From Distinction to Boycotts: NGO Language in UN Security Council Resolution 2334

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On December 23 2016, UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2334 with a vote of 14 for, 0 against, and 1 abstention (United States). Among other important issues, this resolution adopts the language used by multiple European-funded NGOs promoting anti-Israel campaigns, in the form of incremental strategies leading to full boycotts (BDS). Resolution 2334 repeats their calls on countries (and the EU) “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”

The evolution of this strategy from the NGO campaigns through the EU and now the UNSC was marked by a series of milestones:

  • May 2012: 22 prominent “humanitarian” NGOs published “Trading Away Peace: How Europe Helps Sustain Illegal Israeli Settlements.” This report advocates a strategy to advance BDS incrementally, first through the “distinction” between settlements across the 1949 armistice lines, and pre-1967 Israel.
    • Specifics include: “labeling of products originating in settlements” claiming these are “misleading labeled Israel”; “prevent financial transactions to settlements and related activities”; “discourage businesses from purchasing settlement goods and from all other commercial and investment links with settlements”; “exclude settlement products and companies from public procurements tenders and other forms of economic sanctions.”
    • Signatories of this NGO publication include:
      • ICCO, a Dutch interchurch organization that funds the most radical Palestinian and Israeli NGOs.
      • Trócaire, an Irish Catholic organization that conducts a campaign to sanction Israel (and Europe) by suspending mutually beneficial trade agreements, and attempted to block Israel’s inclusion in the OECD
      • DanChurchAid, a Danish aid organizations, partners with radical Palestinian NGO Badil to implement anti-Israel boycott and sanction campaigns.
    • All 22 NGO signatories are funded by European governments
    • Through intensive lobbying by these NGOs and allies, including MEPs and EU officials, the incremental boycott concept from “Trading Away Peace” gained support in Europe. In response, The head of the Europe Division of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Raif Schutz, reportedly filed protests with the UK, Denmark, Ireland and the EU, highlighting that a number of the NGOs “such as the Irish Trócaire, were involved in the boycott and divestment movement against Israel” (Jerusalem Post, 28.11.2012).
  • April 2015: 16 EU foreign ministers urged the European foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to clearly distinguish between products made in Israel from those made in the West Bank.
  • July 2015: European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) launched a campaign focusing on Israel and settlements, through a publication entitled “EU Differentiation and Israeli settlements,” building on the “Trading Away Peace” effort.
    • According to the authors, Hugh Lovatt and Mattia Toaldo, the terms “distinction,” and “differentiation” were designed to encourage the EU to put pressure on business and sports sectors that have activities in or financial contacts with Israeli settlements.
  • September 2015: At a press conference promoting differentiation, then director of ECFR’s MENA division, Daniel Levy, who has extensive contacts with Israel-related officials and activists, stated: “I have no problem endorsing this. I would be not frank with you if I didn’t say my fingerprints are on here.”
    • Levy has referred to BDS as “a legitimate and non-violent form of protest against an illegal and inhumane policy of occupation,” adding that the proposition “that Israel will only respond to disincentives, that the occupation cease to be cost-free” is “worth testing.” Levy is co-founder, board member, and trustee of the multiple NGOs that promote anti-Israel agendas.
  • September 2015: At the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Lovatt urged the adoption of sanctions based on differentiation. “Because of the fungibility of funds, at the moment it is impossible to say whether the EU funds that go toward Israeli banks, whether they make their way to settlements.”
  • November 2015: European Union adopted labeling guidelines for “products originating from the settlements. The guidelines “fact sheet” utilized the language of “distinction,” claiming it as a clarification for products “misleadingly labeled ‘Made in Israel.’” This caused an intense reaction in Israel, and the Israeli Government briefly suspended diplomatic dialogues with the EU, while BDS movement claimed this as indicating that “support for BDS is growing.”
  • March 2016: The United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution to create a blacklist of Israeli and international companies providing security services and operating directly or indirectly in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This marked a further escalation of the boycott and product differentiation strategy. NGO Monitor provided a submission to the UNHRC highlighting the illegal and discriminatory nature of this blacklist.
  • October 2016: The ECFR extended and intensified this campaign through multiple seminars and workshops with influential human rights NGOs, as well as publications in EU-based media and European foundations. These efforts were explained as necessary to highlight the claim that “continued settlement construction is illegal and an obstacle to peace.”
  • October 14, 2016: Hagai Elad, Executive Director of the political NGO B’Tselem, appeared before a special session of the UN Security Council initiated by Egypt, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Angola, asking the UN to take “decisive international action” against Israel.
  • December 23 2016: UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2334 calling on states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
  • January 5, 2017: ECFR claimed that “The Security Council’s endorsement of the idea and practice of differentiation should be seen as a signal to Europe to redouble its own differentiation measures.”
  • According to a draft summary statement of the January 15, 2016 Paris Peace Summit, participants will “Reaffirm that they will distinguish in the relevant dealings between territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”

From Distinction to Boycotts: NGO Language in UN Security Council Resolution 2334

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