Trump's plan to outlaw BDS as 'anti-Semitic' scrapped by Biden administration

Trump's plan to outlaw BDS as 'anti-Semitic' scrapped by Biden administration
Mike Pompeo's plan to outlaw the BDS movement and to label it as anti-Semitic is now off the table under the new Biden administration.
3 min read
25 January, 2021
BDS is a non-violent movement [Getty]
Former US President Donald Trump's plan to the administration to define organisations that supports the non-violent Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement never materialised, according to a report.

On his last trip to the Middle East in November, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US would take measures against the BDS movement by expanding the definition of anti-Semitism to include organisations deemed to be boycotting Israel.

Among the groups that could be targeted by the planned legislature were reportedly NGOs Oxfam and Amnesty International, due to their alleged campaigns against the Israeli government.

The initiative never came into action, government sources told Haaretz, as the State Department failed to complete the list and get it approved by the time Joe Biden’s administration stepped in.

Another main reason is due to internal opposition to the plan within the State Department, largely stemming from concerns about its repercussions on freedom of speech.

Elan Carr, the former US special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, resigned just before the new administration took over and before he was able to complete the assignment from Pompeo.

When Haaretz regarding whether the Biden administration planned to move forward with the initiative, a State Department spokeswoman sufficed by pointing to remarks delivered by Antony Blinken, the designated secretary of state, during his confirmation hearings in the Senate last week.

Blinken said that both he and Biden "resolutely opposed" the BDS movement, among other reasons because it "unfairly and inappropriately" singled out Israel.

However, he noted that "of course we fully respect and will always respect the First Amendment rights of Americans to say what they believe and think", signalling that Pompeo's plan is not on the agenda.

Non-violent activism

Palestinians have for decades urged civil campaigns against Israel, organised under the umbrella known as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions committee.

BDS is comprised of over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations, unions, and cultural and rights groups - including all major political parties, trade and academic unions - issued its official call for boycott in 2005.

The non-violent BDS movement says it is inspired by the campaign that targeted South Africa's apartheid regime and is seeking to put an end to Israel's brutal occupation of the West Bank.

Israel sees the movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism – a claim activists firmly deny, calling it an attempt to discredit them.

But BDS, which adheres to peaceful resistance, aims to pressure Israel to adhere to international law and human rights by lobbying various states, institutions and personas to understand its oppression of Palestinians and take action as a result.

The peaceful movement operates by pressuring corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with Israel with supporters saying activities are aimed at promoting a Palestinian statehood.

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