Germany's anti-BDS measure not only about BDS - analysis

“I congratulate the German Bundestag on the important decision branding the boycott movement as an antisemitic movement and announcing that it is forbidden to fund it,” Netanyahu tweeted.

May 20, 2019 00:40
3 minute read.
The BDS movement seeks to destroy Israel’s image in the eyes of the world.’

‘INSTEAD OF fighting the Israeli army on the battlefield or killing civilians through acts of terrorism, the BDS movement seeks to destroy Israel’s image in the eyes of the world.’. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement had a bad week last week, suffering two major setbacks.

First, despite BDS’s best efforts, not only was the Eurovision song contest held in Tel Aviv, with an estimated 200 million viewers seeing Israel as a “normal,” sunny, fun-loving, vibrant, young and energetic country, but the whole party went off without a hitch, apart from a Palestinian scarf displayed for a few seconds by a silly, dystopian Icelandic punk band.
And second, Germany’s Bundestag on Friday passed a resolution condemning BDS as antisemitic.

“The argumentation patterns and methods used by the BDS movement are antisemitic,” read the resolution, the first of its kind passed by a European parliament. The non-binding resolution also puts a ban on governmental support to organizations backing BDS.

That resolution – which heartened some observers concerned that Germany’s feeling of unique responsibility toward Israel and its security is waning as a new generation of German leaders emerges – was backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union, as well as the Social Democratic Party, the centrist Free Democratic Party, and even the Greens.

On the surface, the passage of this motion with such broad backing seems like a sign that Germany – which knows a thing or two about antisemitism – recognizes that with its criticism of certain Israeli policies, and there is criticism, there are redlines that cannot be crossed, and that the BDS crosses those lines. For instance, the resolution said that a BDS campaign calling for Israeli products to be labeled with “Don’t buy” stickers brought to mind the Nazi era boycott of Jewish-owned businesses with the slogan “Don’t buy from Jews.”

But there is more to the story than that. This anti-BDS  resolution also has much to do with internal German politics.

The far right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party – a party shunned both by the organized Jewish community in Germany and by the Israeli government  – had proposed a resolution of its own banning BDS entirely, in a move seen as an effort to embarrass the government which would not support an AfD resolution, but which also would not want to be seen as voting against an anti-BDS motion.

As a result, Merkel’s coalition preempted the AfD bill by putting forward its own resolution. Even the Left party put forward its own milder resolution, calling for the condemnation of any antisemitic BDS statements.

Israel’s official response to the passing of the resolution was telling, with everyone from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, through Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein all issuing statements thanking and congratulating the Bundestag, but pointedly not mentioning the Merkel government.

“I congratulate the German Bundestag on the important decision branding the boycott movement as an antisemitic movement and announcing that it is forbidden to fund it,” Netanyahu tweeted.

Katz wrote: “We welcome the decision of the Bundestag, which by a large majority passed a resolution against the BDS Movement.”

Likewise Edelstein tweeted: “Thank you #Bundestag for the courageous and important decision!”

Why this emphasis on the German parliament – at the expense of the German government – in the responses by Israeli officials?

Because even as the Bundestag was condemning BDS as antisemitic, Germany continues to have a robust trade relationship with Iran and is at the forefront of European efforts to set up ways to circumvent US sanctions on Iran and continue to boost trade with the Islamic Republic.

Berlin, Jerusalem is concerned, may now try to wave the anti-BDS resolution in Israel’s face when it – or the United States – is critical of Germany’s relationship with Tehran.

The official response to the BDS measure is a signal that while appreciative of this measure, the resolution does not exonerate Germany – whose chancellor has said Israel’s security is part of its raison d’être – from harsh criticism for its relationship with Iran, a country that has openly declared a desire to destroy the Jewish state.

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