Palestine: Two Hundred European Jurists Support The BDS Movement

This represents an unprecedented mobilization in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which took form on December 10th, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Some 200 lawyers from European countries signed a text protesting the increasingly frequent attempts to silence the BDS movement. The signatory jurists affirm their will to "defend the rights of the Palestinians by leading the BDS campaign". We publish below their call.

Statement by jurists against the measures taken by certain governments to proscribe the BDS movement:

Boycott, Disengagement and Sanctions (BDS) is a global and peaceful movement led by Palestinian civil society. It aims to force Israel to fulfill its obligations under international humanitarian law and norms relative to international human rights, as required by many UN resolutions. In particular, the objectives are the end of the occupation of the Palestinian and Syrian territories, the cessation of systematic discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel itself  and the return of Palestinian refugees.

The BDS movement is modeled on the anti-apartheid movement, which mobilized civil society against apartheid in South Africa. This has evolved into a powerful and effective movement in promoting measures to pressure Israel to comply with international law, as well as in persuading States and businesses not to support the violations of international law committed by Israel.

The mobilization of civil society for the respect of human rights - such as during the campaign against apartheid in South Africa or the African-American civil rights movement in the United States - has never been hampered by the actions of foreign governments. However, the effectiveness of BDS has led not only to Israel but also to various third States adopting measures to suppress this movement.

France, Great Britain, Canada and some legislatures in the United States have passed laws and taken executive measures to suppress, proscribe, and sometimes penalize the actions of the movement. This type of measure aims to punish individuals, businesses and private and public institutions that make commercial, investment or supply decisions in respect to both morality and the law.

Other States (notably Sweden, the Netherlands and Ireland), although disapproving of a boycott of Israel, consider that the mobilization of the BDS movement constitutes a legitimate exercise of the freedom of expression, a fundamental right consecrated In domestic law and in international human rights conventions. Well-known human rights organizations, including the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Watch, have also maintained that individuals, associations, public and private institutions, and governments and regional companies have the right to promote and implement the BDS movement, thus exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression.

States and organizations that consider BDS legitimately exercising its freedom of expression are right. The question is not whether we approve the objective or the methods of BDS. The question is whether, in order to protect Israel, an exception to freedom of expression - the cornerstone of human rights - must be allowed. States prohibiting the BDS movement undermine this fundamental right. By exempting a particular State from the promotion of peaceful measures aimed at securing its conformity with international law, they threaten the credibility of human rights.

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