Rapper Talib Kweli Barred From Music Fest Over BDS

Bowing to a new law in Germany, the Open Source Festival in Dusseldorf rescinded its invitation to Brooklyn-born rapper Talib Kweli. In May 2019, the German government passed a law stating that the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS) until it met the basic national demands of the Palestinian people was anti-Semitic. As a result, Kweli, who is a long-time advocate for the Palestinian cause, could not perform at a music festival using public funds, as this one does.

When it comes to BDS, Germany won’t tolerate “don’t ask, don’t tell” either. I have no idea whether Kweli would have said a word about the Palestinians at his show, and neither do the show’s organizers. Some of Kweli’s songs mention his support for the Palestinians and opposition to Israeli policies, but it’s hardly a primary theme of his. It’s just one piece among many of his stances for social justice. He did not start this; the festival producers asked him as a litmus test for his entry.

That’s how far anti-BDS legislation goes in its quest to stifle speech that might illuminate the Palestinian case. Read more at LobeLog

The Palestine Problem

“Israel is outraged over the legislation against it in the Dail which is indicative of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism.” That was the statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the lower house of the Irish parliament advanced a bill in late January that would make it illegal for anyone in Ireland to buy goods or services from Israel’s settlements in the West Bank.

No one should underestimate Israel’s genuine anger at this bill and at the widespread support it has in Ireland. Any hint of economic pressure to end its 51-year old occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip provokes a strong, visceral reaction from the Likud premier. At the same time, the Israeli government carefully orchestrates its reaction to the threat of economic action to ensure that it never has to face it.

Netanyahu understands the Irish bill will fail. The government opposes it, if for no other reason than the fact that it contravenes European Union laws requiring all member states to uphold the unitary nature of the single market. But he also understands the real meaning behind the bill and its success: the people of Ireland want to see Israel face the consequences of its disregard of international humanitarian law, and its abandonment of even the pretence of negotiating a two-state solution, in the hope that those consequences will make Israel change course. Read more at The Battleground

Q&A With Rebecca Vilkomerson

Rebecca Vilkomerson has been a member of Jewish Voice for Peace since 2001 and the group’s Executive Director since 2009. She lived with her family in Israel from 2006-2009. In 2010 she rebecca-vilkomersonwas named one of the 50 most influential Jewish American leaders by the Forward, and was named one of “14 Women to Watch” in 2014.

FMEP: Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has, in some ways, been a lightning rod for the global movement for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel (BDS). Many people can’t reconcile the idea of a Jewish organization advocating a boycott of Israel. Obviously, this is especially true for those who see BDS as unfairly anti-Israel, even anti-Semitic. As the Executive Director of JVP, how do you respond to those charges? And, perhaps a parallel question, what would you say are the major differences between the public perception of the BDS movement and its reality?

Rebecca Vilkomerson: Read more at Facts On The Ground, the Foundation For Middle East Peace’s blog. 

Understanding EU Labeling Regulations

Recently, the European Union implemented a procedure for enforcing existing regulations requiring the labeling of some goods produced in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israel has vociferously objected to any labeling of products from its settlements, and this has prompted concern in Congress, including a bi-partisan letter written by Senators Cruz and Gillibrand protesting the requirement.

The Obama administration has made it clear that it does not object to the EU’s decision. “We do not believe that labeling the origin of products is equivalent to a boycott,” State DepartmentIsraeli settlement winespokesman Mark Toner said in response to a question. “And as you know, we do not consider settlements to be part of Israel. We do not view labeling the origin of products as being from the settlements as a boycott of Israel.” Read more at Facts on the Ground, FMEP’s blog. 

Update: Reykjavík Modifies Decision to Boycott Israeli Products

The city of Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital, modified its position today on a boycott of Israel, deciding instead only to boycott products from the Occupied Territories.

Reykjavík

Reykjavík

That is a much more politically sensible decision and a smart one for Reykjavík. The initial boycott was going to complicate Iceland’s foreign policy, as it is not the national policy to boycott all of Israel. Indeed, Iceland has no specific policy about how to respond to the occupation, nor does it have one regarding economic actions against Israel.

The outcome, however, does have an unfortunate side effect: it will be perceived as a tacit acknowledgment that a boycott of Israel over the occupation is, indeed, an act of antisemitism. The hysterical reaction of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and the entirely inappropriate call by the Simon Wiesenthal Center (an institution which shames Wiesenthal’s name on a daily basis with their consistent practice of labelling any and all criticism of Israel as antisemitism) for Jews not to go to Reykjavík, will now appear to have been effective. Continue reading

Iceland’s Capital City Declares Boycott of All Israeli Products

The Icelandic capital city of Reykjavik has declared a boycott of all Israeli goods. The measure is clearly symbolic, as the

Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, the Reykjavik official who brought the boycott motion

Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, the Reykjavik official who brought the boycott motion

city itself can’t do enough trade with Israel, or any other country, for such an action to have any impact. The responses to the action, however, are worth examining.

A retiring official, Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, of the Social Democratic Alliance, a center-left party, brought the motion for the boycott. The motion compels the city to boycott all Israeli products “as long as the occupation of Palestinian territories continues.” The memo that explains the reasoning behind what it terms a “symbolic” decision states that the city condemns “the Israeli policy of apartheid” in the Occupied Territories.  Continue reading

Issue Brief: BDS In Perspective

In the latest in a series of Issue Briefs at the FMEP web site, we look at the BDS movement. We examine how it is distinct from other economic actions aimed at the Israeli occupation, the ways it has been used as a mask for very troubling attempts at policy shifts and the misguided responses to it. Check out the Issue Brief at the FMEP web site.