October 17, 2016 | The Jerusalem Post

US-based BDS group seeks to lobby Congress

A campaign by a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions organization called “The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation” to lobby members of Congress against Israel on Capitol Hill has raised concern in Jerusalem and among pro-Israel organizations who view the step as a flagrant escalation in anti-Israel efforts in the United States.

It is unclear if the organization has confirmed meetings with congressional politicians.

Last month, a briefing on Capitol Hill, which was sponsored by the group, was quickly canceled after its hostility toward the Jewish state was revealed by US news outlets.

Government officials said that they were aware of the organization and were following their efforts to break ground with their lobby campaign next week.

US organizations pushing a BDS agenda against Israel are widely viewed as pariah groups in Washington. The US Campaign’s lobby day is part of a three-day conference in Arlington, Virginia, titled “Which Side Are You On? Taking a Stand for Palestinian Rights.” It is the group’s 15th annual conference.

According to the website of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the organization “calls for Israel’s destruction as a Jewish state. Rather than opposing particular Israeli policies, it opposes Israel’s very existence and rejects a two-state solution.”

Dan Diker, the author of the October 10 JCPA document on the group, wrote that the US Campaign’s co-founder and director of organizing and advocacy, Anna Baltzer, argued against Israel’s existence: “I recognized that the problem was not simply occupation, but rather the creation and maintenance of an ethno-nationalist Jewish entity… I realized occupation was just one step in a much longer process, and I couldn’t simply oppose one and not the other.”

Baltzer delivered her comments against Israel’s right to exist in an interview with the Virtual Mosque website in 2009.

The JCPA report states the “US Campaign leadership and key members support [and in some cases have ties to] designated terrorist organizations and have a track record of violence and incitement.”

Baltzer has shown support for terrorist activities of Fatah’s Aksa Martyrs Brigades, “one of the most violent Palestinian armed groups, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, EU, and Canada,” wrote Diker.

Baltzer wrote in a 2007 article on an anti-Zionist, US-based website: “It’s worth noting that [Israeli] soldiers are the very targets of the wanted men, not Israeli civilians. Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade plans attacks against armed fighters.”

In fact, the group was responsible for a series of mass terrorism attacks in Israel. In 2003, two of the group’s suicide bombers murdered 23 Israelis outside of the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. A additional 100 people were wounded.

In 2007, a Martyrs Brigades suicide bomber caused the deaths of three Israelis in a bakery in Eilat.

Meetings between congressional representatives and the BDS group could raise thorny issues. Over half of US states have passed anti- BDS laws and resolutions, as well as two congressional legislative measures rejecting BDS. According to US news outlets, the US Campaign-sponsored event could not secure the support of congressional members to hold its BDS briefing in September.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) said in February: “The Combating BDS Act of 2016 uses the power of the purse to fight back against antisemitism throughout the world.” He added, “This bipartisan bill would authorize state and local governments in the United States to follow Illinois’s lead and divest from companies engaged in boycotts and other forms of economic warfare against Israel.

With this bill, Congress underscores the critical role that state and local governments and their communities have to play in the ongoing struggle against antisemitism worldwide.”

On the other side of the Atlantic, European financial institutions and governments have stepped up their efforts to combat BDS.

The Bank of Ireland shut down scores of BDS accounts in Northern Ireland and Ireland in late September. France strictly enforces its anti-BDS law – the Larouche Law – because BDS discriminates against Israelis based on national origin. French, Austrian and German banks have terminated BDS accounts in their countries in 2016.

Eva Muszar, spokeswoman for Germany’s powerful Green Party in the state of Baden-Württemberg, told The Jerusalem Post in June: “We Greens reject a boycott of Israel, as well as BDS. The BDS campaign aggressively calls for a boycott of Israeli goods and organizations, and is collectively directed against Jewish Israelis and uses antisemitic prejudices.”

A Post query to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation was not immediately returned.

Benjamin Weinthal is a Research Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Israel Palestinian Politics