Outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declaring the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to be anti-semitic is misleading and follows a series of harmful actions taken by the Trump administration on Palestine, says the women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement CODEPINK.
Pompeo made the announcement while on a visit to what the group says is an “illegal Israeli settlement.”
At a press conference in Jerusalem after talks with Israeli PM Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pompeo said Washington stands with all nations that recognize the “BDS movement for the cancer that it is, and we’re committed to combating it.”
“We will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw US government support for such groups.”
CODEPINK says the latest moves follows the Trump administration’s earlier provocative actions, including moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, declaring Syria’s Golan Heights to be Israeli territory, and falsely claiming that Israeli settlements are legal.
This, they say. violates international law and tramples on Palestinian rights.
“Mike Pompeo’s designation of the BDS movement as anti-semitic and illegal shouldn’t surprise anyone, given the Trump administration’s efforts at every turn to prop up the apartheid state of Israel and shield it from international criticism,” said CODEPINK national co-director Ariel Gold, an American Jew.
“While the false designation of BDS as anti-semitic won’t change the fact that BDS is a legitimate nonviolent tactic, it risks hindering efforts to recognize real antisemitism.”
Gold says she has “watched in horror” as anti-semitism has risen dramatically under Trump’s presidency.
“This new shameful act by them to try to shut down the movement for Palestinian rights will not be successful. Our joint struggles against all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Israeli apartheid, will continue by the vast numbers of us committed to freedom, justice, equality, and safety for all.”
The Trump administration’s declaration follows a January 2018 move by Tel Aviv to declare 20 organizations worldwide that support BDS, including CODEPINK, to be banned from entering the county.
Israel did, in fact, deport CODEPINK’s Gold when she tried to enter the country later that year.
Rights groups on Washington’s radar
Last month, in October 2020, it was reported that Pompeo was considering labeling human rights and aid groups, such including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam, as anti-semitic.
Thankfully, the group said, President-elect Joe Biden affirmed during his campaign that, though he does not himself support the BDS movement, he does recognize that it is a protected form of free speech under the First Amendment.
The grassroots movement said it is proud to support the BDS movement and to be a staunch defender of Palestinian human rights.
CODEPINK said they have organized successful BDS campaigns against the cosmetics company AHAVA and SodaStream, and are advocating for members of Congress to support conditioning US military assistance to Israel until the “country ends its human rights abuses” against the Palestinian people.
The rights group said it is currently campaigning for Congress to block the Trump administration’s agreement — part of the normalization deal between Israel and the UAE — to sell billions in weapons to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
CODEPINK co-founder, Medea Benjamin, also condemned the new designation by the State Department that the BDS movement is anti-semitic.
“It’s outrageous that the US government would label a Gandhi-like boycott movement that has historically been the bedrock of nonviolent social change movements as anti-semitic. Our response to the false designation will be to increase all efforts to challenge Israeli policies of occupation and apartheid and galvanize public opinion for freedom and justice in Palestine.”
Violating free speech, human rights
“As a student activist for Palestinian rights, I have seen the false conflation of BDS with antisemitism be used in attempts to destroy future careers and impede the work for human rights and dignity for all,” weighed in CODEPINK Middle East campaigner Danaka Katovich.
“This new false designation that BDS is anti-semitic will serve to trample on our rights to organize peacefully and widen the targeting of Muslim, Arabic, and other minority student populations. It is a shameful act that I hope will be reversed in the early days of the Biden administration.”
Bob Goodfellow, the Interim Executive Director of Amnesty International USA said the move is simply the latest attack from a “US government determined to undermine the universality of human rights and the global fight against racism and discrimination, including anti-semitism.”
“The US administration is following Israeli government’s approach in using false and politically motivated accusations of antisemitism to harm peaceful activists, including human rights defenders, and shield from accountability those responsible for illegal actions that harm people in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,
Goodfellow said the process comes across as “particularly hypocritical and deceitful” and comes from an administration that has emboldened neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other groups who advocate violence and discrimination.
“It has shown a callous disregard for international law, and favored Israeli policies that result in institutionalized discrimination and systematic human rights violations against millions of Palestinians.”