(August 25, 2020 / JNS) Germany has taken the contemporary fight against anti-Semitism to include a robust stance against the anti-Israel BDS movement, according to a new report released on Aug. 21 by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
In “Boykott: Germany’s Battle Against the Delegitimization of Israel,” FDD research fellow Benjamin Weinthal explores the history of Germany’s complex relationship with Israel.
According to the report, despite some ups and downs, Germany is invested in Israel’s long-term success, as exemplified by Germany’s commitment to combating BDS.
The report discusses the political forces behind BDS in Germany, in addition to those that challenge the movement. For example, the Bundestag passed a resolution in 2019 declaring that the “arguments and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic.”
The resolution notes that the tactics of the campaign “inevitably arouse associations with the Nazi slogan ‘Kauft nicht bei Juden!’ ” or “Don’t buy from Jews!”
“The BDS campaign … is an ideological issue that touches a raw nerve connected to Germany’s troubled past. It should come as no surprise, then, that Germany took a leadership role in countering the campaign,” states the report.
The report calls on the country to encourage other European Union countries to adopt anti-BDS measures. Now that the terms of the debate have shifted in Germany, Berlin can help move other countries to follow suit.
Six months after the 2019 Bundestag resolution, France followed suit. And in February 2020, the Austrian Parliament unanimously passed a resolution declaring BDS as anti-Semitic.
The report also asks German states comprising the country to adopt anti-BDS measures similar to those adopted by 32 states in the United States. These measures allow state pension funds to divest from companies engaged in pro-BDS activity.
The FDD report urges the German parliament to encourage German states to review grants or public funds issued annually to determine if pro-BDS organizations are receiving money.
Additionally, it calls on the Bundestag to actively encourage all states, cities, municipalities and public actors to adopt policies comparable to its own. Certain municipalities, such as Munich and Bonn, adopted binding anti-BDS policies well before the Bundestag vote in 2019.
‘Serve as a model against anti-Semitism on the world stage’
Nonetheless, according to Weinthal, anti-Semitism is active in German political parties that trace their lineage to the Soviet era, such as Die Linke. Anti-Semitism, including support for BDS, is also embraced by members of other parties in the German Bundestag.
“The BDS campaign has managed to build an infrastructure in Germany that resembles its base in other countries. The campaign has chapters in all the major cities, including Berlin, Hamburg and Bonn,” states the report. “It draws support from a range of organizations that see Israel as the aggressor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, many hailing from the far left.”
BDS has found support from entities such as Deutsche Bank and the Bank for Social Economy, which provided accounts to BDS entities but canceled them after drawing public ire.
More overtly, Kuwait Airways in Germany continues to bar Israeli passengers; the German government has done little to intervene.
Weinthal proposes a suite of other policy recommendations to combat anti-Semitism and BDS in Germany. He calls upon Germany to ensure that “no facilities under its administration are made available to organizations that are anti-Semitic or question Israel’s right to exist.”
He further exhorts German Chancellor Angel Merkel to “instruct the special commissioner for combating anti-Semitism to review federal appropriations for compliance with the Bundestag’s pledge not to fund any projects or organizations that call for boycotting Israel or challenge its right to exist.”
The report asks all German “states, cities, municipalities and public actors to adopt policies comparable” to those outlined by Berlin while advocating for a trade regime that “suspend[s] application of E.U. labeling policy for Israeli settlement goods until Brussels creates a single standard for disputed territories.”
Weinthal also asks Germans to prohibit “companies such as Kuwait Airways from practicing discriminatory anti-Israel policies inside Germany.”
He calls on Berlin to “head the global response in repudiating the false narratives and deceptive terminology that BDS employs to demonize Israel.” He argues that Germany should ultimately serve as a model against anti-Semitism on the world stage, encouraging “other European countries to adopt anti-BDS measures.”
Finally, the report emphasizes the need for congressional anti-Semitism caucuses to pass a resolution praising German-Israeli trade and authorizing an annual report that details the “extent to which the German government has taken steps not just to oppose BDS in words but to counter it in action.”
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