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Misplacing priorities and freedom of expression

It would be slightly premature to consider the statement by the EU Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, regarding the right of EU citizens to boycott Israel as some sort of victory. At first glance, it might look as if activism has overcome a significant hurdle, given the Israeli government's obsession with suffocating the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions movement (BDS). A study of the brief statement actually suggests otherwise, and all in the name of freedom of expression.

Mogherini asserted that the EU "stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union", even when such information or ideas "offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population." You just knew that there was a "but" coming: she made it equally clear that "the EU rejects the BDS campaign's attempts to isolate Israel and is opposed to any boycott of Israel." The EU official missed the point, of course; Israel isolates itself by its contempt for international laws and conventions, along with its brutal military occupation and colonisation of Palestine.

Commenting on Mogherini's statement, BDS Europe Campaigns Officer Riya Hassan voiced the expectation that the EU should respect "its obligations under international law and its own principles and laws by, at the very least, imposing a military embargo upon Israel," as well as a suspension of the EU-Israel Agreement signed in 1995. The latter stipulates regulations regarding political dialogue, economic cooperation, security and cooperation on social matters, based upon the premise in Article 2 of the agreement that all provisions "shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles." Israel has no such respect; it is a colonial entity and the EU functions as a protector of colonialism. The entire agreement should thus be declared null and void, or amended according to each entity's characteristics, without the need to drag pretentious terms such as democracy into the equation.

Through Mogherini's recent statement we have a clear example of how the EU actually demeans human rights and freedom of expression by utilising the discourse meant to uphold them. The entire essence of the EU's true intentions lies in its opposition to BDS. Hence, any concession given by the EU should not be misconstrued as support, or upholding the right to freedom of expression. It is merely a recurring political ploy that ridicules the very essence of freedom. At the same time, it is through these clauses that BDS has managed to retain ground. Notwithstanding the genuine efforts of the masses which have embarked upon collective and individual efforts to boycott Israel, the fragile compromise upon which the global boycott outlook rests may well become tarnished if it continues to laud statements blatantly supportive of Israel while grudgingly allowing dissent as proof of freedom of expression.

Hence, Mogherini's statement is not welcome. It is a calculated contribution to the debate that places Israel's interests above the legitimate demands and legal rights of the Palestinians. BDS should distance itself from the litany of symbolic gestures that have taken precedence over genuine, active support for the anti-colonial struggle unless, that is, the movement seeks to become just another actor that thrives upon Palestinian demands as the means for the entity's survival. If the movement's chartered course is in the slightest way intertwined with that of the EU, however insignificant it may seem on the surface, Palestine may well be destined to accumulate festering wounds; the objective — which is already compromised due to the two-state subjugation rhetoric — will in the meantime become ever more distant from the land and the indigenous people.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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