Germany labels the Israeli ‘BDS’ boycott movement as anti-Semitic

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Germany has dealt a major blow to a movement which calls for a global Israeli economic boycott, as its parliament voted to condemn the effort as anti-Semitic. 

Key points: 

  • The protest movement has sought Israeli economic boycotts since 2005
  • Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on other countries to follow Germany 
  • The motion made reference to Nazi-era Jewish boycotts of Jewish businesses 

The Bundestag’s decision came amid heightened attention on Israel as it hosts the 2019 Eurovision song contest this weekend. 

The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement has been advocating for non-violent pressure on Israel since 2005, as they seek to end the occupation of Palestinian land, grant Arab citizens equal rights and recognise the right of return of Palestinian refugees — but Israel has labelled the movement anti-Semitic. 

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Palestinians have sought statehood in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital, since Israel’s capture of the territories in 1967 Arab-Israeli War. 

In the decades since power-brokers from around the world have pushed Israel and Palestine to work toward a two-state solutionbased on pre-1967 borders, but a resolution has not prevailed. 

The last round of peace talks between Israel and Palestine have been frozen since 2014, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who was recently returned to power for a record fifth term — has been aided by the Trump administration’s change in US policy which has recognised some of the disputed territories as Israel’s own

Ahead of Tel Aviv’s Eurovision Song Contest, human rights activists in support of Palestinian rights earlier had protested outside of the performance venue.

One protester argued that they were there to “say no to sparkles and glitters” while the Arab Palestinian minority were “under occupation”. 

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The motion was submitted in the Bundestag by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, their Social Democrat coalition partners as well as the Greens and Free Democrats.

Securing Israel’s survival has been a priority for Germany since the defeat of the Third Reich at the close of the Second World War, after which an estimated six million Jews were murdered at the hands of German authorities.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the decision in a statement on Twitter.

“I hope that this decision will bring about concrete steps and I call upon other countries to adopt similar legislation,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

The BDS condemned the motion as anti-Palestinian.

“The German establishment is entrenching its complicity in Israel’s crimes of military occupation, ethnic cleansing, siege and apartheid, while desperately trying to shield it from accountability to international law,” it said on Twitter.

Alternative motions by far-right and left defeated

German chancellor Angela Merkel at cabinet meeting

Representatives from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party abstained during the symbolic vote. 

They had submitted their own motion calling for a total ban of the BDS in Germany. 

That motion was defeated.

A majority of the far-left Die Linke party voted against the motion.

The party also submitted its own proposal, which called to oppose the BDS and commit the German government to work toward a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on UN Security Council resolutions. 

Its motion was also defeated.

The motion said a BDS campaign calling for Israeli products to be labelled with “Don’t Buy” stickers was reminiscent of the Nazi-era boycott of Jewish businesses, known in German as “Judenboykott”, which used slogans such as: “Don’t buy from Jews.”

Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, welcomed the Bundestag decision:

“It (the motion) has broader European significance given that BDS makes no attempt to build coexistence and peace between Israel and all of its neighbours,” he wrote on Twitter.