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March 15, 2017 1:01 pm

BDS Movement Suffers Setbacks in Israel and Around the World

avatar by Adam Abrams / JNS.org

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A protest in support of the BDS movement. Photo: FOA/Facebook.

A protest in support of the BDS movement. Photo: FOA/Facebook.

JNS.orgLast week, Israel’s Knesset passed landmark legislation attacking the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The new law represents just one of several recent setbacks for BDS around the world.

The bill, which passed in its third and final reading by a 46-28 vote, grants the interior minister the authority to deny entry visas to non-Israeli citizens who actively support boycotts of the Jewish state.

Speaking in support of the measure, Member of Knesset (MK) David Amsalem (Likud) said that “if someone demeans me, I do not let them into my home.” Responding to critics of the law, Amsalem clarified that the new measure is not intended to stifle free speech, but to combat antisemitism and those who want to destroy the Jewish state.

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One of the bill’s sponsors, MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Jewish Home party, expressed similar sentiments: “In recent years, a new antisemitic front has been initiated against Israel. … Banning BDS supporters that come here to harm us from within is the minimum we can do against those Israel-haters.”

Left-wing Knesset members and several American Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, however, have been highly critical of the new law. MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said that the law curtails “freedom of expression,” and “is meant to silence people.” J Street claimed that the law “damages Israel’s democracy and helps the BDS movement.” The American Jewish Committee, a centrist group, also said that it was “troubled” by the legislation.

But Israel’s anti-BDS law represents just one of several recent setbacks for the boycott movement.

Last week, the Republican-led New York State Senate passed its own anti-boycott law by an overwhelming 49-11 majority. The bill seeks to withhold state funding from any student group that engages in hate speech, or calls for a boycott of Israel or other “allied nations.” The bill will now move to the State Assembly, where it is anticipated to encounter opposition.

Just like Israel’s anti-BDS bill, the New York measure has also come under scrutiny. The New York Civil Liberties Union and the pro-Palestinian group Palestine Legal claim that the law unfairly denies public funding to students who are engaged in constitutionally protected political speech. But New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Island) responded to the bill’s critics by saying, “We don’t have to stand by and give taxpayer money to groups that sell such hate.”

Another recent victory against BDS came at Ohio State University (OSU), where a pro-BDS referendum was narrowly defeated by a vote of 4,084-3,843.

The setbacks for BDS also extended to Europe, where Spain’s ruling Partido Popular party approved new amendments that categorically reject the BDS movement — the first time that a major Spanish political party has done so. Angel Mas, the president of the Spanish pro-Israel group ACOM, told the Jerusalem Post that “the time has come to end the impunity, force accountability and create real deterrence against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in Spain.”

Also last week, Christian Imark — a member of the conservative Swiss People’s Party and the deputy leader of the the lower chamber of Switzerland’s legislature — introduced a groundbreaking anti-BDS bill that passed by a vote of 111-78. The legislation seeks to halt government funding for organizations that support BDS. The bill must now clear the legislature’s upper chamber, the Council of States, before it can be enacted into law.

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