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BDS: Lawfare

The next chapter in an informative series about BDS

November 09, 2016

 International Criminal Court building 2016 in The Hague

Image: Wikipedia


Israel’s detractors have learned that trying to defeat the country through military means or through terror has failed. They have changed tactics to a policy of de-legitimization or using political warfare to isolate the Jewish state and eventually bring about its destruction.

One of the most effective ways to fight the BDS is through “lawfare,” using the legislation and institutions available in your country to combat the anti-Israel invective. It is a complicated process as the BDS movement often manipulates international and local law to justify calls for boycotts.

There have been many significant victories.

Government Legislation

Most governments have ruled out policies of supporting formal boycotts against Israel although some subscribe to the concept of re-labelling goods from the West Bank (see below).

The United States Congress has passed a bill that could dissuade European countries from promoting initiatives by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS). In the past, American legislation against the Arab boycott aided Israel in overcoming it. European companies that supported the Arab boycott at the time were economically damaged by the American response.

The new legislation is different, but it uses effective American measures against governments, international organizations, companies and individuals who act to promote a boycott against Israel.

The proposed bill "opposes politically motivated actions that penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel such as boycotts, divestment or sanctions."

It further notes that "the boycott, divestment, and sanctioning of Israel by governments, governmental bodies, quasi-governmental bodies, international organizations, and other such entities is contrary to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) principle of non-discrimination."

The legislation proposes US examination of companies promoting or abiding by boycotts and orders the president to report to Congress within 180 days of the bill going into effect on BDS actions against Israel.


Product Labelling

A new and worrying tactic has been employed by several countries, including most of the European Union. This is the re-labelling of products that originate from the West Bank. The rationale is that it would allow ”consumers to make their own choices about buying products from Israel or the territories”.  Israel seems to be the only country singled out for this kind of treatment at the expense of other countries who commit gross human rights violations.

Many opine that that the re-labelling of goods is comparable to that of the singling out of Jews to wear a yellow star during the 1930’s and 40’s.

Is it really about the settlements?

The settlements are at the center of a heated debate within the Israeli public. The criticism against it, one has to stress, is not part of the demonization. But the peace proposals make it clear that the settlements are not an obstacle for peace.

 Israel has evacuated thousands of settlers from the Gaza Strip. In any future agreement, there will be settlers living in settlement blocks on 5% of the area. The agreements regarding the minority of settlers outside those blocks, is subject to negotiations between the parties. Maybe they will stay where they are. Just as there is an Arab minority in Israel, there could be a Jewish minority in the Palestinian State. Or perhaps a different arrangement will be found.

Can Flotilla’s break the blockade?

Israel currently maintains a maritime blockade over the Gaza strip. This is to prevent the smuggling of weapons in from Iran and other terror sponsors from reaching jihadist groups in the strip.

The blockade is legal under international law.

Many BDS supporters have embarked on flotillas to try and “break the blockade”. Under international law, Israel is allowed to defend itself and attempts to peacefully escort ships into port and send activists back to their countries of origin.

Israel has had legal success in blocking a hostile flotilla intent on breaching the Israeli coastal blockade of Gaza by warning maritime insurance carriers and a satellite communication company that providing services to the flotilla could subject them to legal liability for aiding terrorists.

Proving incitement

In many countries, hate speech can only be proven if it results in the physical harming of a person. In many academic institutions across the world and at anti-Israel rallies, incitement in the form of anti-Semitic hate speech has been used. An example of this is South Africa where BDS activists chanted “shoot the Jew”.

In a landmark ruling in France, the French High Court ruled that BDS activists through their hate speech were guilty of discrimination.

It is in this sphere where small but hugely significant victories can be made over BDS and their supporters. Many countries have constitutions and legislation that protects against discrimination. This is one of the most  

Articles of Interest:


*This content was gathered and provided by Rolene Marks