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February 2, 2021 3:03 pm
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NGO Human Rights Watch Demands President Biden End Criticism, Refusal to Cooperate With BDS

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A pro-BDS demonstration. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The leading NGO Human Rights Watch, long noted for its antipathy toward Israel, called on Tuesday for President Joe Biden to stop the US government and others from criticizing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which is widely seen in the Jewish community as antisemitic.

The missive, penned by Eric Goldstein, HRW’s Acting Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa Division, decried the Trump administration’s criticism of BDS, and decisions by state governments and the federal government to condemn BDS and refuse to cooperate with it.

“Joe Biden’s inauguration as president is unlikely to end governmental efforts to malign the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign against Israel, including in ways that threaten free speech,” Goldstein wrote.

He further said that the “BDS campaign advocates a peaceful boycott of Israel until it stops occupying the West Bank and Gaza Strip, grants equal rights to Palestinian citizens, and allows Palestinian refugees to return.”

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The BDS movement in fact advocates for Israel to be dissolved as a Jewish state, and regularly attacks Israel as a racist nation whose very existence is illegitimate.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism, adopted by the US State Department and many governments and institutions around the world, maintains that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is a form of antisemitism

Human Rights Watch, however, claimed that “to campaign or boycott solely on behalf of Palestinians under Israeli rule no more constitutes anti-Semitism than doing so on behalf of Tibetans in China is in itself anti-Chinese racism.”

“Biden, too, should defend free speech rights, which include the right to call for peaceful boycotts, even if he remains anti-BDS,” Goldstein said. “He should also oppose laws that penalize companies seeking to disentangle themselves from rights abuses inherent in Israeli settlements.”

He added that Biden “should publicly repudiate Trump’s legacy of tarring criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic in spurious ways.”

In response, Gerald Steinberg, founder of the watchdog group NGO Monitor, said on Twitter that for a quarter century, HRW has “abused human rights for hate vs Israel and antisemitism, including the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.”

“No surprise they’re peddling the fiction of merely opposing policies,” he added.

“[Human Rights Watch] again besmirches its founding principles by defending those who seek to eliminate #Israel. Not about policy disagreement but about legitimizing campaign demonizing the Jewish state,” tweeted the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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