European Parliament BrusselsBrussels, April 6th, 2016 – Following the Brussels attacks of last month, ECI has called upon the European Parliament in Brussels to take the moral leadership in the international fight against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which demonizes Israel and legitimizes anti-Israel rhetoric from radical elements who advocate publicly for Israel’s elimination.

In a letter to the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell thanked him for his strong leadership on issues related to anti-Semitism and racism and asked him to help put an end to the discrimination and incitement against Israel by supporting an EU anti-BDS resolution.  President Schulz has been a firm supporter of good relations with Israel and was personally opposed to the new EU labelling Notice of Israeli goods in November 2015.

“While Europe is coming to terms with the aftermath of these cowardly attacks in Brussels, initiatives are being taken within EU member states to implement boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel. We cannot let the forces of hatred and demonization lead the way,” Sandell wrote in the letter.  We need real solutions for a lasting peace, not divisive rhetoric which diminishes any prospect for peaceful coexistence.

“As an organisation which represents European citizens from all walks of life in many different countries, we call upon the European Parliament to take a firm stand against BDS and make clear that discriminating against Israel is illegal and will not be tolerated by the EU”.

In February, the European Parliament was the first international body to issue a Resolution recognising officially as genocide the atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq. “As European citizens we are proud of our elected lawmakers for taking such international moral leadership on this important issue,” Sandell said. “In the same manner, we believe that there can be no better international forum for a Resolution against BDS than the European Parliament.”

In recent months, leaders from across the political spectrum, from the Liberal government of Canada to the Conservative government in Britain, have recognised  that boycotts against Israel are illegal under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and GATT agreements.  Moreover, the French High Court has decreed that BDS constitutes incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence against a person or group of persons because of their origin or their membership in an ethnic group, nation, a race, or religion.

“Now the time has come for the European Parliament to take one step further and condemn those acts that have historically preceded violence and pogroms; namely boycotts and the singling out of Jewish businesses, which today are organized under the banner of BDS,” said Sandell.  “For centuries the worst slanders were leveled against the Jewish people, but in modern times, anti-Semitism not only attacks individual Jews, but attacks them collectively in spreading malicious slander against the Jewish state, Israel.”

The words ‘NEVER AGAIN’ have to be followed by actions, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her speech at  the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) conference in Berlin last month.   We also have to be clear that anti-Zionism is synonymous with anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls noted very rightly earlier in March.

“Boycotts and sanctions against Israel go beyond infringing international trade law”, Sandell concluded.  “The BDS movement does not merely seek to oppose or protest Israeli policies, but it is actually based on rejection of the very right of the Jewish State of Israel to exist. It is evident that BDS activities stimulate a climate of anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitic hatred, and have therefore contributed to the increase in violence and terrorism against Jewish people, as we have painfully witnessed in the last few years in Europe.”

The way to peace is paved through diplomacy and mutual commitment from both sides, whilst BDS promotes separation and division, not coexistence.  The EU must make clear that discrimination, incitement and boycotts against WTO Member States are not only wrong, but illegal.  They are part of the problem, not a solution and will not be tolerated by the EU.

The European Coalition for Israel was founded in Brussels in 2003 as a Christian initiative to address the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. In January 2005, ECI organized the first official Holocaust Remembrance Day event in the European Parliament in Brussels. Ten months later, the UN General Assembly issued Resolution 60/7 establishing 27th of January as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Today, ECI is active in fostering good relations between Europe and Israel and combating all expressions of anti-Semitism, which include calls for boycotts and the isolation and demonization of the State of Israel. The ECI Annual Policy Conference will take place this year in Brussels on April 21st, 2016.