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UN report calls BDS ‘fundamentally anti-Semitic’




Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, Lior Keinan, says this is hugely significant because for the first time in the organisation’s history, it has acknowledged that BDS is anti-Semitic and problematic. “The fact that BDS is included in this report symbolises that it is part of the problem and not the solution, while BDS is always claiming to be the latter. It’s excellent that the UN has admitted this.”

The report notes that anti-Semitic elements include the BDS movement’s “objectives, activities, and effects”. It goes on to say that “critics of BDS assert that the architects of the campaign have indicated that one of its core aims is to bring about the end of the state of Israel”. The critics, according to the report, also say “some individuals have employed anti-Semitic narratives, conspiracies, and tropes in the course of expressing support for the BDS campaign”.

“Special Rapporteur [Ahmed Shaheed] … stresses that expression which draws upon anti-Semitic tropes or stereotypes, rejects the right of Israel to exist, or advocates discrimination against Jewish individuals because of their religion should be condemned,” the report says.

Keinan agreed that the report was relevant to South Africans what with South Africa being the “ground zero” of BDS. He said it wasn’t just the UN that had acknowledged this fact, it had joined a trend around the world in “seeing through” BDS. “The European Union, Germany, Czech Republic, and 27 states in the United States are all seeing that underneath a small layer of ‘let’s take care of the Palestinians’ is strictly anti-Semitism.”

The ambassador said he accepted the fact that countries like South Africa could be critical of Israel and engage a tough approach, but they were still engaging with the Jewish state. “They are not saying – like BDS – boycott Israel and wipe it off the map. There is a line between these two approaches.”

The ambassador warned that “BDS-SA would like the government here to exclude any dialogue with Israel, but that isn’t happening. Every time we engage with the government, it proves we are a long way from where BDS wants us to be. The world finally understands what Israel has been saying, and hopefully the South African government will acknowledge it soon. The report proves we aren’t biased. Those same countries that are now seeing BDS for what it is are not necessarily ones we see eye to eye with, but the evidence is there for them.”

The ambassador said he always asks people, “‘If we sign a peace agreement with the Palestinians tomorrow, will BDS go away?’ It won’t, will it? It will still find a way to fight Israel because it wants the elimination of Israel. BDS will simply find a new façade to keep up its aim of destroying the Jewish state. BDS is here to stay – just as anti-Semitism is here to stay. The fact that it’s no longer just us saying this makes this report a real milestone in the fight against anti-Semitism.”

Meanwhile, our very own South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) National Director, Wendy Kahn, contributed to the UN report when she took part in an “Expert stakeholder consultation on monitoring and combatting anti-Semitism” in Geneva. The one-day meeting took place under the auspices of Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights.

“I gave a presentation on the current situation regarding anti-Semitism in South Africa, and how the SAJBD responds to it, with reference to the kind of legal and constitutional remedies that are available for confronting racism and hate speech in the country,” says Kahn. “I was able to explain how in South Africa, a substantial majority of anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric are linked in some way to anti-Israel sentiment and events in the Middle East in general. We are delighted that we were listened to, and that BDS anti-Semitism is recognised for what it is.”

Rowan Polovin, the national chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation, says, “When the United Nations, a body that as a collective has had a longstanding anti-Israel attitude, expresses concern that the BDS movement could be anti-Semitic, then we should take note. The UN report is part of a growing realisation that the sole purpose of the BDS movement is to use economic and political means to bring about the destruction of the one and only Jewish state. It follows that the BDS movement is rottenly anti-Semitic to the core.”

“The movement is inherently destructive, has no interest in peace, or even in the well-being of the Palestinians. And like all anti-Semitic movements throughout history, it falls on the wrong side of history and will fail.”

Other astounding findings in the report are the fact that 55.98% of Poles surveyed reported that they would not accept a Jew as a family member, and about 42% of Hungarians said they thought Jews held too much sway over the worlds of finance and international affairs. School textbooks in Saudi Arabia contained anti-Semitic passages, with some passages even urging violence against Jews.

More than 57% of teachers and lecturers and 53.74% of students in Indonesia agreed with a survey statement claiming that, “Jews are the enemies of Islam.” French authorities reported that anti-Semitic acts increased by 74% from 2017 to 2018, with anti-Semitic acts constituting half of all documented hate crimes, and close to 15% of the incidents involving physical violence. German authorities reported a 10% rise in documented anti-Semitic acts from 2017 to 2018, including a 70% increase in violent acts. In Australia, there were 366 anti-Semitic incidents logged from 1 October 2017 to 30 September 2018.

Milton Shain, emeritus professor of history at the University of Cape Town and an expert on anti-Semitism, says, “Study after study has shown beyond doubt that anti-Semitism is globally on the rise. It goes beyond simple stereotyping and other hostile acts such as graffiti or vandalism. Today, we read almost daily of attacks on Jews. This report adds to the list.

“The big question is, will manifestations of hostility transform into programmatic or party-political action? Hitherto this has for the most part not been the case, although the language of hatred and exclusion employed by populists is worrying. Attacking George Soros in Hungary, for example, is a ‘hygienic’ form of Jew-hatred. Of particular interest in the UN study is the condemnation of BDS, which is well known for its use of anti-Jewish motifs and tropes in its anti-Zionist propaganda. Social media exacerbates the problem. Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed is to be congratulated.”

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