Israeli antisemitic attack on BDS

Thursday, 06 June 2013

The Palestinian BDS National Committee is organizing a strategic conference in Bethlehem University on Saturday, June 8th This initiative is right on time. Just this week, exploited the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism to once again conflate anti-Semitism with political criticisms of Israeli policies. BDS activists beware: Israel seeks to replicate anti-BDS French laws in other countries.

The international BDS campaign is definitely worrying the Israeli authorities. The BDS-skeptical, who claim that BDS has only a very limited impact on Israeli decision makers, if at all, should follow the latest Israeli attempts to counter-attack. These attempts reflect the beginning of panic among Israeli policy makers.

Two years ago the Israeli Knesset passed a law that criminalises any call for boycott or sanctions, and allows alleged victims of such calls to claim  compensation, even when direct harm is not proven. Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom and others have decided to challenge the law in the Israeli Supreme Court. According to the plaintiffs, the law is unconstitutional as it harms the rights of free speech and freedom of opinion.

One must clarify that, unlike the BDS call, Gush Shalom limits its campaign to the boycott of settlement products.

In a written response, the State Attorney’s office admits that there are indeed “constitutional problems in the anti boycott law”. In fact, the law passed despite the opposition of Israel’s government legal adviser, who had assessed that the law may well be cancelled by the Supreme Court. A decision of the Supreme Court is not expected in the near future.

This week in Jerusalem, the Israeli Foreign Ministry hosted the Fourth international conference of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism. What is the connection?

In the plan of action of that Forum, which ostensibly claims to fight anti-Semitism, one can read the following

“Divide Responsibilities – Rather than everyone trying to do everything, identify the comparative advantage of each organization to maximize their effectiveness in proactively and reactively addressing delegitimization threats. The British approach could be a model. For example, encourage groups with ties to labor to focus on working with unions, those with expertise in international relations to devote their attention to members of UN agencies, those involved in media and PR to concentrate on journalists and messaging, those with legal expertise to explore legal avenues for fighting BDS and those active on campus with students, faculty and other stakeholders.

Enhance Intelligence Capabilities – We need to have more information about the organizations promoting delegitimization, including their membership, funding and planned activities.  Nations, foundations and other funders supporting BDS should be named and shamed. Map connections between BDS organizations and their supporters, such as the PA [Palestinian Authority]. Also investigate the BDS efforts toward multinational corporations.

Improve Rapid Response Capabilities – this is one area that has improved since the last Global Forum. By making better use of LAN, the Dream Team and other organized responders, we can provide advice, resources and anything else that local stakeholders may need or want to determine how to respond to BDS campaigns in communities and on campus.

Using Legal Measures – Identify laws that can be used in different countries or states to fight discriminatory practices such as BDS. French law is a model that should be strengthened and replicated where possible.”

That motion confirms the importance of BDS, and the need expressed by the state of Israel and its friends to launch a comprehensive counter-offensive. Nothing new and nothing illegitimate in itself. Except for one important matter: the intentional mix between criticising Israeli politics and even de-legitimising the state of Israel, and anti-Semitism. The participants of that Global Forum know very well the difference between the two, but once again Israel’s propaganda machine cynically instrumentalises the awful accusation of anti-Semitism to de-legitimise legitimate political criticism of Israel.

BDS France should pay attention to the special mention of the “French law as a model [that] should be replicated where possible”. Indeed, during Sarkozy’s presidency, the French government instructed the state attorneys to submit criminal charges against whoever calls for BDS (“Alliot-Marie Instruction”). No other country, except Israel, has adopted such a policy. It is time to cancel this outrageous instruction that makes France the only country where BDS activists are sent to trial.

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