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Switzerland votes to prevent government funding of BDS movement

March 10, 2017 at 11:16 am

Image of a BDS march in Switzerland [BDS Switzerland/Facebook]

The Swiss parliament passed a bill on Wednesday to prevent the state from “financing any organisation which supports racism, anti-Semitism, or the BDS”.

Image of Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister, Didier Burkhalter [Wikipedia]

Image of Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister, Didier Burkhalter [Wikipedia]

Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported yesterday that the decision was passed with 111 votes for and 78 against, while four lawmakers abstained.

This is the first time a European parliament has voted on a resolution condemning the international boycott of Israel as “racism and anti-Semitism”.

The paper said that Foreign Affairs Minister, Didier Burkhalter, tried to convince the parliament to reject the proposal, saying, “it is Switzerland’s right to encourage public discussion in Israel” referring to the country’s support for body’s linked, directly or otherwise, to the BDS, presenting the organisation Breaking the Silence as an example.

Breaking the Silence is a thorn in the eye of the Israeli government, because it reports the horrors of the occupation

The resolution was passed as a result of the efforts of Israel’s NGO Monitor Chairman, Professor Gerald Steinberg, and Director of its Europe Desk, Olga Deutsche.

Several months ago the pair met members of the Swiss parliament and presented MPs with facts about organisations that Switzerland is funding, claiming they promote anti-Semitism and denounce acknowledgement of Israel and the Jews’ right to reside in the state’s territories, the paper said.

BDS expert Hossam Shaker said: “It represents a serious decline for Switzerland’s obligations to freedom of expression and the right to object to the racist policies of the Israeli occupation authorities.”

Shaker told Quds Press that several Swiss civil organisations have called for a boycott of the occupation, adding that parliament’s move is a threat to freedoms.

The Swiss Senate has yet to approve the decision.