The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is antisemitic, the German Bundestag ruled on Friday in a landmark vote. It called on governmental bodies not to finance or support any organizations that support BDS or question Israel’s right to exist.
Germany is the first European Union member state to approve such a measure.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli politicians immediately welcomed the German Parliament’s support for the longstanding battle against the BDS movement.
“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. “I hope that this decision will bring about concrete steps and I call upon other countries to adopt similar legislation.”
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said the vote was “an important step in the war against the boycott and the new antisemitism,” and argued that “the true face of the boycott movement had been exposed.”
The resolution, titled “Resisting the BDS movement decisively – fighting antisemitism,” stated, “The argumentation patterns and methods used by the BDS movement are antisemitic.”
The motion said a BDS campaign calling for Israeli products to be labeled with “Don’t Buy” stickers was reminiscent of the Nazi-era boycott of Jewish businesses, known in German as “Judenboykott,” which used slogans such as: “Don’t buy from Jews.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing Christian Democratic Union submitted the resolution together with the Social Democratic Party, the Green Party and the Free Democratic Party.
Lawmakers from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party abstained during the symbolic vote. They had submitted their own motion calling for a total ban of the BDS in Germany. That motion was defeated.
We welcome the @Bundestag resolution,adopted by a large majority, against #BDS.The German parliament recognized the anti Semitic nature of #BDS and its illegitimate boycott activities. This is an important step which we hope will be adopted by other European legislative bodies.— Emmanuel Nahshon (@EmmanuelNahshon) May 17, 2019
A majority of the far Left Die Linke Party voted against the motion. The party also submitted its own proposal, which called to oppose the BDS and commit the German government to work toward a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on UN Security Council resolutions. Its motion was also defeated.
The BDS movement accused the Bundestag of “anti-Palestinian McCarthyism.” Any equation of the “nonviolent BDS movement for Palestinian rights with antisemitism is based on outright lies,” the movement said, adding that the passage of the resolution “is a betrayal of international law, German democracy and the fight against real anti-Jewish racism. We call on people of conscience in Germany and beyond to defend the sanctity of universal human rights and freedom of expression by protecting the right to BDS. In 2016, the EU upheld the right to advocate for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality through BDS as protected by European human rights conventions.”
Thank you #Bundestag! for the courageous and important decision! BDS is a dangerous, antisemitic movement. You are the first, but many others will follow in your footsteps.— Yuli Edelstein (@YuliEdelstein) May 17, 2019
Thank you, Bundestag President my friend Wolfgang Schäuble, for your efforts.
BDS “is anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and rejects all forms of racism, including antisemitism,” the movement said. “The German establishment is entrenching its complicity in Israel’s crimes of military occupation, ethnic cleansing, siege and apartheid, while desperately trying to shield it from accountability to international law.”
BDS has argued that its movement targets Israeli actions over pre-1967 borders, but Israel has argued that its objective is a boycott of the Jewish state.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein tweeted: “Thank you #Bundestag! for the courageous and important decision! BDS is a dangerous, antisemitic movement. You are the first, but many others will follow in your footsteps. Thank you, Bundestag president, my friend Wolfgang Schäuble, for your efforts.”
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said passage of the resolution was an “important and just step. BDS is the modern manifestation of an ancient hatred. Now is the time for the rest of Europe to follow Germany’s lead.”
Israel’s Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff tweeted, “The Bundestag has just adopted a resolution condemning BDS and antisemitism by a wide margin. We welcome this initiative by its sponsors. It has broader European significance, given that BDS makes no attempt to build coexistence and peace between Israel and all of its neighbors.”
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said, “This is a crushing victory for the truth and a great achievement in the struggle against Israel’s detractors. Germany proved to BDS supporters that its lies do not go unnoticed, but will pay a price.”
“German Bundestag made a bold statement today resolving BDS as antisemitic,” Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog said. “A significant step in fighting hate crimes is on the rise throughout the globe. Leaders of the free world have moral responsibility to follow in Germany’s footsteps and stop this dangerous trend.”
Those who oppose banning BDS have argued that protecting the movement is an issue of free speech. In 2017, the Spanish Parliament voted that BDS should be protected for that reason. Ireland’s Parliament has gone much further and is weighing a resolution that would criminalize the action of Irish citizens who participate in Israeli settlement activity.
Uri Bollag and Reuters contributed to this report.