British Secretary of Justice Michael Gove on Tuesday came out against the BDS movement, saying the “campaign indulges prejudice rather than fighting it.”
In a speech at a conference on anti-Semitism in Berlin, Gove indicated that the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign leads to anti-Semitism.
“[BDS] calls for the shunning of Jewish academics, the boycott of Jewish goods, the de-legitimization of Jewish commerce,” he said at the third Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism. “We have seen these all before. And we know where it takes us.”
More than 100 parliamentarians from nearly 40 countries, as well as a plethora of nongovernmental organizations, attended the conference.
Gove underlined that the government in London has restricted the adaptation of the movement by public bodies in the UK, where BDS efforts have become popular with various student and academia groups.
“We have made clear that local authorities and public bodies cannot adopt BDS policies aimed at Israel; they cannot use public resources to discriminate against Jewish people, Jewish goods and a Jewish state,” he stated.
At the forum, Gove also parlayed a message from British Prime Minister David Cameron, vowing to fight anti-Semitism.
“Together, we will make sure Britain remains a country that Jewish people are proud to call home – today, tomorrow and for every generation to come,” Gove said quoting Cameron.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who addressed the conference on Monday, said anti-Semitism in Germany, whether from natives or refugees, must be confronted by the government and civil society together.
Merkel also said Jews must feel free to speak up when they fear anti-Semitism – and they must be received with sympathy and concern.
Whether it is hate-filled criticism of Israel, vandalism of cemeteries or synagogues, “anti-Semitism and other prejudices have no place in our society,” Merkel said.
The chancellor also defended the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, who she said has been harshly criticized for expressing fears about anti-Semitism among new refugees from Muslim lands. More than 1 million people have sought asylum in Germany in the past year.
“It is perfectly legitimate for someone to share his concern,” Merkel said, noting that many refugees “have grown up with certain stereotypes.”
Merkel commended the conference organizers for addressing anti-Semitism in sports, in the Internet and on the street.
“If gravestones are defaced, then our country itself is defaced. If synagogues are vandalized, this shakes the foundations of our free society,” Merkel said. And demonstrators who call for the destruction of Israel are simply “giving vent to hatred of Jews.” In so doing, they “abuse the fundamental rights in our country to freedom of association and expression.”
She added that fighting all manifestations of anti-Semitism and hate is the “joint role of government and civil society.”
A variety of leaders and politicians at the conference made clear that Jewish communities must not be left to fend for themselves against anti-Semitism.
“We all have to do our part,” Michael O’Flaherty, director of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency, said at the opening of the meeting.
On the table are the challenges of Internet hate, community relations and anti-Semitism in sport, as well as legal, parliamentary and governmental responses to anti-Semitism.
Best practices for combating anti-Semitism will be discussed at the three-day conference, which started Sunday.