March 25, 2016
High Representative Federica Mogherini,
Dear Ms. Mogherini,
We read with great concern that the EU Ambassador to Israel is to speak at the Israeli “Stop the Boycott” conference on 28 March. His presence there will be most unfortunate, for several reasons.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has empowered civil society to apply pressure to Israel by peaceful, legal means in order to persuade it to end the occupation of Palestinian land. It is self-evident that this Israeli government, as the previous one, will not end the occupation along the intentionally legitimate parameters unless pressure is applied to it. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence on only negotiating “without preconditions” is proof enough.
We are sure you realise that the Israeli strategy against BDS is to elide the distinction between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and then claim that all BDS activity is the same, whether directed at Israel or the OPT, and is intended to “delegitimise” Israel. The EU has always maintained the distinction clearly, and affirmed time and again that Israel has no sovereign rights in the OPT.
Under the rules of the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement, government bodies are allowed to exclude companies from tendering for contracts on the basis of having committed “grave professional misconduct”. Many of the services provided to settlements, or elsewhere in the OPT, would certainly qualify for that description. Some services inside Israel, for example at the prison where Palestinians from the OPT are illegally held, would also qualify. Since the WTO Agreement only applies to the sovereign areas of its states parties, government bodies are free to decide not to buy products from the OPT for any reason.
Non-government organizations and consumers are free to decide what to buy, or from whom, without any restrictions on their choices.
Sixteen EU member states have issued guidance discouraging companies from doing business in the OPT.
The EU should not be trying to restrict civil society actors from exercising their rights. Therefore it should not be seen to be endorsing the Israeli campaign against BDS, the elision of Israel with the OPT which Israel promotes, or the denigration of the legal rights of government bodies, other organisations and consumers. Nor should it be undermining member states’ guidance that discourage companies from doing business in the OPT. The Ambassador’s presence at this Conference will be seen to do all of that, and it should not be allowed.
Dror Feiler, Chair, EJJP; Judar for Israelisk-Palestinsk Fred (Stockholm).
Arthur Goodman, Diplomatic and Parliamentary Liaison officer, JFJFP (London)