The highest appeals court in France had upheld fines imposed on anti-Israel activists for “inciting hate or discrimination” during a demonstration promoting the boycott, I was reminded immediately of David’s insight. For what the French court decision demonstrates — and too many people in the Jewish community, especially in Israel, still don’t properly understand this — is that BDS is essentially a domestic form of anti-Semitism that attacks local Jews through the demonizing of the Jewish state. The only way for Jews to remove this stain is through publicly dissociating themselves from, and loudly condemning, the State of Israel. Quarantining Israel in order to eliminate it may be the stated goal of BDS, but its immediate and often only impact is upon those Jews in the vicinity of the movement’s propaganda activities.
Here’s the story of what happened in France. In 2009 and 2010, mobs of BDS activists began descending on supermarkets and forcibly removing Israeli products — many of which were available, for obvious reasons, at the kosher counter for Jewish customers. Video footage of one of these many supermarket invasions shows the protesters thuggishly chanting in favor of the boycott as they surround customers and staff, sealing off aisles where Israeli products are on sale.
By any standards of decency, these protests were both physically threatening and bigoted in their expression; few people would want to be caught in the act of purchasing an Israeli avocado by this rabble. In the eastern city of Mulhouse, 12 activists were charged with incitement after they distributed leaflets urging “Long Live Palestine, Boycott Israel,” with another one warning customers that “buying Israeli products means legitimizing crimes in Gaza.”
After a local court found in favor of the prosecution, imposing a collective fine of $14,500 plus court expenses, the activists took their case to appeal. It’s that appeal that has failed in recent days. In ruling against the activists, who had based their case on freedom of expression, the court cited “the French republic’s law on Freedom of the Press, which prescribes imprisonment or a fine of up to $50,000 for parties that ‘provoke discrimination, hatred or violence toward a person or group of people on grounds of their origin, their belonging or their not belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race or a certain religion.'”
BDS is on pretty shaky ground with most of those categories. Ultimately, that is why it is now legally regarded in France as a form of hate speech — and while we live in a country that guarantees all forms of speech, that shouldn’t prevent us from recognizing BDS as hate speech nonetheless.