BERLIN — German lawmakers on Friday approved a resolution denouncing the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel, describing its methods as anti-Semitic and reminiscent of Nazi-era calls to boycott Jews.
The motion called on the German government not to support events organized by BDS or other groups that actively pursue its aims, and vowed that parliament wouldn’t finance any projects that call for a boycott of Israel or actively support the movement. It was filed by the country’s three governing parties, along with two mainstream opposition parties, and passed by a large majority.
The German motion stated that “the pattern of argument and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic.”
“The campaign’s calls to boycott Israeli artists, along with stickers on Israeli goods that are meant to dissuade people from buying them, are also reminiscent of the most terrible phase of German history,” it added. “The BDS movement’s ‘Don’t Buy’ stickers on Israeli products inevitably awake associations with the Nazi slogan ‘Don’t Buy from Jews!’ and similar scrawls on facades and shop windows.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the decision and said he hoped it would lead to “concrete steps” to halt funding for pro-boycott groups.
Israel’s ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff hailed the “important” move.
“This is an important decision in its own right and especially as it was adopted in a leading parliament in Europe,” he said. “The decision reflects the understanding that BDS makes no attempt to build bridges, to engage in dialogue and to encourage coexistence for stability and peace between Israel and all its neighbors.”
Lawmaker Yair Lapid called for the rest of Europe to follow Germany’s lead, calling BDS a “modern manifestation of an ancient hatred.”
The decision by the Bundestag to label the BDS movement antisemitic and call on the German government to oppose all forms of BDS is an important and just step. BDS is the modern manifestation of an ancient hatred. Now is the time for the rest of Europe to follow Germany’s lead.
— יאיר לפיד Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) May 17, 2019
This non-binding resolution was sponsored jointly by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian-Democratic Union and the Social Democrats — the Bundestag’s two largest parties, which make up the governing coalition — as well as two opposition parties: the Greens and the pro-business Free Democratic Party.
The lower house in Berlin voted down two rival motions. One, from the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, called for a ban on the BDS movement. The other, from Die Linke, or the Left Party, condemned “all anti-Semitism” in BDS calls for boycotts.
AfD, which opposes migration and Islam, has itself been accused of playing down Nazi crimes.
Helge Lindh, a lawmaker with the governing Social Democrats, said: “We clearly say no to AfD’s cheap attempt to instrumentalize anti-Semitism for its anti-Muslim racism.”
The AfD draft, the only one that calls on the government to outlaw the boycott movement, had little chance of garnering a majority. The Die Linke text was the softest of the three, sufficing with urging Berlin to condemn “anti-Semitism within” the BDS movement.
The issue of how Germany should tackle calls for boycott of the Jewish state has stirred some controversy. Various critics — including a group of Israeli and Jewish academics — worry that equating calls for a boycott with anti-Semitism could stifle freedom of speech, and lament that it makes no distinctions between Israel proper and the settlements, which much of the international community consider illegal.
‘BDS methods are anti-Semitic’
“There is no legitimate justification for anti-Semitic sentiments. The decisive ‘no’ to hatred on Jews, regardless of their nationality, is part of Germany’s raison d’etat,” the coalition-backed resolution [German] reads. “It is intolerable that anti-Semitism has increased in recent years and continues to worry the Jewish community.”
The resolution pledges that Germany will “strongly oppose” efforts to defame Jews or to question “the Jewish and democratic State of Israel’s right to exist, or right to self-defense.”
Citing a “special historical responsibility,” the resolution reiterated Chancellor Merkel’s statement that Israel’s security is part of Germany’s raison d’etat.
Germany continues to support a two-state solution in accordance with several United Nations resolutions, leading to a “Jewish, democratic State of Israel and an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state,” the resolution reads.
The resolution concludes with a detailed call on federal and local government institutions not to give any funding or logistical support to groups that promote boycotts of Israel or question its right to exist.
According to Spiegel Online, Germany’s most widely read news outlet, lawmakers from the Greens and the Social Democrats originally wanted to add a sentence to the resolution stressing that “criticism of Israeli government policies” are protected under free speech laws and must continue to be allowed.
But at the behest of the Free Liberal Party, this clause was removed, because, as one MP told the website, “criticism of foreign governments is self-evident, and doesn’t need a special mention.”
It is perhaps ironic that the coalition-backed resolution was criticized by the populist Alternative for Germany as too weak on BDS.
The party, known by its German acronym AfD, is taboo among German Jewish community leaders and Israeli officials. Ambassador Issacharoff reiterated last week that he avoids all contact with the party, due to its alleged nostalgic sentiments toward Nazi Germany.
The party’s alternative resolution [German] denounces the distinction made by many in the international community between Israel proper and settlements, including the demand for labels to be placed on Israeli goods made in the West Bank, as a form of boycott. The labeling regime instituted by the European Union and other countries created a “de facto economic recognition” of an independent Palestinian state, “without this being legitimate in any form,” the AfD text laments.
The resolution backed by the mainstream factions leaves “a loophole for the ruling parties to keep funding BDS groups, as they have been for years,” AfD foreign policy spokesman Petr Bystron charged in a press release issued Wednesday.
“The majority-party bill only wants the government to stop funding ‘BDS events’ and ‘projects,’ not groups, and says nothing about a ban of such groups,” the freshman MP lamented.
Beatrix von Storch, one of the AfD’s most prominent members, vowed to “continue to fight against the misuse of German taxpayer funds to support anti-Israel NGOs.” Von Storch co-founded the Friends of Judea and Samaria in the European Parliament, the party said.
The third draft, by the far-left Die Linke, also condemns anti-Semitism and expresses “unlimited solidarity” with the Jewish people’s “historic emancipation” that culminated in the founding of the State of Israel. At the same time, it acknowledges Palestinian suffering following the 1948 War of Independence and the 1967 Six Day War, noting that this suffering is “deeply anchored as ‘nakba’ in the Palestinian collective memory.”
The Die Linke resolution [German] also condemns BDS, though it stops short of outright calling it anti-Semitic. Rather, it says that calls for boycotts are unacceptable and should be deplored “whenever they are reminiscent of anti-Semitic positions espoused by Nazi fascism.”
Finally, it calls on the government to “condemn any anti-Semitism within BDS calls to boycott Israeli scientists, artists and athletes, as well as Israeli goods and companies.”
Meanwhile, an online petition signed by more than 60 Israeli and Jewish academics argues that the “amalgamation” of calls for boycotts with anti-Semitism “is wrong, unacceptable and a threat to Germany’s democratic foundation.”
While some of the signatories — including well-known professors from universities in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, London and Paris — may dislike BDS, “we all reject the fallacious claim that the BDS movement as such is anti-Semitic, and we defend every person and every organization’s right to support it.”