Democratic presidential candidate shuns boycott of Israel

19th Jun 2020
Democratic presidential candidate shuns boycott of Israel

US presidential candidate Joe Biden voiced his disappointment at Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu for moving “so, so far to the right” but ‘firmly’ rejected the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement

(Credit: US Embassy/Flickr)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, has been slammed by progressive activists in the US for arguing that criticism of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian territories too often drifts towards anti-Semitism.

“Criticism of Israel’s policy is not anti-Semitism, but too often that criticism from the left morphs into anti-Semitism,” said the former Vice President during a phone call with major donors earlier on May 19.

The call was part of a virtual fundraiser hosted by Dan Shapiro, a former Ambassador to Israel, and Deborah Lipstadt, Professor of Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. The Biden campaign said 550 people attended.

Biden was asked how to respond to antisemitism among the progressive Democratic activists in both the US and the UK. “We have to condemn it, and I’ve gotten in trouble for doing that,” he replied. “Whatever the source, right, left or centre.”

On May 18, the Biden campaign later released a policy paper saying it ‘firmly rejects’ the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, launched to generate pressure on Israel to comply with international law. Biden said the movement “singles out Israel — home to millions of Jews — and too often veers into anti-Semitism while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.”

The Palestinian BDS National Committee — argued Biden’s rejection of the movement is “shamefully opposing the global non-violent struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality.” The Committee said, ‘By rejecting BDS, Joe Biden endorses US complicity in Israel’s decades-old regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid, and supports depriving Palestinians of our fundamental human rights.

As Israel threatens de jure annexation, Biden advertises US military funding to Israel as “the best $3 billion investment we make.” Yet this “investment” enables Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity — massacres, ethnic cleansing, home demolitions and the siege of Gaza.’

The Committee also argued Biden was out of step with most Democratic voters who now ‘endorse sanctions on Israel, including conditioning military aid.’

Biden did not cite any specific examples of anti-Semitic comments on the left or specifically identify individuals or groups that he was concerned about. He did, however, say that he was disappointed in PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, for moving “so, so far, to the right” and called for Israel to “stop the threat of annexation” of occupied West Bank territories. “It’ll choke off any hope of peace,” said Biden.

He said his “commitment to Israel is absolutely unshakable” and promised to reverse several policies pursued by the administration of US President Donald Trump if elected in November, including restoring diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority and economic and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.

Biden has previously said that Trump should not have moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, but that he would not move it back.

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