Dutch Foreign Minister, Bert Koenders, announced that calls to boycott Israel fell within the limits of free speech (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl/Creative Commons)
Elham Asaad Buaras
Major Israeli diplomatic efforts to pressure western parliaments to outlaw the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment Movement (BDS) suffered a huge blow on May 26 when Dutch Foreign Minister, Bert Koenders, announced that calls to boycott Israel fell within the limits of free speech.
Sweden recently made a similar declaration.
“Statements or meetings concerning BDS are protected by freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as enshrined in the Dutch Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights,” said Koenders.
His words came just two day after the State Comptroller charged Israel was losing the battle against BDS and de-legitimisation because of government disorganization and a lack of resources.
“Supporting BDS by people in Holland is not illegal and therefore it falls within the limits of freedom,” said Dutch Ambassador to Israel, Gilles Beschoor Plug.
But Koenders’ statement struck a chord in Jerusalem where the Foreign Ministry is in the midst of a massive legislative campaign to outlaw BDS across the globe. Israel argues that BDS falls into the category of “hate speech”, pitching itself against international human rights organisations and left wing parliamentarians in Europe and other Western countries.
The BDS movement wasted no time in declaring Koenders words a victory. Sarah Wilkonsin tweeted: “Israel who claims to be democratic, failed in their attempt to be undemocratic!”
In related news more than 300 human rights and aid organisations, church groups, trade unions and political parties from across Europe have called on the EU to defend the right of individuals and institutions to take part in BDS.
Signatories to the letter called on the EU Commission to “introduce the human rights guidelines guaranteeing freedom of speech and right to boycott and to use all other means you have in your disposal to support European citizens in their struggle to uphold basic human rights.”
The 352 strong list of signatories includes: Transform! Europe – a European network of 28 European organizations from 19 countries, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions, Parti de Gauche in France, Podemos in Spain, Norwegian Church Aid, major Belgian NGO coalition CNCD 11.11.11, Defence for Children in Belgium, the international catholic peace movement Pax Christi International in Belgium and major French Catholic NGO Terre Solidaire.