US to formally declare BDS anti-Semitic, Pompeo says, announcing crackdown

The United States government will formally designate the anti-Israel boycott movement “anti-Semitic” and immediately start cracking down on groups affiliated with it, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday during a visit to Israel, calling BDS a “cancer.”

“Today I want to make one announcement with respect to a decision by the State Department that we will regard the global anti-Israel BDS campaign as anti-Semitic,” he said, standing next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint statement to the press.

“I know this may sound simple to you, Mr. Prime Minister, it seems like a statement of fact, but I want you to know that we will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw US government support for such groups. The time is right,” Pompeo declared.

At that point, Netanyahu interrupted the US top diplomat’s comments, saying, “It doesn’t sound simple, it sounds simply wonderful.”

“Look,” Pompeo went on, “we want to stand with all other nations that recognize the BDS movement for the cancer that it is. And we’re committed to combating it. Our record speaks for itself. During the Trump administration, America stands with Israel like never before.”

BDS, which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, is not a registered organization but rather a term for a worldwide movement of pro-Palestinian activists who embrace  economic sanctions against Israel as the best nonviolent means to fight what they consider unjust policies of the government in Jerusalem.

Leading European politicians have rejected the BDS movement on ideological grounds but have stopped short of banning it due to free speech laws.

Illustrative: A protester holds a sign reading ‘Boycott Israel, Free Palestine’ during a Quds-day demonstration in Berlin, on June 9, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ)

In May 2019, the German Bundestag passed with a large majority a resolution denouncing BDS, describing its methods as anti-Semitic and reminiscent of Nazi-era calls to boycott Jews.

The motion called on the German government not to support events organized by BDS or groups that actively pursue its aims, and vowed that parliament wouldn’t finance any projects that call for a boycott of Israel or actively support the movement.

The German motion stated that “the pattern of argument and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic.”

Netanyahu welcomed the resolution at the time, hoping it would lead to “concrete steps” to halt funding for pro-boycott groups.

During his press appearance Thursday with Pompeo, the prime minister lauded the outgoing administration of Donald Trump for various steps in support of Israel, including moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, brokering normalization agreements with three Arab countries and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Pompeo announced that later on Thursday he was planning to visit the Golan Heights, which would be the first time a senior US official visited the strategic plateau claimed by Syria since the administration recognized Israel’s sovereignty over it in March 2019.

The US top diplomat is also expected to visit the Psagot Winery, which is located in the West Bank, marking the first time an American secretary of state would visit a business in an Israeli settlement. While the visit has not been officially confirmed by US officials and is likely considered private in nature, it has been widely condemned, by officials in Ramallah and pro-Palestinian activists, as an endorsement of Israeli violations of international law.

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