JERUSALEM — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday, during a visit here, that the State Department will consider the anti-Israel BDS campaign “anti-Semitic” and withdraw U.S. government support from organizations engaged in such “hateful BDS conduct.”
Calling the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions push a “cancer” and vowing to stand with like-minded nations on the issue, the secretary spoke via a livestream from Jerusalem Thursday morning. He stood beside Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, taking no questions.
The Trump administration official is on a post-election, multi-country swing through Europe and the Middle East apparently designed to highlight the administration’s foreign policy legacy. During previous stops, America’s top diplomat highlighted the Trump administration’s advocacy of religious freedom and support for key allies.
Thursday’s announcement might be one of Pompeo’s final expressions of U.S. support for Israel during his State Department tenure as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office.
The BDS movement, as the name implies, promotes boycotts and sanctions against Israel through various avenues. According to the campaign’s website, it aims to end Israel’s administration of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, achieve equal rights for Israel’s Arab citizens, and return Palestinian refugees to Israeli territory.
Opponents of the movement claim that BDS in fact seeks the elimination of the state of Israel, and that its singling out of the country meets the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.
Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement, has said that he personally supports a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that the movement as a whole endorses no particular political solution.
In a statement released by his office on Thursday, Pompeo said that he directed the State Department’s envoy on combating anti-Semitism “to identify organizations that engage in, or otherwise support, the Global BDS Campaign.”
According to the statement, the consequences will be twofold. The State Department will look to ensure that it does not inadvertently fund BDS, and it will review its legal options to cut funding to foreign organizations engaged in BDS-related activities — essentially turning the tables on the movement by boycotting its supporters from a government standpoint.
Politico first reported earlier this month that Pompeo would announce a process to designate certain groups as anti-Semitic, without naming any particular organizations, as he previously considered.
The comments by Pompeo and Netanyahu focused on celebrating the close U.S.-Israel ties that have existed during the Trump years.
“Over the last four years, under President Trump and his remarkable team led by you and Ambassador Friedman and Jared Kushner and others, Israel’s alliance with the U.S. has reached unprecedented heights,” said Netanyahu, who went on to list the numerous steps the Trump administration has taken to support his country, including moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.
“Thank you, friend,” he said to Pompeo. “And we hope to see you next year in Jerusalem.”