In advance of his June visit to Israel, Irish Foreign Minister Charles Flanagan has confirmed the legitimacy of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.“While the [Irish] government does not itself support such a policy, it is a legitimate political viewpoint, albeit one regarded in Israel as deeply hostile,” he told the Irish parliament last Thursday during a question and answer session.“I do not agree with attempts to demonize those who advocate this policy, or to equate them with violent terrorists,” he said.“I am deeply concerned about wider attempts to pressure NGOs and human rights defenders through legislation and other means to hinder their important work. We have raised this both at the EU level and directly with the Israeli authorities,” he said.Holland and Sweden have similarly confirmed that the BDS movement, which seeks to push Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines and allow refugees to return, is protected under the laws of free speech.Israel, however, holds that the movement is not about support for the creation of a Palestinian state, but rather seeks the destruction of the Jewish state.Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said the belief that BDS is a legitimate form of free speech “is a misuse and misunderstanding of what freedom of speech means. It does not give you a license to encourage discrimination and hatred,” he said. Flanagan’s words come in the midst of an Israeli legislative push in Europe to classify BDS as hate speech.Last week, the State Comptroller’s annual report said that Israel was losing the battle against BDS because of disorganization and lack of funds.Ireland’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign called Flanagan’s words “another blow to Israeli hasbara [public diplomacy] efforts.” On Monday, it launched a petition calling on the Irish government to end its arms trade with Israel.“Ireland has bought €14.7m. worth of arms and military components from Israel over the last decade, while Irish-based companies have exported €6.42m. since 2011,” it said in a petition it circulated on Twitter.It also asked the Dublin government “to advocate for an international arms embargo at EU and UN levels until Israel ends the occupation of Palestinian land and complies fully with its obligations under international law.”The Irish government has in the past rejected such calls.