200 legal scholars back right to boycott Israel

Palestinians say landmark statement by 200 European legal scholars will help protect against the repression of activists calling for boycott of Israel.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler ActiveStills

More than 200 European legal scholars have signed a statement affirming that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality represents “a lawful exercise of freedom of expression.”

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is welcoming the statement as “a major blow to Israel’s repressive legal war” against the movement.

“This momentous statement by European jurists not only vindicates BDS human rights defenders who have insisted that BDS is protected free speech,” said the BNC’s Europe campaigns coordinator Riya Hassan. “It will undoubtedly add a crucial layer of legal protection for European BDS networks and citizens in their efforts to end European complicity in Israel’s regime of oppression, especially in military trade and research, banking and corporate involvement in Israel’s violations of international law.”

The BNC notes that the signatories include world-renowned legal figures, including South African jurist John Dugard, who serves as a judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague; José Antonio Martín Pallín, an emeritus justice of Spain’s supreme court; British human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield; Lauri Hannikainen, member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance and Géraud de la Pradelle, who led the civic inquiry into the involvement of France in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

No exception for Israel

While the jurists do not take a position for or against BDS, they say that “states that outlaw BDS are undermining this basic human right and threatening the credibility of human rights by exempting a particular state from the advocacy of peaceful measures designed to achieve its compliance with international law.”

They point to France, the United Kingdom, Canada and various US states, where legislatures and executives “have adopted laws and taken executive action to suppress, outlaw and in some instances, criminalize the advocacy of BDS.”

By contrast, Sweden, Ireland, the Netherlands, the European Union and even the US State Department have all recently affirmed that advocating for BDS is a protected right.

“States and organizations that view BDS as a lawful exercise of freedom of expression are correct,” the legal scholars say. “Whether one approves of the aims or methods of BDS is not the issue. The issue is whether in order to protect Israel an exception is to be made to the freedom of expression that occupies a central and pivotal place among fundamental human rights.”

“Defining moment”

“The right of citizens to advocate for BDS is part and parcel of the fundamental freedoms protected by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights,” signatory Robert Kolb, a professor of international law at the University of Geneva and a former legal adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss foreign ministry, said in a statement from the BNC.

“No government ever attempted to outlaw or criminalize the anti-apartheid movement for advocating boycott, disinvestment or sanctions to compel South Africa to abandon its racist policies,” Dugard said. “BDS should be seen as a similar movement and treated accordingly.”

The legal scholars join hundreds of European human rights organizations and civil society groups that have called on governments to end repression of Palestine solidarity activism.

Speaking on behalf of the BNC, Ingrid Jaradat welcomed the statement as “a defining moment in the struggle against Israel’s patently repressive legal war on the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.”

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I care. And I'm not no one. (I'm not anonymous, either.)

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Excellent news. This right needs to be affirmed and reaffirmed again and again. In fact, it is difficult to boycott the industrial and military establishement of the prosperous country of Israel. What is important is to maintain the non-violent protest against the Israeli government's stand on the rights of Palestinians in every way possible, and the BDS movement has proved to have attracted much attention. The idea is to inform so that, hopefully soon, a majority of the world's governments will care enough to exercise pressure on Israel to end the occupation and all its pernicious practices.

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The reaction of the Israeli lobby all over the world is what really makes the best argument for a closer look by those listening now for the first time.

In other words, the reaction, the anger, the hate, and the slanderous attacks that peaceful words and honest conversation creates is more telling than 50/70 years of being kept in the dark. Reality is stronger than that. And the ones who fight against truth are being EXACTLY what one would expect from a liar. Lying more and harder in desperation that they don't even try to mask. Someone who feels they can lie with impunity will make the biggest mistakes when they believe everyone is stupid or controlled.

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This is good,as Israel assumes its pariah status..it will lash out at anything or anybody that criticizes it appalling treatment of the Palestinians...this is a sure sign that the message is getting home to Israeli's.
I use to run a small retail operation where i meet people of all Nationalities and cultures..one day i was having general discussion with a customer..who now lives in the U.K...he silently told me he use be in the Israeli army
I got the distinct impression this was something he was not proud off...There is a simple solution to the Israeli/Palestinian situation...1) share the land with equal rights for all 2) a viable independent Palestinian State on the 1967 borders...The Israeli's have picked neither these options but the worst option of all...to occupy indefinately the the West Bank..and build settlements and deny the Palestinians any rights.. put them into ghetto's in the West Bank and with it Israel's own concentration camp the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli tactic is to wear down any resistence over time so that the Palestinians will accept anything the Israeli's will offer, and reject UN resolution 242
History shows an indiginous population will resist untill virtually wiped out...The other option Israel is considering is Ethnic cleansing .i.e create a refuge crises like as in Syria and then it becomes the rest of the worlds problems
There is no limit to the idiotic Zionist policies...non of this will work in the long run...Israel will be no longer be a Jewish majority state as the Palestinian population will exceed the Jewish population soon

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BDS should not even be questioned as a right for anyone. People can boycott whoever the f... they want. That this right is even questioned or oppressed, shows the power of Israel and its lobbies in western countries.

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@ anonymus: I also care (I'm not no one) and I'm sure all people with a conscience cares.
Hurray for these European LAW Scholars! much appreciated.

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i guess you all missed 60 minutes on sunday, december 11. i watched it on-line, but the link i was going to include doesn't work.

in any rate, as you will see, once the subjective-emotion is removed from the equation, you will come to realize that in fact, no one cares.

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Many people care, but not enough of the people with in government or mainstream media care. The Israel Lobby has lots of money and influence, and are single issue people--putting Apartheid Israel first. When people with money and power make a stand against Israeli Apartheid and Ethnic cleansing of NonJews, then there will be a change. Zionists will do whatever they can to support Israel's policies, however cruel and unjust they are.

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i'm not saying that bds is or even should be illegal. i don't care what you buy or what you choose not to buy. that's my point - no one cares what you do or don't purchase. the 60-minutes discusses the incredible amount of fdi coming into israel and how israel's tech-exports are being used as a form of commercial diplomacy and normalization within the arab/muslim world. whether or not you support that really isn't all together that relevant; if at all.

and my hope is that, in the interest of bds, you are boycotting absolutely everything with israeli components - such as the computer you're using and the cell-phones you speak over, or the vaccines you've received and subsequently given to your children.

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No one cares? The government of Israel cares very much. They're deporting people who support BDS. They now have a top level department entirely devoted to defeating BDS. Their surrogates in the U.S. political system are passing laws to punish BDS related activities on campus and in civil society. Blacklisting has been reintroduced in America by anonymous organizations. More than one Israeli government minister has pronounced BDS "an existential threat" to the state. And you wouldn't be posting these comments at a site you no doubt loathe unless you, too, were worried.

And by the way, I notice that nowhere do you address the central question in all of this- why is the BDS movement attracting greater support with each passing year? Naivete? Antisemitism, perhaps? A failure to understand computer components? Or could it be that we refuse to do nothing while a rapacious racist state consumes the last scraps of Palestinian land and condemns the native inhabitants to a life of poverty, oppression, exile or worse?

I'd really like to know. Why? Because, as I said before, I care.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.