US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington will formally designate the Palestinian-led movement to boycott Israel as “anti-Semitic” and cut off government funding to any organisations linked to it.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign is a global nonviolent movement seeking to pressure the Israeli government over its treatment of Palestinians. Many of its leaders are Jewish peace activists.
Mr. Pompeo made the divisive statement while also becoming the first US secretary of state to visit an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, despite the fact they are considered illegal under international law.
The secretary of state visited Psagot winery, located near the Palestinian towns of al-Bireh and Ramallah, whose vineyards are partially built on stolen private Palestinian land, according to an investigation by The Independent.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, said Pompeo’s visit to occupied land “is an active participation in the occupation”.
Mr. Pompeo posted photos of himself lunching at the settlement winery in a tweet where he lashed out at the European Union for its regulations that requires member states to label products that are made in Israeli settlements rather than Israel proper.
“Unfortunately, Psagot and other businesses have been targeted by pernicious EU labelling efforts that facilitate the boycott of Israeli companies,” the top diplomat wrote.
“The US stands with Israel and will not tolerate any form of delegitimisation,” he added.
Just ahead of the tour, Mr. Pompeo had announced Washington’s new stance on the BDS movement, calling it “anti-Semitic”.
“We will immediately take steps to identify organisations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw US government support for such groups,” he added, saying that all nations should “recognise the BDS movement for the cancer that it is”.
Mr. Pompeo did not provide additional details about which groups would be at risk of losing funding but there were reports in US media outlets last month that such a decision might impact organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Oxfam.
Israel regards them as supporting BDS, accusations that each organisation has repeatedly denied. Israel has even threatened to ban their work.
BDS organisers see their movement as a non-violent protest of Israeli’s treatment of the Palestinians, modelling on the campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa.
Mr. Pompeo’s announcement was instantly condemned by rights groups’ including HRW, whose director in the area was deported last year over accusations past statements supported boycotts.
Eric Goldstein, HRW’s acting Middle East and North Africa director, said that Mr. Pompeo had “falsely equated” peaceful support for boycotts of Israel with anti-Semitism and pointed to America’s long history of supporting peaceful boycotts to promote social justice and human rights.
Israeli rights activists who monitor settlements also condemned Mr. Pompeo’s brief trip and the US official was also met with a small protest.
“How ironic is the fact that a senior member of the Republican Party, that worships the right to maintain private property, is visiting Psagot Winery which owes its existence to a blatant and continual violation of the right of ownership?” asked Dror Etkes, an Israeli researcher who has spent two decades monitoring Israeli settlement enterprise.
Israel passed a 2017 law that bars entry to foreigners who have called for economic boycotts of Israel or its settlements. The US House of Representatives passed a resolution opposing the boycott movement last year, and several US States have enacted anti-BDS laws. (Source: Independent UK)