German parliament declares Israel boycott campaign antisemitic

Israeli academics criticise motion, saying it is wrong to conflate BDS and antisemitism

Germany’s Bundestag has become the first parliament in Europe to pass a motion labelling the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel as antisemitic.

The non-binding motion, passed on Friday afternoon, said the campaign to boycott Israeli artists and goods was “reminiscent of the most terrible chapter in German history” and triggered memories of the Nazis’ slogan: “Don’t buy from Jews”.

Brought to parliament by Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, the liberal FDP and the Greens, the motion also noted a “growing unease” among Germany’s Jewish community in the face of rising antisemitism.

According to figures published by the German interior ministryon Tuesday, antisemitic crime and hate crime rose by about 20% in 2018, to 1,800 incidents.

An open letter signed by 60 Jewish and Israeli academics criticised the Bundestag motion, saying it formed part of an alarming trend of “labelling supporters of Palestinian human rights as antisemitic”.

It said the conflation of BDS and antisemitism was supported by “Israel’s most rightwing government in history” and formed part of a strategy to delegitimise any attempt at international solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

The far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) brought forward a separate motion calling for a complete ban of the BDS movement. Jürgen Braun, an AfD MP, claimed his party was the true friend of Israel in the German parliament, adding that “antisemitism comes from the left and Islam”. The AfD abstained on the government’s motion.

The interior ministry report found the radical right to be responsible for about 90% of antisemitic offences.

The leftwing party Die Linke also said it rejected the BDS movement, but it refused to back the governing parties’ motion. In its own motion, Die Linke called on the government to support efforts to find a peaceful two-state solution in the Middle East.

BDS, which was inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, has claimed several recent successes in isolating Israel. Last year the singer Lana Del Rey and 19 other artists pulled out of a summer festival in Israel, following a similar move by Lorde months before.

The BDS movement has called on artists and music fans to avoid this weekend’s Eurovision Song Contest, arguing that Israel’s hosting of the event amounts to a “whitewashing” of the country’s policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

• This article was amended on 20 May 2019 to clarify that the open letter was signed not only by Israeli academics but by Jewish academics outside Israel.


Philip Oltermann in Berlin

The GuardianTramp

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