For the past decade and more, a global campaign has been underway aimed at boycotting the State of Israel at all levels, be it in the economic, diplomatic, cultural, academic or sporting spheres. Going under the name Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), it is modelled on the South African example, where international isolation played a key part in the downfall of the apartheid regime. There is, of course, an active branch of BDS in South Africa.
In recent days, BDS has suffered significant setbacks, firstly by the UK’s decision to outlaw boycott campaigns by town halls and other public bodies and thereafter by the Canadian parliament’s adoption of a motion condemning the BDS movement. The UK ruling prohibits all public authorities from imposing a boycott against any country, including Israel, signed up to the World Trade Organization government procurement agreement. As such, it sets an important precedent for other democratic states to follow. These moves, moreover, have come in the wake of last year’s far-reaching Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, by which the United States amongst other things unambiguously denounced BDS and committed itself to opposing it on multiple levels.
In adopting these steps, the US, UK and Canada recognise that BDS, far from wishing to promote human rights or even the welfare of the Palestinians, has as its core aim the undermining, and eventual destruction, of Israel. In the words of Michael Mostyn, CEO, B’nai Brith Canada, it has “no interest in actively helping Palestinian Arabs. Instead it seeks to demonize and delegitimize Israel and its aim is the annihilation of Israel and the Jewish people”. BDS singles out the Jewish State alone for special punitive action. Wherever it surfaces, it is accompanied by anti-Jewish abuse and harassment, a reality that we in South Africa can readily testify to. The battle against BDS is far from won, but it is encouraging to see that increasingly, world policy makers are coming to see the movement for what it is.