Perpetuating Racism: the Motivations behind the German Anti-BDS Motion

A solidarity rally in support of BDS in Gaza. (Photo: via MEMO)

By Maren Mantovani

The resolution passed by the German parliament that falsely defined the entire Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-semitic and restricted public space and support for anybody connected to it, has drawn immense ire. At the base of it lies the blatant arrogance displayed by the German establishment in passing a motion that elevates itself above facts and human rights, while simultaneously attempting to blame homegrown racism on the Palestinian-led global BDS movement.

The entire resolution is based on false facts. Seemingly, nobody in the German parliament bothered to study neither the foundational call for BDS, nor the statement of anti-discrimination principles, the guidelines or the practice of the BDS movement. They clearly show that the anti-racist character of the movement that does not call for a boycott of anyone or any entity on the basis of their identity but on the basis of complicity. The very call for BDS appeals to Israeli citizens to join the effort.

It simply demands that Israel respect human rights and that the international community comply with their own legal obligations not to aid and assist Israel in its violations of international law and take effective action to end them. This already dismantles the entire construct of baseless fabrications about the BDS movement, that sustain the motion.

Had German politicians really had combating racism – including anti-semitism – at heart, they got it precisely wrong.

It is truly alarming that anti-semitism is on the rise in Germany but the parliamentarians should have looked at the statistics. The day before the vote, the German government has announced that 90% of the anti-semitic and of the xenophobic attacks come from the far right. Those 90% come from the voter pool of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) that has proposed an even more anti-democratic resolution, completely outlawing the BDS movement. Those people are wouldn’t be welcome and have nothing to do with the BDS movement, neither in Germany or elsewhere.

This resolution has given the real perpetrators and proponents of all forms of racism, including anti-semitism, a blank check, by blaming German homegrown racism on a Palestinian-lead anti-apartheid movement struggling for justice, freedom and equality. Rising racism is the well-known phenomena of scapegoating minorities for Europe’s unresolved economic woes. Now the German parliament has decided to scapegoat Palestinians and their supporters for the scapegoating.

While German politics is fighting an anti-racist movement, the real racists are at loose. That’s bad for Jews, Muslims, Arabs, migrants and many more minorities.

Those who, instead, directly thrive in the racist turf are Europe’s discriminatory anti-migration policies, politically and financially heavily co-sponsored by Germany. Without a prevailing racist sentiment, it would be harder to justify the quadrupling of the EU budget for border militarization up to €21.3 billion in 2020 or the building and maintenance of a 10 000 strong standing army tasked to target migrants. Or even the fact that 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the European countries have already built over 1000 km of walls along their borders.

Ironically, one of the big winners of this policy is Israel’s military industry. The EU’s efforts to control and seal access from the Mediterranean pay up to $68m to Elbit Systems to provide its Hermes 900 patrol system based on the company’s most advanced killer drone, tested on Palestinians in Gaza. Israel’s Ministry of Defense announced last year that Europe is a “significant target for defense transactions, mainly in terms of ‘border defenses’”.

It is, among others, that kind of deals that hurt Palestinians as much as migrants, that the BDS movement aims to stop.

The German representatives chose to willfully ignore the facts and, without hesitation, stood up against a global movement of human rights defenders that is explicitly inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement.

Truth be said, Germany wasn’t a supporter of the South African anti-apartheid movement either. During the 80s, under Helmut Kohl’s leadership, Germany fought European policies that demanded imposition of trade restrictions against the apartheid regime with all its power available and attempted to bust the UN military embargo. Even two years after Nelson Mandela was sworn in president of the post-apartheid South Africa, his invitation to the German parliament was still met with opposition.

One shouldn’t be surprised that Germany as a repeat offender, as well this time stands contrary to EU policies. In fact, the EU has extended the protection of freedom of speech and association to the BDS movement under their Charter of Fundamental Rights. The governments of the Netherlands, Ireland and Sweden and the parliament of Spain and the Upper House of the Swiss parliament have issued similar statements.

Building the case against freedom of speech and in favor of denial of spaces for civil society should be worrying for all those that believe in human rights. The baseless delegitimization of movements based on lies and motions that grant impunity for injustice should be rejected by all Democrats.

This resolution that has been profusely praised by Israel’s far-right president Benyamin Netanyahu is based on the policy decisions of the Donald Trump administration which can be resumed as ‘Law doesn’t matter!’, neither do facts.

Edging dangerously in this camp of anti-democratic doctrines, which the German parliament can cohabit with such figures as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, India’s Narendra Modi and Hungary’s Viktor Orban – all declared racists and best friends of Israel with little or no respect for human rights and freedoms – it has made a dangerous step towards the wrong direction.

On the other side of the dividing line are not only Palestinians but all those that are excluded, marginalized, criminalized and discriminated against, together with all those that defend democracy, human rights and the courage to stand up for the oppressed. These are the people that can build a global alliance to reclaim the very basics of democracy and human rights, and Palestine is a core part of this alliance.

The good news is that German support for apartheid lost then and there is no reason to assume justice-seeking people will not prevail this time as well – not only to protect their right to use boycotts against apartheid but in their aim to make them government policy.

– Maren Mantovani is the international relations coordinator of the Stop the Wall Campaign. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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1 Comment

  1. What this resolution demonstrates is that, in effect, the German parliament is demanding that WW2 Nazi politics, apartheid and genocide, be continued in “israel”.

    In other words, contrary to giving the impression the German people have learned from their horrific experience, they have in fact learned nothing from the 2 worst excesses of their WW2 regime.

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