobbies German Government to Enforce Motion Defining BDS as anti-Semitic
BDS Movement: German Court Confirms BDS Advocacy is Protected Freedom of Expression and Assembly
ECC Palestine: 358 European human rights organisations, church groups, trade unions and political parties call on the EU to support their right to boycott
The Statement and Signatories (Download PDF)
European Parliament: Parliamentary Question for written answer from the European Commission [executive body of the European Union]
Subject: Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and freedom of expression
European Parliament: Answer by Federica Mogherini, Vice-President, on behalf of the European Commission