Trump Administration Considers Labeling...
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is pushing for the declaration, according to a congressional aide with contacts inside the State Department. Pompeo is eyeing a future presidential run and has taken a number of steps to gain favor with pro-Israel and evangelical voters who make up a key part of Trump’s electoral base.
The proposed declaration could come from the State Department as soon as this week. If it happens, it is likely to cause an uproar among civil society groups and might spur litigation. Also, it might encourage other governments not to support the groups’ work including financially. It would cite such groups’ alleged or perceived support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, the peaceful global protest movement for Palestinian rights that is backed by prominent Jewish peace groups.
But the proposal is drawing opposition from career State Department employees. Among the opponents are department lawyers who warn that it is on shaky grounds due to free speech concerns, could lead to lawsuits and might even lack a proper administrative legal basis.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam each strenuously denied any accusation of anti-Semitism. The groups named also do not all officially support the BDS movement or take a position on it. They have all been critical to one degree or another of Israel’s settlement policies and its treatment of the Palestinians, and pro-Israel organizations have claimed that the groups’ actions nonetheless constitute support for the movement and are thus anti-Semitic. Pro-Israel advocates have long complained of bias by these groups saying they focus too heavily on the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government.
Bob Goodfellow, Amnesty International USA’s interim executive director, said any allegations of anti-Semitism were “baseless.” Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s global policy lead, also denied as “false” and “offensive” allegations of anti-Semitism. Human Rights Watch official Eric Goldstein noted “We fight discrimination in all forms, including anti-Semitism,” “Criticizing government policy is not the same as attacking a specific group of people. For example, our critiques of U.S. government policy do not make us anti-American.”
“Desperate to win in November, Trump is willing to give pro Likud donors anything and everything they want. Including condemning HRW, Amnesty & Oxfam. Tells you not only how immoral Trump is, but also how dangerous and fascist the pro Likud crowd is.” Trita parsi tweeted. “The weaponization of the definition of anti-semitism to mute criticism of Israel reaches a new scandalous peak. Pompeo is readying to declare Amnesty, HRW and Oxfam anti-semitic because they're critical of Israeli violations of int'l law. It is obscene.” Nour Odeh tweeted.
Both the occupation and settlements have been the subject of dozens of United Nations resolutions, most of them condemning Israel's actions. Settlement building and expansion have also been called a form of ethnic cleansing and apartheid by international observers, icluding over 400 Jewish scholars and the former U.N. human rights official Richard Falk—who is also Jewish.
It is worth mentioning that the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions movement (BDS) calls for the international community to put economic pressure on Israel to end its flagrant violations of human rights. It demands an end to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the dismantling of the apartheid wall; equal rights for Palestinians in Israel; and the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Thus, although BDS does not take a direct stance on the question of a one- or two-state solution, the policies it champions would lay the foundation for a just peace by moving the region closer to a bi-national, truly democratic society.
So why is BDS itself the target of so much vituperation, in the media, in political discourse, and in actual government acts around the globe? In all of the statements and actions, Judaism is portrayed as inseparable from the Israeli government. And, to be sure, equivalating all Jewish people with the actions of a deeply racist, genocidal state is a troubling and blatantly false position. However, BDS has never advanced this belief. In fact, many of the movement’s most prominent supporters — from Jill Stein to Jeff Halper to Jewish Voices for Peace — are themselves Jewish. Rather, this conflation is a standard Zionist line, an attempt to palliate unjustifiable actions through untrue ad hominem attacks on their critics.
Finally, the fact is often overlooked that Palestinians, too, are a Semitic people; Arabic is a Semitic language. Perhaps, therefore, those who seek to deny them human rights are the true “anti-Semites,” rather than those who seek justice for all people, regardless of race or creed.
Organization for Defending Victims of violence has conducted an interview with a university professor on boycott campaign. Also with Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur for the Situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory.