21 November 2020   2 comments

On Thursday the US State Department designated the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

SECRETARY POMPEO: Today I want to make one announcement with respect to a decision by the State Department that we will regard the global anti-Israel BDS campaign as anti-Semitic.  I know this sounds simple to you, Mr. Prime Minister, it seems – it seems like a statement of fact, but I want you to know that we will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct, and withdraw US government support for such groups.  The time is right.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  It doesn’t sound simple – it sounds simply wonderful to me.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Look, we want to stand with all other nations that recognize the BDS movement for the cancer that it is, and we’re committed to combating it.  Our record speaks for itself.  During the Trump administration, America stands with Israel like never before. Indeed, the commitment we’ve made, the ironclad commitment we’ve made to the Jewish state, will continue.  It was – I’m confident that after our conversation this morning – we talked about how we can protect Americans and Israelis in the region from the regime in Tehran.  You talked about this.  They remain – we should not take for granted they remain the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in all the world.

The BDS movement was launched in 2005 in order to change Israeli policy toward Palestinians who lived in Israel and in the Occupied Territories. The effect of the US decision is to penalize individuals, organizations, and companies who support the BDS movement by denying government contracts to those entities. A number of states in the US have passed similar laws, although some of them have not passed a judicial test.

Boycotts have a long and distinguished record in protest movements. Perhaps the most successful boycott in the US was the one against a bus company which discriminated against African-Americans in Montgomery, Alabama. The boycott lasted from December 5, 1955 to December 20, 1956 and ended when the US Supreme Court ruled that segregation on the buses was unconstitutional. Another example of a successful peaceful protest was the one led by Gandhi against the British salt tax in India in 1930. Finally, the divestment and boycott movement against the apartheid system in South Africa in the 1980s was instrumental in focusing the world’s attention on the injustices of racial segregation in South Africa.

Denying the right of people to protest against Israeli policies toward the Palestinians is an affront to the right of peaceful expression. But to go further and label that protest as anti-Semitic is outrageous. Asserting that Palestinians have a right to cultivate land that their families have cultivated for many years is not a measure of hatred toward Jews. Amnesty International issued the following statement after the US announcement was made:

“This is simply the latest attack from a US government determined to undermine the universality of human rights and the global fight against racism and discrimination, including antisemitism.

“Advocating for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is a form of non-violent advocacy and of free expression that must be protected.

“The Department of State’s targeting of groups advocating for using peaceful means – such as boycotts – to end human rights violations against Palestinians as antisemitic violates freedom of expression and is a gift to those who seek to silence, harass, intimidate and oppress those standing up for human rights around the world. 

“The US administration is following the Israeli government’s approach in using false and politically-motivated accusations of antisemitism to harm peaceful activists – including human rights defenders – and shield from accountability those responsible for illegal actions that harm people in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and here at home.”

The Trump Administration has been especially solicitous of Israeli policy. There is no reason in the world why US policy cannot simultaneously defend Israeli security issues while at the same time recognizing the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. It remains to be seen whether President-elect Biden can forge a more even-handed policy toward the two peoples.

Posted November 21, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 responses to “21 November 2020

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  1. What if I want to send you an article you might read? seyffer941@gmail.com Resident of Loomis Village

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