Readers Respond

Sanctions movement against Israel violates international law

Commentator Yousef Munayyer does a grave disservice to Israelis and Palestinians alike by depicting the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement as an effort to force Israeli compliance with international human rights laws ("Cardin, don't tie U.S. hands for Israel," April 21).

In fact, the organized boycott and divestment movement enthusiastically champions the violation of international human rights law. It appropriates the language of human rights while doing violence to its most fundamental values and the principles of equality and universality on which human rights are predicated.


Rather than acknowledging that Jews and Palestinians both have equal rights to self-determination in two independent states, the movement rejects the sovereign right of the citizens of Israel to determine their own future and public policies in accordance with their democratic framework of governance.

Instead, it insists that Jews do not have a right to self-determination; a clearly discriminatory and bigoted stance that violates the U.N. Charter, which guarantees respect for the integrity and independence of every U.N. member state and acknowledges its right to self-determination.


Further, the international human rights treaties which form the core of international human rights law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, guarantee the right to self-determination on a universal basis.

The boycott and divestment movement consistently engages in hate speech against Israel, on college campuses, in the media and in civil society, that inflames rather than informs.

It slanders and defames those who defend Israel's right to exist even as it insists on the right of the Palestinians to an independent state. It downplays, denigrates and disregards the Jewish connection to Israel and the right of Israeli citizens to live free of violent attacks.

Moreover, it actually undermines academic freedom by calling for discrimination against Israeli academics and institutions of higher learning. It undermines the very laws that protect political freedom and national identity by seeking to institutionalize boycotts against Israelis working in the arts and humanities.

In August of 1790, President George Washington wrote a letter to the Touro synagogue of Rhode Island affirming to its members: "For happily, the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."

One can champion Palestinian rights while simultaneously respecting that promise and that ethical conviction. The realization of Palestinian rights should never be sullied by discriminatory sentiments and actions against other individuals and peoples. To do so is to sanction bigotry and persecution rather than to reject them.

Advocating for Palestinian rights is necessary and welcome. But it should be pursued with respect for the human rights of all and with malice toward none.

Noam Schimmel, Montreal, Canada


The writer is as visiting fellow at the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism at McGill University Law School.