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Hillary Clinton's speech to AIPAC drew fire earlier this year for its hawkish tone. (Photo: Laurie Shaull/flickr/cc)

Ahead of Methodist Divestment Vote, Clinton Denounces BDS Movement (Again)

Meanwhile, in a 'clearly political' escalation, Israel on Tuesday refused to issue a travel permit to BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti

Deirdre Fulton

Hillary Clinton has again denounced the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel, assuring Jewish agency heads that she opposes such a resolution up for vote at her own church—and seeming to link the social justice campaign with anti-Semitism.

In a letter sent ahead of a large Methodist conference set to convene in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday, Clinton said: "I believe that BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict. This is not the path to peace."

The letter was a response to David Sherman, chair of the Israel Action Network, and Susan Stern, vice chair of the Jewish Federations of North America.

"Your voice is very much needed this week," Stern and Sherman had written to Clinton in a joint letter, referring to reports that the United Methodist Church General Conference will consider divestment resolutions at the 11-day event. "We hope you will again speak out forcefully against the divisive and destructive BDS movement."

Specifically, the Methodist conference will consider divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola, three companies pro-Palestinian activists say have reaped profits from Israeli operations in the West Bank.

According to the New York Times, in the letter dated Sunday, Clinton "reiterated her previous opposition to the BDS movement, and pointed out that anti-Semitism is on the rise globally." 

Clinton wrote: "Anti-Semitism has no place in any civilized society—not in America, not in Europe, not anywhere. We must never tire in defending Israel's legitimacy." The full text of the letter is here.

As several news outlets have noted, other denominations including the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ previously voted to divest from Israel.

The Democratic presidential frontrunner expressed similar "alarm" over BDS in a letter to pro-Israel media mogul Haim Saban, one of her major backers, last July. And Clinton's speech at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention in March drew fire for its hawkish tone and opposition to economic boycotts of Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel on Tuesday refused to issue a travel permit to Omar Barghouti, a BDS movement founder, saying that his residency rights in Israel are currently being reconsidered.

Barghouti said in an email to Haaretz that the move was a "clearly political" escalation of attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders .

"It is seen by legal experts as a first step toward revoking my permanent residency, a clearly political and vindictive measure that has no legal basis," he wrote.

Added Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the broadest coalition in Palestinian civil society that leads the global BDS movement:

Having failed to stop the growth of BDS in the mainstream, Israel is now launching a desperate and dangerous global war of repression on the movement. After losing many battles for the hearts and minds at the grassroots level, Israel and its well-oiled lobby groups are pressuring western states to implement patently anti-democratic measures that threaten civil liberties at large.

By banning our colleague Omar Barghouti from travelling and threatening him with physical violence, Israel is showing the lengths it will go to in order to stop the spread of the non-violent BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice, and equality.

A recent Pew Research Center survey suggested that Clinton's "repeated denunciations of BDS...are likely to alienate even more of the younger generation who believe that fighting for social justice everywhere includes Palestine," Ali Abunimah wrote last week at Electronic Intifada.

That poll found that the number of liberal Democrats sympathizing more with the Palestinians has nearly doubled over the past two years, from 21 to 40 percent, and that support for the Palestinians is rising fastest among the young—the so-called Millennials born after 1980.

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