EU recognizes right to boycott Israel

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, has affirmed that boycotting Israel is a protected free speech right. (European External Action Service)

The European Union recognizes the right of its citizens to boycott Israel, its top foreign policy official has said.

“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 [boycott, divestment and sanctions] actions carried out on this territory,” Federica Mogherini told the European Parliament in answer to a written question in late September.

Mogherini noted that the European Court of Human Rights has affirmed that freedom of expression applies to ideas “that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population.”

She also reaffirmed that the 28-member bloc “rejects the BDS campaign’s attempts to isolate Israel and is opposed to any boycott of Israel.”

“We welcome the EU’s belated defense of the right of European and other citizens to stand in solidarity with Palestinian rights, including through BDS tactics,” Riya Hassan, Europe campaigns officer for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), said in reaction to Mogherini’s statement.

Threats

The EU declaration comes after Israel or entities aligned with it have launched secret “black ops” aimed at sabotaging the Palestine solidarity movement.

This sabotage campaign has been linked to threats and harassment targeting human rights lawyers working with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, under investigation by Dutch police.

Israel has also pressured governments and legislatures to adopt laws and policies aimed at restricting BDS.

Mogherini’s statement may be viewed as a correction to EU policy.

Earlier this year Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU envoy in Tel Aviv, participated in an anti-BDS conference at which Israeli ministers made explicit threats against Palestinian human rights defenders.

The statements caused such alarm that Amnesty International expressed its fears for the “safety and liberty of Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti, and other boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists, following calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, made by Israeli ministers.”

Faaborg-Andersen adamantly defended his participation in the anti-BDS conference and dismissed concerns over the Israeli threats.

Making good on those threats, Israel subjected Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement, to a travel ban.

Growing consensus

Mogherini’s citation of a European Court of Human Rights precedent will send an encouraging message to BDS campaigners in France, who are facing harsh legal repression of their rights.

The EU bureaucracy’s tardy recognition of its citizens’ free speech rights comes after three member governments, Sweden, Ireland and the Netherlands, already explicitly recognized the right to boycott Israel.

Hundreds of European trade unions, church groups and political parties have called on the EU to defend the right to boycott Israel in response to its occupation and violations of Palestinian rights.

While welcoming Mogherini’s statement, the BNC says it still falls far short of where the EU should be.

“Palestinian civil society expects the EU to respect its obligations under international law and its own principles and laws by, at the very least, imposing a military embargo on Israel, banning products of companies that do business in Israel’s illegal colonies and suspending the EU-Israel Association Agreement until Israel fully complies with the human rights clause of the agreement,” Riya Hassan said.

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Please re read the EU's stance again:

Mogherini noted that the European Court of Human Rights has affirmed that freedom of expression applies to ideas “that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population.”
She also reaffirmed that the 28-member bloc “rejects the BDS campaign’s attempts to isolate Israel and is opposed to any boycott of Israel.”

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The EU's stance against BDS should not be confused with their acknowledgement that we have a legal right to publicly express our support for the movement. At the moment, that right is under serious threat in a number of European nations. A clear statement of this kind calls into question laws passed to silence critics of Israel and points to a remedy in European courts. It's a welcome and significant development. No, it doesn't reverse the EU's policy on BDS. But it's an incremental step along the path to justice for Palestine. One of our most senior opponents has been compelled to admit that we have a basic right to work for this cause, and that's new. It can even keep people out of jail.

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She's saying that although the EU is against the BDS campaign, people have the right to have another opinion and to express that opinion.
" Je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai jusqu’à la mort pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire." Voltaire (1694-1778) [I don't agree with what you say but I'll fight till death for your right to say it], ironically in France the BDS campaign is criminalized ....

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I don't see the contradiction. Read *this* part if her statement:

"The EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter...including with regard to BDS..."

That's a pretty unambiguous statement that BDS is protected "freedom of expression" from where I'm sitting, and it conforms with the headline's assertion.

The fact that the EU *opposes* BDS is a separate issue. You can support freedom of speech without supporting the *content* of that speech, which is just what the EU has done here, as I see it. They've admitted BDS isn't illegal, which I suppose is progress, although that should go without saying. Now we have to work on getting them to *support* it!

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This EU statement is meaningless political double-talk of the first order. While recognizing the right of its citizens to boycott Israel as an act of free expression, it reaffirms that the EU member states are opposed to any boycott of Israel.

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With respect, this announcement isn't "meaningless political double-talk". It's a public admission, however reluctant, by a top EU bureaucrat that despite the union's opposition to BDS, advocacy for that cause is legally protected. This is an important concession at a time when BDS campaigners face prosecution in France, to name but one country. Obviously, European elites don't like us and wish we'd shut up. But they've admitted for the first time that we're entitled to go about the business of organising and advocating for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and that's a real step forward.

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Remember south Africa?! In the beginning most European countries as well as the USA were against the boycotting the Apartheid government of South Africa who was a major ally of Israel. We have to be patient and work harder until we succeed in isolating this colonial apartheid state called "Israel".

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she thinks boycotting is wrong and therefore dose not do it 'herself' (EU) but still support the right of another person to think it is right, and to boycott whatever he/she wants... what is wrong is to force another person to boycott by harassment, threats, bullying etc.. one can do whatever he wants, but allow another person to have the same right. you dont want to buy... so dont.. but if i do want to buy .. leave me alone...

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Since the UN is failing to inforce it's own resolutions, and the US is enabling and funding these violations, the EU could actually inforce a boycott with full legal and moral leverage. The EU just missed their leadership opportunity.

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But none of us are facing the stark reality of the situation in the OPTs. The role of BDS, however admirable and however amplified by positive EU action is just not, in itself, a sufficient response to the conflict. It needs to be supplemented by a high-powered Palestinian-driven civic resistance on the ground in conjunction with a tough negotiating strategy. Otherwise, it is just another round of blogs and twitterisms; good for soul but little else. There is absolutely no need for violence: regular nonviolent strategies are all that is required. I am reminded of Daniel O'Connell's 'Monster' meetings in Ireland in the 19th century; he used to bring his own cocktails and then again, we had the huge gatherings that helped bring down the Berlin Wall in the late 1980s.

What on earth is the objection to a massive campaign of 'Monster' sit downs in the OPTs with up to half a million Palestinians and their friends at judicious points throughout the Israeli control system...... just sitting there and literally doing nothing.

Simple...do it!

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What is one to make of an EU statement that seemingly recognises the right to boycott israel while simultaneously stating that it opposes that very same right?
Moreover, the lightweight Mogherini has the audacity to call upon an oppressed and occupied people "to refrain from provocation".

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The EU is becoming more irrelevant each day. UK has already voted to leave. Soon, France and / or Holland will join them. The whole thing is coming apart. Hence, their waffly double talk has no meaning or long term impact.

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