Federica Mogherini, the chief of the EU diplomacy, said that EU citizens have the right to boycott Israel, citing freedom of expression. She rebuffed the claims of the Israeli government that boycotting Israel amounts to illegal anti-Semitism. Ms Mogherini said that the EU itself was against boycotting the Jewish state but upheld the right of the EU citizens to support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement. However, she also added that “The EU rejects the BDS campaign’s attempts to isolate Israel and is opposed to any boycott of Israel.”
“The EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is applicable on EU Member States’ territory, including with regard to BDS actions carried out on this territory,” Ms Mogherini said and further explained that “Freedom of expression, as underlined by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, is also applicable to information or ideas ‘that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.’”
However, the Palestinian leadership welcomed Ms Mogherini’s comments. Riya Hassan, a senior member of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, commented that “We welcome the EU’s belated defense of the right of European and other citizens to stand in solidarity with Palestinian rights, including through BDS tactics”. She added that the Palestinians expect the EU to take steps against Israel, including, “at the very least, imposing a military embargo on Israel, banning products of companies that do business in Israel’s illegal colonies.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has not commented on Ms Mogherini’s statements yet. EU-Israel relations have been frequently tense over the last few years due to what the Knesset perceives as a pro-Palestinian bias in the EU’s policies and statements.