Israel, US urge EU to take action against ‘anti-Semitic’ boycott movement

Minister Erdan presents report claiming dozens of examples of anti-Semitism by key European promoters of BDS against Jewish state

Illustrative: Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, left, US  envoy for combating anti-Semitism, Elan Carr, center, and director of the European Jewish Association Mencahem Magolin presenting a report on BDS in Brusels, Belgium on September 25, 2019 (Yonni Rykner)
Illustrative: Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, left, US envoy for combating anti-Semitism, Elan Carr, center, and director of the European Jewish Association Mencahem Magolin presenting a report on BDS in Brusels, Belgium on September 25, 2019 (Yonni Rykner)

Israeli and US officials warned Wednesday of a rise in attacks on Jews in western Europe and urged European Union leaders to stop funding organizations that support an international boycott of Israel, claiming they are encouraging anti-Semitism.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said before meeting with a group of European lawmakers that the EU should make sure its money does not go to groups that support the Palestinian-led boycott movement.

In Brussels, Erdan also released a report cataloging alleged examples of BDS branches or activists using anti-Semitic content in their campaigns.

He accused movement activists of hiding their true agenda behind liberal values such as protecting human rights and freedom of expression.

“BDS leaders who use anti-Semitic language and images that also prove their principles, of boycotting the Jew among the nations, Israel, are anti-Semitic,” Erdan said.

The report included 80 examples of what Erdan called anti-Semitism by key European promoters of the BDS movement against Israel.

Jenny Tonge (screen capture: YouTube)

In one example from April, Jenny Tonge, a lawmaker in the upper chamber of the British parliament, asked on Facebook whether the wounding of 27 Palestinians, including a baby, in clashes with Israeli troops was “all to celebrate the Passover?”

Blood libels involving the trope that Jews use blood to bake matzah for Passover have for centuries been a motif of anti-Semitism in Europe.

In another, Robert-Willem van Norren, a promoter of BDS in the Netherlands, is seen holding up a caricature of the Israel flag with a cockroach instead of the Star of David.

Erdan also protested the hosting in July of a conference of BDS promoters with alleged links to the Palestinian PFLP terrorist organization. Erdan said the European Union offers funding to groups involved in promoting anti-Semitism.

The BDS campaign, founded in 2005, calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, cultural institutions and universities.

The campaign compares itself to the anti-apartheid movement targeting South Africa in the second half of the 20th century and its nonviolent message has resonated with audiences around the world.

But Israel says the movement, which has among its goals the return of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to former homes in Israel, masks a deeper aim of delegitimizing or even destroying the country.

“We have proven beyond a doubt that BDS is an anti-Semitic campaign led by supporters of terror with one purpose: the elimination of the Jewish state,” Erdan said.

A protester holds a sign reading ‘Boycott Israel, free Palestine’ during a Quds-day Demonstration in Berlin, on June 9, 2018. (AFP/Tobias Schwarz)

The report included a large number of examples the Ministry of Strategic Affairs said were gathered from BDS activists’ social media, for instance a cartoon of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding a butcher’s axe flanked by Orthodox Jews and confronting Palestinian stone throwers.

Erdan spoke alongside US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism Elan Carr at a news conference to launch the report, titled “Behind The Mask: The Anti-Semitic Nature of BDS Exposed,” which urges world leaders to stop funding groups linked to the movement.

“I am here to express the United States’ position that this is anti-Semitism, and we stand unequivocally with the State of Israel in combating this scourge,” Carr said.

BDS leaders deny allegations of anti-Semitism, saying their campaign is against Israeli policies.

“With its alliances with fascist and anti-Semitic forces around the world, Israel’s far-right regime is in no position to preach about fighting anti-Jewish bigotry,” Omar Barghouti, a BDS founder, said. “Its propaganda claims against the anti-racist BDS movement for Palestinian rights are as credible as Trump’s climate protection credentials.”

Israel called on the EU last year to stop funding more than a dozen European and Palestinian non-governmental organizations, alleging some of the NGOs had links to terror groups.

The European Union opposes the BDS movement and denies funding boycott activities, but has defended the movement’s activities as falling under the right to free speech.

Erdan said he hopes the EU’s departing foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, will cut ties with BDS-linked organizations before leaving her post. In July, she said the bloc was not funding work related to boycott activities.

Federica Mogherini, top foreign policy official for the European Union, speaks during a news conference in Bogota, Colombia, September 12, 2019. (Fernando Vergara/AP)

In a statement released Wednesday, the EU said it has not changed its position regarding the BDS.

“While it upholds its policy of clearly distinguishing between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied by it since 1967, the EU rejects any attempts to isolate Israel and does not support calls for a boycott,” it said.

According to numbers compiled by Tel Aviv University, anti-Semitic attacks worldwide rose 13 percent from 2017 to in 2018. The United States, France, Britain and Germany had the most attacks.

However, the majority of those attacks were linked to the ascendant far-right, which is not allied to the Palestinian cause.

Promoting BDS is illegal in France and Spain. Earlier this year, the German Bundestag passed a motion defining the movement as anti-Semitic.

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