Opposition leader Isaac Herzog asked a European Parliament member to rescind an invitation to the co-founder of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, Omar Barghouti, to speak at an event on “The Israeli Settlements in Palestine and the European Union” set for Wednesday at the EU parliament in Brussels.
Barghouti was invited by Ana Maria Gomes, a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and a former diplomat. Herzog wrote to Gomes saying that giving a stage to Barghouti undermined efforts to advance Middle East peace and help the Palestinian people.
“On the basis of my commitment to a peaceful two-state solution, I am deeply concerned by your plans to include BDS activist Omar Barghouti in your event,” Herzog told Gomes. “The BDS movement promotes an extreme and entirely one-sided position. This movement not only promotes unjust discrimination against Israel and its citizens, but its supporters unashamedly call for dismantling Israel and replacing it with a single, Arab-majority state. This is against the policies and values of the EU and its members, and in opposition to the preferences of a majority of Israelis and Palestinians who favor a two-state solution.”
Herzog said to Gomes that BDS is an ineffective tool for promoting Palestinian rights in the West Bank. He tried to explain to her that boycotts targeting settlement industries in particular hurt those they claim to support because tens of thousands of Palestinians rely on these industries for their livelihood, enjoying salaries and benefits far greater than average Palestinian incomes.
He added that BDS activities in Europe harm primarily European Jews, who are frequently confronted by attempts to intimidate and ostracize those who wish to engage and identify with Israel. Herzog wrote that BDS activities have become platforms for legitimizing outright expressions of antisemitism.
“For Israelis and Palestinians who want to promote peace, BDS is a hindrance, since it undermines moderates who want to build bridges of understanding and find solutions that address the legitimate national rights of both peoples,” Herzog wrote. “In addition, any association of the EU with BDS undermines its credibility in the eyes of Israelis as a balanced third party.”
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani also wrote a strongly worded letter to Gomes, in which he warned that Barghouti incites hatred and violence and that hosting him puts the European Parliament’s reputation at risk. He included letters written by four EU parliamentary groups opposing the invitation.
Tajani urged Gomes to prevent her event, which was sponsored by the General Union of Palestinian Communities in Europe, from becoming a platform for advancing antisemitism.
Gomes’s Socialists and Democrats group in the EU Parliament also distanced itself from the event, saying that “this event is not organized by the S&D Group and it does not represent the position of our political group with regard to BDS.”
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki will also be speaking at the event.
Gomes did not respond to the letters.