In a symbolic move on Friday, the German parliament condemned the BDS – boycott, divest and sanctions – movement for Palestinian rights as anti-Semitic.
The Bundestag passed the motion “Resisting the BDS movement decisively – fighting anti-Semitism,” brought by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the center-left Social Democratic Party, the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats.
Inspired by the tactics of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, the BDS movement was founded by some 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005 with the aim of pressuring Israel to respect Palestinian rights and international law.
It explicitly calls for Israel to end its occupation of Arab lands conquered during the 1967 war; abolish all discriminatory laws and policies against Palestinian citizens of Israel; and respect the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as outlined in UN resolution 194.
Support for the movement has grown increasingly over the past years, attracting high-profile individuals such as South African anti-apartheid veteran Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Smeared as Nazis
The BDS movement is explicitly anti-racist and targets institutional support for Israel’s practices.
Yet Friday’s motion claims without any basis that “the pattern of argument and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic.”
It compares calls not to buy Israeli goods to the Nazi slogan “Don’t buy from Jews.”
It asserts that anyone who “questions the right of the Jewish and democratic state of Israel to exist or Israel’s right to defend itself will meet with our resolute resistance.”
This means, in effect, that anyone who argues that Israeli Jews and Palestinians should have full and equal rights in a single democratic state – similar to post-apartheid South Africa – is deemed an anti-Semite.
Axel Müller, a member of Merkel’s party, told the Bundestag that “the right of the state of Israel to exist is and remains for us a principle of our state.”
He claimed that “in social media, the BDS campaign unfortunately shows again and again that it is influenced by the propaganda of the Nazi dictatorship.”
Last month, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) brought a separate motion calling for legislation banning the BDS movement outright, which failed.
The Left Party brought its own motion calling for the condemnation of any anti-Semitism in calls for BDS, which also failed.
The nonbinding motion calls for the withholding of funding from organizations that call into question Israel’s “right to exist,” organizations that advocate for the boycott of Israeli goods and groups that show support for the BDS movement.
The Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) responded that “The German parliament’s equation of the nonviolent BDS movement for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism is based on outright lies.”
“It’s not only anti-Palestinian McCarthyism, it is a betrayal of international law, German democracy and the fight against real anti-Jewish racism,” the BNC added.
“We call on people of conscience in Germany and beyond to defend the sanctity of universal human rights and freedom of expression by protecting the right to BDS,” the BNC stated, reaffirming that “the academic and cultural boycott of Israel is strictly institutional and does not target individual Israelis.”
More than 60 Jewish and Israeli academics critical of the move signed an open letter stating “we all reject the deceitful allegation that BDS as such is anti-Semitic.”
“The equation of BDS with anti-Semitism has been promoted by Israel’s most right-wing government in history,” the scholars add.
“It is part of persistent efforts to delegitimize any discourse about Palestinian rights and any international solidarity with the Palestinians suffering from military occupation and severe discrimination.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the German parliament’s vote.
But Netanyahu mischaracterized the nonbinding motion as “legislation” that forbids funding of the BDS movement.
“I hope that this decision will bring about concrete steps and I call upon other countries to adopt similar legislation,” Netanyahu stated.
Berlin-based BDS activist Doris Ghannam told The Electronic Intifada, “it is nothing new that BDS is conflated with anti-Semitism, but to talk about BDS without mentioning Israel’s human rights violations – this is unbelievable.”
Activist Christoph Glanz, who won a two-year BDS court case against local authorities in Germany, told The Electronic Intifada that Israel lobbyists had “worked towards such a resolution for years.”
“They knew very well that they would not be able to find a legal basis to outlaw BDS – the European Court of Human Rights would have thwarted this for good – that’s why the resolution is a mere resolution and not a law.”