Members of Neturei Karta, a fringe ultra-Orthodox movement within the anti-Zionist bloc, attend a protest in solidarity with Palestinians in Hebron in February..
(photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA / REUTERS)
Thirty-nine Jewish groups from across the world have defended the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in an open letter released on Tuesday.
The left-wing groups, ranging from Sweden and South Africa to the UK, Germany and Canada, claimed that “BDS should not be defined as antisemitic.
“Some of the undersigned organizations support BDS in full, others in part, and others have no formal position on BDS,” the groups wrote. “We all affirm the current call for BDS as a set of tools and tactics that should not be defined as antisemitic.”
The 39 Jewish groups stated that “from our own histories we are all too aware of the dangers of increasingly fascistic and openly racist governments and political parties.”
The global letter reads: “The rise in antisemitic discourse and attacks worldwide is part of that broader trend. At times like this, it is more important than ever to distinguish between the hostility to or prejudice against Jews on the one hand and legitimate critique of Israeli policies and system of injustice on the other."
The left-wing organizations criticized the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance
(IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which, they said, “is worded in such a way as... to intentionally equate legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism, as a means to suppress the former.”
They claimed that this comparison “undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism. It also serves to shield Israel from being held accountable to universal standards of human rights and international law.
“We urge our governments, municipalities, universities and other institutions to reject the IHRA definition and instead take effective measures to defeat white supremacist nationalist hate and violence and to end complicity in Israel’s human rights violations,” the groups said. “Israel does not represent us and cannot speak for us when committing crimes against Palestinians and denying their UN-stipulated rights.”
The IHRA defines modern antisemitism in several ways, including calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion; accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust; drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis; accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations; denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination – for example, claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor; and applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
In a statement following the letter’s release, Jewish Voice for Peace said that “the United States has witnessed increasing legislative efforts to criminalize the boycott of illegal Israeli settlements and repress advocacy for Palestinian human rights by defining such acts as antisemitic, with two bills currently under discussion in US Congress. Such efforts are mirrored at the state level, where more than 25 state legislatures have considered or enacted various forms of targeting advocacy for Palestinian rights.
“The State of Israel has waged its own campaign against advocates of BDS,” JVP claimed.
“In January, the Strategic Affairs Ministry announced a ban prohibiting the leaders of 20 organizations worldwide from entering Israel, including Jewish Voice for Peace, for supporting BDS. And in 2015, the Israeli High Court upheld a law which allows individuals to sue individuals calling for a boycott of Israel or of companies profiting from illegal Israeli settlements.”
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace executive director, added that it “is vital that Jewish organizations across the globe stand united against harmful definitions of antisemitism and together for human rights and the freedom to protest. We at JVP are proud to have initiated this historic effort.”
In response to the global letter, the Strategic Affairs Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that the boycott movement, which stands “against the one and only Jewish state, continues to be used by many as a thinly veiled guise for their disdain toward the Jewish people.”
“Israel, like many other countries in the world, including the United States, France, the UK and Germany, recognize the antisemitic undertones of the BDS movement, and will continue to point out and fight such sentiment wherever and whenever it reveals itself,” a spokesman said.
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