by Ari Lieberman
How anti-BDS legislation has neutered the group and hampered its ability to function.
It’s been a really bad month for the anti-Semitic BDS movement, a strange alliance of radical leftists and Islamists who advocate the destruction of Israel through economic and cultural boycotts. The hate group suffered a number of major setbacks in recent weeks. Some of these reversals represent mere moral victories but others have far reaching consequences that may well spell doom for BDS’s future operations and ability to function.
In May, the Strasbourg-based bank, Credit Mutuel, a French multinational bank that serves approximately 7.5 million customers, shut down the BDS account held by BDS France. Credit Mutuel’s anti-BDS action comes on the heels of similar actions taken by other major banks.
In April, the major Austrian bank Erste Group closed the BDS account held by BDS Austria, substantially hindering BDS operations. And in February, the French bank BNP Paribas, closed a German BDS account held by its subsidiary, DAB in Munich.
The actions taken by these major multinational banks must be viewed in the wider context of anti-BDS legislation in France and the United States. Various French laws, including the 2003 Lellouche law, prohibit boycotts based on national origin. Criminal and civil sanctions that have been imposed for breach of the Lellouche law and other anti-boycott laws have been affirmed by the French Court of Cassation, France’s court of last resort with jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters.
Up until recently, The French adopted a lackadaisical attitude toward enforcing anti-BDS laws but a surge in anti-Semitic violence and Islamic terrorism has galvanized anti-BDS efforts and given new impetus to combatting this malevolent, Judeophobic movement. Pro-Israel and Jewish groups have been tracking, uncovering and publicizing the names of banking institutions that transact business with BDS groups by maintaining BDS accounts. Once exposed, these banks are left with little choice but to discontinue these accounts lest they run afoul of anti-BDS legislation and expose their institutions to litigation and hefty fines.
Of perhaps greater import has been the anti-BDS actions taken by individual state legislatures within the United States. Nearly half of the 50 states, including states housing major financial centers like New York, have passed or are in the process of passing anti-BDS legislation aimed at targeting businesses or entities that participate in BDS activity against Israel or otherwise facilitate its operations. The legislation varies from state to state but generally prohibits states from transacting business with these entities and also prohibits state pensions from investing in such entities.
In addition, businesses or entities that limit their boycott to areas liberated by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967 may also be subject to anti-BDS sanctions. The New Jersey State Senate for example, passed an anti-BDS resolution that targets a company or entity “that boycotts the goods, products, or businesses of Israel, boycotts those doing business with Israel, or boycotts companies operating in Israel or Israeli-controlled territory (emphasis added).” Thus, Judea and Samaria as well as the Golan Heights are covered under the law.
Major financial institutions including large banks that operate globally are responding positively and taking measures to comply with existing and pending legislation by closing BDS affiliated accounts. Credit Mutuel, BNP Paribas and Erste Group maintain branch offices in New York and it is a virtual certainty that Governor Cuomo will sign the legislature’s anti-BDS resolution into law. Continued maintenance of BDS accounts by these banks could adversely affect and jeopardize their U.S. operations.
But the unfolding anti-BDS tsunami has not limited itself to the financial sector. In May, Israel scored another major moral victory when the United Methodist Church shot down four resolutions calling for the organization to divest from companies that operate in Israel’s post-1967 borders. Only days after this stunning rejection of BDS, the UMC followed up its pro-Israel stance by advocating the Church’s withdrawal from the rabidly anti-Israel "US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation."
In adopting the non-binding pro-Israel resolution, the UMC noted the one-sided nature of the anti-Israel group which seeks to isolate Israel through economic and cultural boycotts. The Methodist petition called the anti-Israel group a "one-sided political coalition" that overlooks “anti-Israel aggression.” The UMC resolution further noted that “blaming only one side while ignoring the wrongdoing of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran will not advance the cause of peace.”
Since its inception in 2006, BDS has had virtually no impact on Israel’s economy, which continues to surge. Attempts by the BDS movement to isolate Israel through cultural boycotts have also failed miserably. The latest celebrity to have visited Israel was Elton John who performed on May 26 and ignored calls by the anti-Semitic and irrelevant Roger Waters to cancel his trip. Pharrell Williams is slated to perform on July 21 and has similarly brushed aside BDS objections.
In those isolated cases where BDS claimed victory, such as when Orange CEO Stéphane Richard stated that he wished to sever his company’s links to Israel, those “victories” were short-lived. In the case of Orange, Richard immediately performed a complete about-face following an international outcry. Legislation aimed at curtailing the limited influence of BDS, through economic and criminal sanctions, will further reduce the pernicious group’s influence. The closure of their bank accounts is merely the beginning.
Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.
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