Palestinians protest German attack on right to boycott Israeli apartheid

Palestinians hold banners during a protest against the German parliament’s vote equating the BDS movement with anti-Semitism, outside Germany’s diplomatic mission in Gaza City on 23 May. A similar march took place a day earlier in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

Mahmoud Ajjour APA images

This week Palestinians marched to Germany’s diplomatic offices in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah and in the besieged Gaza Strip to protest the German Bundestag’s recent resolution equating the BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism.

The marchers in Ramallah on Wednesday delivered a letter signed by representatives of 200 Palestinian civil society groups condemning “in the strongest terms the German parliament’s resolution, which is based on outright lies.”

“We note that the resolution was issued on the 71st anniversary of the Nakba, catastrophe in Arabic, the deliberate and systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the displacement of over 750,000 indigenous Palestinians by Zionist militias and, later, the state of Israel,” the letter states.

BDS is an explicitly anti-racist movement modeled on the international solidarity campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa.

It calls for peaceful pressure on Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid – as well as against complicit corporations and institutions – until Israel fully respects Palestinian rights and international law.

More than 40 Jewish organizations around the world have condemned the “the fraudulent conflation between hostility to or prejudice against Jews on the one hand and legitimate critiques of Israeli policies and system of injustice on the other,” the groups recall in their letter.

Chorus of condemnation

Israel and its lobby have been pressuring governments and institutions around the world to adopt definitions of anti-Semitism that make it easier to justify demonizing and cracking down on campaigners who call for Israel to respect Palestinian rights or who oppose Israel’s state ideology, Zionism.

Zionism is racist because it justifies Israel’s expulsion and exclusion of Palestinians from their homeland, and its violent military attacks and discrimination against them, solely on the grounds that they are not Jewish.

“With this shameful resolution, the Bundestag is undermining the right to freedom of expression, a characteristic of undemocratic and authoritarian regimes, including Israel’s far-right government,” the letter states.

The chorus of condemnation has come from across Palestinian society.

Another Palestinian civil society letter signed by labor and human rights groups calls on international bodies to “to firmly denounce and publicly reject the Bundestag resolution, and to prevent it from passing into law.”

Palestinian Christian groups said they were “saddened and confused” by the German parliament’s condemnation of a movement that “embraces the logic of peaceful means of resistance” against occupation and human rights violations.

Even the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the nominally representative body that is currently controlled by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, called the German Parliament’s resolution “an attack against the Palestinian people and their legitimate and inalienable rights.”

Zionism allied with anti-Semitism

While the vote in the Bundestag is nonbinding, it carries extra symbolism because German elites dress their hostility to Palestinians seeking liberation from Israeli military occupation and apartheid as a form of atonement for the German-led European Christian genocide of European Jews.

In effect, German elites are exporting their Holocaust guilt and making Palestinians pay the price of the crimes of their Nazi parents and grandparents.

The European Union, through its “coordinator on combating antisemitism” Katherina von Schnurbein, has been particularly active in encouraging member states to equate opposition to Zionism, on the one hand, with anti-Jewish bigotry, on the other:

Von Schnurbein has been honored for her efforts by supporters of Israel’s war crimes.

But as Columbia University professor Joseph Massad recently observed, Israel’s “strategy of equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is, in fact, a strategy to conceal and distract from the very real, old anti-Semitism that was always an ally of the Zionist movement – an alliance that goes back to the 1890s and continues to this very day.”

That alliance continues today with the Israeli leadership’s embrace of such far-right, anti-Semitic leaders as US President Donald Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The Palestinian civil society groups call on the Bundestag to repeal its “anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab resolution” and for Germany to end its complicity in “Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid by banning Israel’s illegal settlement products and services [and] ending all military trade and military research with Israel.”

They also urge the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement which grants Israel countless privileges within the European Union.