Using the law as a weapon of war
One of the charges leveled against boycott, divestment and sanctions is that it is antisemitic. This is a tool used to de-legitimize BDS, even though BDS is supported by international law.
Palestine Legal, a USA-based NGO has prepared this background paper which may be helpful in other global contexts. While it cites US laws, the basic legal principles can be applied in other international situations.
Those who advocate against Palestine use the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IRHA) guidelines to undercut BDS and challenge definitions.
The IRHA has actively promoted and worked legislatively in the global context to have countries adopt their “working definition” of antisemitism which effectively makes any criticism of the policies of the State of Israel an “antisemitic” action. It has encouraged the use of this definition to undercut pro-BDS activities, policies and legislation under the guise of stopping the expansion of antisemitism hate speech, human rights violations and discrimination and crimes against humanity.
In response, 240 Jewish & Israeli scholars, responding to the German Bundestag’s attack on BDS in 2019:
“The three main goals of BDS – ending the occupation, full equality to the Arab citizens of Israel and the right of return of Palestinian refugees – adhere to international law... We are shocked that demands for equality and compliance with international law are considered anti-Semitic”.
Here is critique of the IRHA working definition in the context of Palestinian human rights movements, including BDS.
A recent UN report contributes to Israeli exploitation of human rights discourse to justify oppression in Palestine.
All organizations working on BDS-related advocacy should be aware of this definition and the advocacy of IRHA in their respective governments. Here are some of the governmental actions which have taken place as a result of the IRHA definition advocacy. Most of these contexts are either European or North American.
It is strongly encouraged that further research into the advocacy of applying the IRHA definition to one’s country or local context (including municipalities) be part of the legal dimensions of a BDS advocacy or action program.
Cited from the website of IRHA www.holocaustremembrance.com:
The Working Definition of Antisemitism was adopted by the IHRA in May 2016.
To date, the working definition has been adopted or endorsed by a group of governments and bodies listed here.
Sometimes referred to as the “new” antisemitism, Proponents seek to label any criticism of the policies of the state of Israel as antisemitic. Accusations of antisemitism are directed at supporters of Palestinian human rights by defenders of Israel as a common tactic to shut down debate. They have even been used in legislative bodies in many countries, such as ...
Legal and constitutional issues have arisen around the BDS Movement. Nations and political jurisdictions may have different views on the BDS Movement, and if legal issues arise in your context, you should check with human rights and/or constitutional lawyers in your jurisdiction.
There are laws or resolutions which shape the framework for engaging in BDS actions in all types of jurisdictions, including municipalities, provinces or states and nations. BDS is a classic political expression of which some particular state disapproves, and this violates many countries’ constitutional or other foundational legal documents’ provisions.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK 2020 court case
Financial Times: Westminster loses battle over pension fund investments
US legal advice which may be applicable as points of reference or strategy
Other international BDS legal actions (select citations)
Rise of hate speech against Palestinians (in contrast to antisemitism)
An additional resource to be used cautiously: