JACK MOORE  (12/23/15)

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on Wednesday condemned the decision by Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., to give American officials Christmas gifts produced in West Bank settlements as a “cheap publicity stunt.”

Dermer announced on Twitter on Tuesday that gifts from the Israeli embassy had been sourced from settlements in an attempt to combat the BDS campaign, calling it “the latest effort by Israel’s enemies to destroy the one and only Jewish state.” Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem are defined as illegal under international law, a position supported by the U.N., EU, U.S. and the U.K. Israel insists the settlements are legal.

“In response to this effort to cast a beacon of freedom, tolerance and decency as a pariah state, I have decided this holiday season to send you products that were made in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights,” Dermer said in the letter posted in his tweet.

The BDS movement is an attempt to replicate the apartheid-era campaign to isolate South Africa and advocates applying economic and political pressure on Israel to achieve equal rights for Palestinians and an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. The coordinating body for the campaign, the Palestinian BDS National Committee, says Dermer’s gesture shows that the U.S. still doesn’t hold Israel accountable for its policies in the West Bank.

“This cheap publicity stunt by Israel’s ambassador shows that the Israeli government is panicking because it is unable to stop the growth of the BDS movement,” the Committee told Newsweek in an email statement.

“Israel is sending a message of defiance to the U.S. government that underlines that its colonial project and apartheid are integral parts of its policies. Behind this attitude is Israel’s sense of impunity that allows it to violate international law with no consequences,” the statement added.

Inside Israel, the BDS movement is seen as a strategic threat that wants to delegitimize the country’s very existence. The campaign can claim a number of successes, such as the role it played in a decline in foreign investment in Israel, the decision by French infrastructure corporation Veolia to sell off its final Israeli investment, and the EU’s recent decision to label products that come from the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But a number of prominent Israeli figures have roundly condemned the BDS campaign as an anti-Israel movement that harbors anti-Semites.

Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, writing in Newsweek earlier this month, condemned the EU’s recent decision to label settlement products as “a return to the darkest chapters of the continent’s history” that revives images of “the word Jude painted on Jewish stores by the Nazis.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has attacked the movement as anti-Semitic, as have businesses targeted by the campaign. The chief executive of Israeli-owned drinks company SodaStream, which moved its operation in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim to southern Israel’s Negev Desert in March, has decried the movement as one of “hate” and “anti-Semitism.”

A spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.