The European Union’s foreign policy chief has affirmed the right of EU citizens to boycott Israel, but said the EU remains opposed to a boycott on the country.
Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said the EU firmly protected the freedom of expression, including with regard to BDS actions carried out on EU territory.
The BDS movement - which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions - attempts to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to meet obligations regarding its relationship with Palestine.
In a written reply to a query by an Irish member of the European Parliament, Ms Mogherini wrote: “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, which is applicable on EU Member States’ territory, including with regard to BDS actions carried out on this territory.
“Freedom of expression, as underlined by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, is also applicable to information or ideas ‘that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population’.
But she continued: “The EU rejects the BDS campaign’s attempts to isolate Israel and is opposed to any boycott of Israel.”
In response, the Palestinian BDS National Committee, which bills itself as the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society promoting the anti-Israel boycott movement, said it welcomed the EU’s “belated” defence of human rights.
Riya Hassan, a senior member of the group, reportedly said: “We welcome the EU’s belated defense of the right of European and other citizens to stand in solidarity with Palestinian rights, including through BDS tactics.”
Ms Hassan went on to state that the Palestinians expect the EU to take steps against Israel, including “at the very least, imposing a military embargo on Israel, banning products of companies that do business in Israel’s illegal colonies.”
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict intensifies
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict intensifies
Medics evacuate a wounded man from the scene of an attack in Jerusalem. A Palestinian rammed a vehicle into a bus stop then got out and started stabbing people before he was shot dead
Israeli ZAKA emergency response members carry the body of an Israeli at the scene of a shooting attack in Jerusalem. A pair of Palestinian men boarded a bus in Jerusalem and began shooting and stabbing passengers, while another assailant rammed a car into a bus station before stabbing bystanders, in near-simultaneous attacks that escalated a month long wave of violence
Palestinians throw molotov cocktail during clashes with Israeli troops near Ramallah, West Bank. Recent days have seen a series of stabbing attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have wounded several Israelis
Women cry during the funeral of Palestinian teenager Ahmad Sharaka, 13, who was shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes at a checkpoint near Ramallah, at the family house in the Palestinian West Bank refugee camp of Jalazoun, Ramallah
A wounded Palestinian boy and his father hold hands at a hospital after their house was brought down by an Israeli air strike in Gaza
Palestinians look on after a protester is shot by Israelis soldiers during clashes at the Howara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus
A lawyer wearing his official robes kicks a tear gas canister back toward Israeli soldiers during a demonstration by scores of Palestinian lawyers called for by the Palestinian Bar Association in solidarity with protesters at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, near Ramallah, West Bank
Undercover Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian in Ramallah
Palestinian youth burn tyres during clashes with Israeli soldiers close to the Jewish settlement of Bet El, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, after Israel barred Palestinians from Jerusalem's Old City as tensions mounted following attacks that killed two Israelis and wounded a child
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem declined to comment on Ms Mogherini’s statement, which came on 15 September but was only published recently.
In February it was revealed the UK Government’s ban on boycotting Israel was at odds with its own advice on the dangers of procuring goods and services from its occupied territories.
The Government had introduced the ban days before, which stated all publicly funded institutions in the UK would lose the freedom to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.