Nine BDS activists in a few days will be tried over accusations of ‘hate crimes’ in connection with events that took place in August 2015, when an invitation of a pro-Israeli singer, Matisyahu, to sing in the Rototom Sunsplash reggae festival in Benicàssim, was cancelled.
The activists could face up to four years in prison, even though the concert did eventually take place after pressures from pro-Israeli groups in Spain.
In protest, BDS activists raised the Palestinian flag during the concert.
Activists raise Palestinian flag during concert
Israeli media claims that the singer has received death threats before he was “pressured” to cancel his concert. However, BDS activists assure that their campaign was fully conducted through social media and non-violent protest.
The decision to try the activists comes after Israeli organizations two weeks ago called on Spanish authorities to ban Palestinian activists who were attending a conference in Barcelona, including head of PSCC, Munther Amira, activist Manal Tamimi, and co-founder of BDS Omar Barghouthi.
The activists were to give a lecture in Spain on the popular struggle in Palestine.
Human rights defenders from different backgrounds who support the nonviolent struggle of the Palestinian people, In a statement, titled Campaign for freedom of expression and against criminalization of solidarity with Palestine, said that the campaign did not target the artist’s identity, but comes since his lyricist, Ephraim Rosenstien, is himself a settler in an illegal West Bank colony, and since Rosenstein is associated with Honenu, an Israeli legal organization that “defends settler terrorists who violently attack Palestinians to push them off their
“BDS activists were exercising our freedom of expression and legitimate political freedom. In the summer of 2014, the previous year, the festival organizers had invited some of today’s defendants to take part in its social forum, even as bombs fell on Gaza, murdering over 2,100 people (including over 500 children),” statement added.
“We respect the principles of the BDS movement, which rejects all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. Jewish support for BDS has risen sharply in recent years, especially in the US, where one poll conducted in November 2014 by an Israel lobby group reveals that 46% of non-Orthodox Jewish-American men under 40 support a full boycott of Israel.”
“Whether one agrees or disagrees with the BDS movement and its tactics, one has to accept that advocating for Palestinian rights under international law through the nonviolent, inclusive and anti-racist BDS movement is perfectly legitimate under freedom of expression. This is precisely what the European Union’s official position is,” statement concluded.
In addition to the EU, the governments of Sweden, Ireland and Netherlands, as well as leading international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the American Civil Liberties Union, have defended the right to call for a boycott against Israel as a matter of freedom of speech.
To his part, General Coordinator of the BDS movement in Palestine, Mahmoud Nawaj’a said that such attacks on activists aim to repress the BDS movement, which is inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid, whether on a personal or social level.
“This is terrorism to halt the solidarity with Palestine, and that’s why we protect our activists in a legal and rights oridented way,” Nawaj’a said.
“Israel tries to accuse activists of being anti-Semitic, and such accusations are invalid since the BDS works in the frame of international law, and rejects all forms of hate or war.”
Head of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) in the West Bank, Munther Amira, strongly condemned the decision, saying that it violates the freedom of expression, and backs violation of human rights conventions and international law that grants people their right to reject oppression and persecution represented by the occupation, regardless of its background or nationality.
Amira, on behalf of PSCC, called on Human Rights groups and associations all over the world to participate in the campaign to release the activists, and to hold their trial again to null this unjust accusations.