The BDS movement is a complex and constantly changing phenomenon. This monthly newsletter is intended to highlight salient developments in BDS activities and thinking. It provides a series of links to BDS activities, links to publications from the BDS and the pro-peace communities, as well as a brief analysis of salient BDS activities and trends.
Although it cannot be a complete record, this newsletter will help chart BDS developments in order for the pro-peace community to accurately apprehend the BDS movement’s activities, develop a better understanding of the movement’s methods and goals, and to craft better responses.
Summer is typically a slower period for BDS activities. Colleges and universities are not in session, along with many national and local legislative organs. But BDS activities are on-going, particularly from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). A variety of BDS activities take place in Israel and the Palestinian Territories during the summer, such as tours. Planning the coming year’s BDS activities also appears to take place during the summer.
This month, however, the most significant BDS related developments are the new regulations issued by the European Union regarding interaction with Israeli entities beyond the “Green Line.” The directive states that Israeli entities based over the “Green Line,” the putative 1967 “border” – in fact the 1949 Armistice Line – are not eligible for EU grants, prize and financial instruments. This includes Israeli educational institutions and companies but not individuals. The regulations are scheduled to go into effect at the end of 2013.
What these regulations mean for Israeli companies, banks and other entities operating on both sides of the Green Line is unclear. The directives apply to EU institutions but are not binding on member nations. Whether they apply to EU funded programs administered by individual member states is unclear. The directives appear designed to influence national policies as well as international negotiations, although EU diplomats have claimed it was only coincidental that the directives were announced at almost the same time as US Secretary of State John Kerry’s renewed peace initiative. Some political opposition to the directive has been reported in Germany.
By establishing the 1967 border as the de jure boundary for European interaction and legitimacy, the EU has prejudged the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations regarding the final status issue of borders. In doing so it has also violated its own legal commitments to the 2002 Road Map for peace, reiterated through the Middle East Quartet, in which it is a member, which do not prejudge final borders.
Reports from Holland and Germany initially indicated that supermarket chains had begun boycotting Israeli products in conformance with the proposed guidelines and were verifying the origins of other Israeli products. The Dutch chain later issued a confusing clarification, stating that it was not boycotting Israeli products.
Possibly more significant than these directives was the call from the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, for the European Commission to develop guidelines for labeling Israeli products from commercial enterprises across the Green Line. Though the guidelines would be non-binding Ashton is expected to push hard for their adoption across EU member nations. Despite the creation of a bilateral Dutch-Israeli Cooperation Forum in June, the Dutch Economic Affairs Ministry had issued similar guidelines in March but withdrew them. Similar recommendations have also been made in Denmark and Britain.
As with the directives regarding EU institutions, European sources deny the timing had any connection with Secretary Kerry’s peace mission. Most Israeli observers believe that the European moves were closely coordinated with the United States.
Not surprisingly, the EU directives were rejected by Israel and welcomed, at least partially, the Palestinian representatives and the BDS movement itself. The BDS movement does not appear to have played a direct role in creating the directives, which fall far short of the complete ban it typically seeks. The EU moves do, however, address the call for a boycott of Israeli communities in the West Bank put forward by American writer Peter Beinart and supported by J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami others.
Other BDS news includes a series of reports on music artists planning to perform in Israel. It was recently revealed that Paul McCartney received death threats prior to his 2008 performances in Israel but was undeterred. In contrast, Eric Burdon canceled planned performances in Israel, citing unspecified threats, but then reinstated the shows. Singer Alicia Keys also reported strong pressure regarding her recent performances in Israel.
Finally, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, who has become a leading BDS figure, included the Star of David along with corporate, communist and fascist symbols on a pig balloon flown during a performance in Belgium. The inflatable pig has been used in Pink Floyd and Waters’ performances since the 1970s. In Waters’ performances the balloon has featured political slogans and symbols
Cultural figures including musicians like Waters and Elvis Costello have been involved in the BDS movement for some time but the nature of their opposition to Israel is much debated. It is useful to note that the threats against Burdon, Keyes and others are directed against their performing in Israel as a whole and not the West Bank. The death threats against McCartney indicate the level to which BDS proponents sink. In Waters’ case at least it is difficult to avoid the conclusion of antisemitic motivation.