Warning that the sky is falling on BDS.
On February 10, 2015, I wrote about legislation introduced in the House targeting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, whose goal is the destruction of Israel through economic, cultural and academic boycotts.
The legislation, called the United States-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act, focuses on the “economic” boycott of Israel, expanding upon prior legislation implemented several decades ago in response to the Arab League Boycott of Israel.
The legislation reportedly was intended to force European countries and companies, where the BDS movement has some influence, into adopting anti-BDS policies and procedures as part of a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the U.S.
The EU would be forced to choose between a massive free trade agreement which would bring enormous economic benefits to the floundering EU, or the anti-Israel BDS movement. You could have a boost to European economies and employment, or you could have BDS, but you couldn’t have both.
The sponsors of the legislation presumably expect Europe to choose prosperity over anti-Israel activism.
In reviewing the legislation initially, however, it was unclear to me whether the provisions would have the intended effect:
So what does this all mean?
I still need to do more thinking on this, but my first impression is that this bill is directed at European companies, a few of which have signed onto BDS in one form or another, particularly as to goods manufactures in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and conduct in East Jerusalem.
I’m not sure that this is the end of BDS, but it has raised the stakes for large international businesses in Europe that seek to join the BDS movement.
Apparently there is a hard punch packed into the mere 12-page legislation, according to BDS activists who are part of a group dedicated to thwarting free trade agreements.
Writing at The Electronic Intifada, an influential anti-Israel portal, the authors sound like the sky will fall on BDS, How EU-US trade deal could thwart “boycott Israel” campaign:
Two members of the US Congress have introduced a bill that would turn a giant trade deal between the EU and US into a devastating weapon against the people of Palestine and all those seeking justice alongside them. Together with the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that is currently under negotiation, the proposed bill would compel all 28 EU member states to crack down on European groups participating in the growing movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
In order to combat the increasing isolation of Israel in global public opinion, European governments would effectively be turned into police agents for the US state.
The proposed US-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act presented to Congress on 10 February seeks to make any trade deal with Brussels conditional on the EU’s willingness to stop European governments, organizations or individuals engaging in BDS actions designed to hold Israel accountable for its responsibilities under international law.
The authors of The Electronic Intifada article argue that scuttling the trade agreement by joining forces with anti-free trade groups may be the only way to prevent the damage to BDS:
TTIP is not a traditional trade agreement aimed at reducing border tariffs, since these are already at minimal levels between the EU and US. Instead, TTIP is focused on dismantling the “barriers” to trade that exist behind the border, namely the social standards, labor rights and environmental regulations that prevent transnational corporations from maximizing their profits when they trade or invest across the Atlantic….
For these and many other reasons, there is a massive movement of opposition to TTIP across the whole of Europe, and increasingly in the US. Environmental activists have made common cause with trade unions, food safety campaigners, anti-fracking activists and digital rights groups to oppose the deal, and there are now national No TTIP platforms coordinating actions at every level….
The introduction of this new anti-BDS bill in the context of the TTIP negotiations is a clear statement that anyone entering into trade agreements with the US must expect to forfeit their right to express solidarity with the Palestinian people. The anti-BDS bill would break any last bonds of accountability between governments and their citizens, preventing citizens from holding their governments responsible for their policies at home and abroad.
The anti-BDS bill must be opposed in the strongest terms, just as TTIP must also be rejected outright.
I don’t know if the outlook is so gloomy as the BDS activists portray. But we can always hope.