BDS Condemns 'Fanatic Trump-Netanyahu Alliance' After Pompeo Brands Movement Anti-Semitic

The pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement has hit back at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after he branded the campaign anti-Semitic and vowed to take action against groups supporting it.

Pompeo is currently visiting Israel as part of a 10-day visit to the Middle East ad Europe.

On Thursday, he became the first American secretary of state to visit a Jewish settlement in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. Such settlements are considered illegal by the United Nations and most of the international community. Pompeo and the Trump administration dispute this.

Pompeo used the visit to laud the close ties between the Trump administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government and celebrate the pro-Israel achievements of the Trump presidency.

Pompeo also took the opportunity to brand BDS anti-Semitic during a joint press conference. "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 alongside Netanyahu.

"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 added.

Netanyahu—visibly pleased—interrupted to say: "It doesn't sound simple, it sounds simply wonderful."

Pompeo continued: "Look, 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 is not a registered organization, but is instead a term for a worldwide movement made up of a variety of groups. It advocates for sanctions and boycotts against Israel to push the country to recognize what supporters say are Israel's obligations under international law.

These include withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory, removal of the West Bank separation barrier, full equality for Palestinians living in Israel, and allowing Palestinian refugees to return to the ancestral homes they and their families left or were forced from upon the creation of Israel in 1948.

BDS bases its strategy on that of the South African anti-apartheid movement, comparing Israel with the racist White minority government that oppressed that country's black majority for generations.

BDS opponents say the movement delegitimizes Israel and is inherently anti-Semitic in pursuing boycotts against Jewish people. Critics have drawn comparisons between this, Nazi-directed boycotts of Jewish people and other historical anti-Semitic pogroms.

The German parliament, for example, passed a resolution in 2019 declaring: "The pattern of argument and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic." It added that BDS actions "recall the most terrible phase of German history," referring to the Holocaust.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee, which describes itself as "the broadest Palestinian civil society coalition that works to lead and support the BDS movement," hit back at Pompeo Thursday.

"It's quite ironic that the Trump Administration, prompted by Israel's apartheid regime, continues to enable and normalize white supremacy and anti-Semitism in the U.S. and worldwide while simultaneously smearing BDS," the body said.

"The fanatic Trump-Netanyahu alliance is intentionally conflating opposition to Israel's regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid against Palestinians and calls for nonviolent pressure to end this regime on the one hand with anti-Jewish racism on the other, in order to suppress advocacy of Palestinian rights under international law," it added.

The committee dismissed Pompeo's "fraudulent revision of the definition of anti-Semitism" and noted that many human rights organizations are not part of the BDS movement but still endorse banning goods produced in West Bank settlements. The body also cited a poll showing that 22 percent of Jewish Americans under the age of 40 support a full boycott of Israel.

"The BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality, stands with all those struggling for a more dignified, just and beautiful world. With our many partners, we shall resist these McCarthyite attempts to intimidate and bully Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders into accepting Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism as fate," the statement concluded.

The State Department issued a press release following Pompeo's press conference, explaining: "As we have made clear, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. The United States is, therefore, committed to countering the Global BDS Campaign as a manifestation of anti-Semitism."

The statement said Pompeo had directed the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism "to identify organizations that engage in, or otherwise support, the Global BDS Campaign."

Special envoy Elan Carr "will consider whether an organization is engaged in actions that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize, or otherwise limit, commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in any territory controlled by Israel," the statement said.

Several pro-Palestinian bodies, human rights organizations and progressive Jewish groups have condemned the Trump administration for intentionally conflating anti-Semitism and political criticism of Israel. They say the administration is trying to delegitimize legitimate criticism of Israel.

Reports suggested the State Department was considering designating Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam as anti-Semitic, for example, due to their ongoing work to expose and condemn Israeli human rights abuses of Palestinian and other groups.

In response to Pompeo's BDS attack, Human Rights Watch's acting Middle East and North Africa director Eric Goldstein said: "Americans have a long history of supporting peaceful boycotts to promote social justice and human rights, like the civil rights boycotts in Mississippi or those against apartheid in South Africa."

"The Trump administration has no business trying to tar groups because they back boycotts," Goldstein added.

Israel, Mike Pompeo, BDS, anti-Semitism, Netanyahu, Palestine
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make a joint statement after meeting in Jerusalem on November 19. MAYA ALLERUZZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images/Getty