While the BDS movement is worrisome in the United States, it is gaining much more traction elsewhere. The Jerusalem Post's Benjamin Weinthal reports on how the move to boycott Israel is spreading rapidly across Europe:
A growing rift between American and European labor movements as regards their attitudes toward Israel has unfolded over the last decade. One extreme example was the left-wing Italian Flaica-Uniti-Cub trade union calling for a boycott of Jewish-owned stores in Rome because of Israel’s 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead to stop Hamas rocket fire into its territory. While major trade unions in the United Kingdom and Ireland have waged a BDS campaign against Israel, more than 30 unions in the United States (including those representing teachers, the United Auto Workers, the AFL-CIO, the Change to Win coalition of American labor unions, and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists) joined a Jewish Labor Committee campaign in 2007 to oppose boycotts of the Jewish state. The UAW overruled in December a resolution by its local union of California teaching assistants to boycott Israel.
All of this helps to explain that organized labor in the US remains largely free of anti-Jewish boycott measures. To be fair, The Jerusalem Post learned this week that the German teacher’s union GEW pulled the plug on a BDS talk with a Palestinian official in Hamburg. German unions, in sharp contrast to their counterparts in other parts of the EU, have not capitulated to BDS activity.
The lessons of the Holocaust appear to be alive and kicking within Germany’s labor movement. The legendary former head of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), Michael Sommer, played a key role in laying the anti- BDS foundation. Speaking at a joint Histadrut and DGB event in Berlin in 2009, he voiced his opposition to boycotts against Israel.
The 800-pound gorilla in the room that separates Europe from the US is the Holocaust.
The Shoah still informs large segments of Europe’s psychology – and frequently in a pathological way. Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s play The Garbage, the City and Death, written in 1975, neatly captures an aspect of Europe’s preoccupation with Jews: “And it’s the Jew’s fault, because he makes us feel guilty because he exists. If he’d stayed where he came from, or if they’d gassed him, I would sleep better,” said one of the characters.
The transformation from “It’s the Jew’s fault” to “It’s Israel’s fault” is part and parcel of the BDS movement in European discourse...