German politicians from the Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) in Hamburg submitted a resolution in early February calling on the state senate to take decisive action against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, deeming it as antisemitic.The CDU is the opposition party in the government, while the Social Democrats and the Green Party make up the governing coalition in Hamburg.The CDU politicians condemned “BDS initiatives and activities as antisemitic,” adding that the senate, as well as government agencies, should assess all activities as hostile to Israel and take actions against BDS.The resolution appears to the be first state government legislative act seeking to blunt BDS. The CDU sponsors of the resolution are Carsten Ovens, Karin Prien, André Trepoll, Dennis Thering, Birgit Stöver, Dennis Gladiator, and Jörg Hamann.The resolution urged Hamburg to support further initiatives to strengthen German-Israel bilateral relations. According to the resolution, “In previous months, many different countries have shown a clear resistance against the BDS movement. National and local parliaments and administrations – for example, in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Paris – decided to reject these boycott activities.”
The northern port city of Hamburg is both a city and a federal German state. The resolution stated: “Who today under the flag of the BDS movement calls to boycott Israeli goods and services speaks the same language in which people were called to not buy from Jews. That is nothing other than coarse antisemitism.” The CDU compared BDS to the National Socialists who boycotted Jews in the 1930s. BDS dresses up antisemitism in the “new clothes of the 21st century” as anti-Zionism, the party said.The anti-BDS resolution was in response to the University of Hamburg’s appointment of Farid Esack, a pro-BDS Islamic theologian from South Africa. The advisory board of the Academy of World Religions at Hamburg University, where Esack served as a guest professor from October to mid-February, distanced itself from Esack.In a statement to Die Welt reporter Jakob Koch, the academy said it is “totally unacceptable from the view of the advisory council when a comprehensive boycott of Israel is called for and thereby a break in every form of cooperation with Israeli universities, cultural institutions and other institutions.”Die Welt further reported on Saturday that the academy said Esack has not demonstrated clear statements affirming Israel’s right to exist. The advisory panel said that “under consideration of the now known facts a decision to appoint Prof. Dr. Esack as guest professor would have certainly been decided differently.”Esack is the chairman of BDS South Africa. In 2015, he welcomed his “comrade” plane hijacker Leila Khaled, of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, at a fund-raiser. The EU and US classify the PFLP as a terrorist organization.Esack has argued that “the idea of an Islamic State in Germany must be allowed to be represented.”The Israeli Embassy in Berlin told The Jerusalem Post in January: “This is a man [Esack] who expressed antisemitic statements, and who is sympathetic to Holocaust denial. A person with such views has no place as an educator in a university, in particular not in Germany; due to both professional as well as moral and probably also legal reasons.”A statement from Esack published on a BDS website in Germany read: “Neither I nor anyone on the staff or board of BDS SA has ever made any statement that could be reasonably interpreted as antisemitism. These accusations are part of a hundreds of million of dollars, Israeli government-funded operation.” Esack has compared Israel’s government to that of Nazi Germany on his Facebook page, and called former president Shimon Peres a “terrorist.” The anti-BDS motion in Hamburg is a further setback for BDS activists, after German financial institutions terminated three BDS bank accounts in 2016. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party passed an anti-BDS resolution at its party congress. The senate is slated to vote on the CDU resolution on March 1.
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