Anti-Israel group suffers setbacks

BDSBy Yossi Lempkowicz, Senior Media Advisor Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA)

The Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement has suffered several setbacks in its campaign to deligitimize Israel.

The British government announced Wednesday new regulations banning local authorities and public-sector organizations in Britain from boycotting Israeli suppliers. Violators could face severe penalties.

The regulations state that, “Public procurement should never be used as a tool to boycott tenders from suppliers based in other countries, except where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the UK Government.”

An announcement said that under the terms of the World Trade Organisation Public Procurement Agreement, all signatories must “treat suppliers equally” from co-signatory nations, which include Israel.

Consequently, “Any discrimination against Israeli suppliers involving procurements would therefore be in breach of the Agreement.”

The new rules, which coincided with a visit to Israel by British Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock, are of particular significance as the UK has been a hotbed for BDS activity over the last years.

“We are publishing new guidance for public authorities in the U.K. that makes clear that discriminating against members of the World Trade Organization, including Israel, is wrong, and it is illegal, and it must stop,” Hancock said.

“And we do this because we believe in an open and free trade, and we believe that discrimination is not appropriate and should be stood up to.”

In welcoming remarks to Hancock and a British trade delegation to Israel, Netanyahu said, “I want to commend the British government for refusing to discriminate against Israel and Israelis, and I commend you for standing up for the one and only true democracy in the Middle East.”

Britain becomes the second major European country with laws against boycotting Israel.

France passed such laws in 2003, and they have served as the basis for multiple convictions of BDS activists who were sentenced for incitement to discrimination or hate due to their actions on Israel.

On Tuesday, the City Council of Paris passed two declarative motions expressing the city’s rejection of attempts to boycott Israel.

In the resolutions, the City Council “firmly opposes all attempts to isolate Israel among the nations” and “condemns efforts, including public demonstrations in Paris, advocating for the boycott of Israel.”

Councillors also reaffirm the city’s “commitment to the promotion of a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict.”

One resolution was submitted by the Socialist-led coalition of Mayor Anne Hidalgo and the other by center-right members of the City Council.

The vote reinforces an existing French law that considers boycott of Israel as discriminatory and illegal.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, who heads the center-right Republicans opposition bloc in the City Council, said that her party decided to submit the draft motion following attempts last year to prevent an event celebrating Tel Aviv from taking place on a bank of the River Seine in the French capital.

Following protests and calls to cancel the event, the city gave protesters permission to hold a similar event highlighting Gaza.

Last week, in a phone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini stressed the EU’s opposition to boycotts against Israel and firmly rejected BDS which she mentioned by name for the first time in a press release.

While individuals remain free to express their opinions toward Israel, no matter how hypocritical they may be, it is critical that public authorities uphold the law and do not unfairly single out for punitive actions the only democratic state in the Middle East.

The BDS movement is immoral because it violates the core principle of human rights: namely, “the worst first.”

Israel is among the freest and most democratic nations in the world and certainly the most democratic  nation in the Middle East.

Its Arab citizens enjoy more rights than Arabs anywhere else in the world. They serve in the Knesset, trhe parliament, in the Judiciary, in the Foreign Service, in the academy and in business.

They are free to criticize Israel. Israeli universities are hotbeds of anti-Israel rhetoric, advocacy and even teaching. Israel has a superb record on women’s rights, gay rights, environmental rights and other rights that barely exist in most parts of the world.

Anyone in the country – Jew, Muslim or Christian—dissatisfied with Israeli actions can express that dissatisfaction in the courts, and in the media, both at home and abroad.

BDS wants to dismantle Israel not advance Israeli-Palestinian peace.