Anti-BDS appeal to German government by top academics gaining momentum

Petition responds to pro-BDS resolution by 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars.

By
July 22, 2019 13:19
2 minute read.
A woman wearing a T-shirt which reads, "Boycott Israel", takes part in a demonstration in favour of

A woman wearing a T-shirt which reads, "Boycott Israel", takes part in a demonstration in favour of the occupied Palestinian people of Gaza in Brussels December 27, 2011.. (photo credit: REUTERS/SEBASTIAN SCHEINER/POOL)

Several hundred internationally renowned scholars have signed an anti-BDS appeal to the German government.

“We have just started collecting signatures and the number of supporters is growing every day,” said Wolfgang Bock, head of the German section of “Scholars for Peace in the Middle East” that co-initiated the petition together with the German NGO “Democracy and Information.”

The resolution demands that the German government adopt a legally non-binding motion passed by Germany’s parliament, the “Bundestag” on May 17, rendering BDS antisemitic and calling to withhold from the movement public financial assets and the uses of public facilities. It follows a competing appeal by a rival group of 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars from June that condemned the anti-BDS motion by the Bundestag and called on the German government not to adopt it.

The June resolution denies the antisemitic character of BDS and renders measures against it an infringement of free speech. Challenging that assumption, the current anti-BDS appeal declares that “Statements by scholars, who present BDS as legitimate and peaceful, concern us deeply. For they misjudge the most dangerous form of antisemitism today, which is directed against the State of Israel as the living sign of Jewish life in the present and the only refuge for persecuted Jews.

“By seeking arguments in favor of the political legitimacy of BDS, they promote - quite certainly without intention - antisemitic forces throughout society.”

In addition, the appeal points out that the objectives, methods and arguments promoted by BDS match the internationally recognized definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

“I think it is outlandish when people say they don’t see anything antisemitic about BDS,” said antisemitism researcher Monika Schwarz-Friesel, one of the appeal’s signatories, in a recent interview with Radio Germany. “BDS promotes ideas that are detached from reality; it demonizes the State of Israel and aims at its destruction.”

Asked about assessments to the contrary by Israeli historians Moshe Zuckermann and Amos Goldberg or prominent Hebrew University sociologist Eva Illouz, who also signed the June pro-BDS petition, Schwarz-Friesel responded that, “those three people are no antisemitism researchers. People may be educated and even be academics. But if they haven’t studied contemporary antisemitism, they still tend to make ideological statements that don’t match with the results of empirical research. Look at the texts and the actions by BDS: There is no doubt that those are antisemitic.”

Accordingly, the anti-BDS appeal states that “to portray the BDS campaign as politically legitimate is to misunderstand the expressions of today’s antisemitism.”

In addition, the appeal dismisses claims that condemning BDS would be tantamount to an infringement of free speech, “immunizing the State of Israel from criticism.”

Such assertions would “deny reality,” according to the appeal. “No other state is so massively and vehemently criticized in public like Israel.”

As of Sunday, July 21, the anti-BDS motion has been signed by around 400 supporters. Among them are prominent scholars from some of the world’s highest-ranking universities, such as historian Jeffery Herf, sociologist Andrei Markovits and historian Benny Morris.

According to the petition's initiators, the number of supporters is currently increasing by an average of about 15 per day. The appeal will be open for signing until August.


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