Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States will regard the so-called BDS campaign against Israel—which stands for boycott, divestment, and sanctions—as anti-Semitic and vowed to cut any U.S. government support for groups that engage in what he called “hateful BDS conduct.”
Pompeo made the remarks on Nov. 19 at a joint press appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, during a state visit to Israel.
“We want to stand with all other nations that recognize the BDS movement for the cancer that it is, and we’re committed to combating it,” Pompeo said, pledging to continue the “ironclad commitment we’ve made to the Jewish state.”
Netanyahu responded to Pompeo’s remarks, saying, “It sounds simply wonderful to me.”
Israeli authorities view the BDS movement as a strategic threat and have long denounced it as anti-Semitic.
Activists affiliated with it deny charges of anti-Semitism and describe it as a kind of nonviolent pressure campaign inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says Pompeo had falsely equated peaceful support for boycotts of Israel with anti-Semitism.
“The Trump administration is undermining the common fight against the scourge of anti-Semitism by equating it with peaceful advocacy of boycotts,” said Eric Goldstein, the group’s acting Middle East and North Africa director.
After his meeting with Netanyahu, Pompeo traveled to a settlement in the West Bank, a territory that Israelis and allies consider “disputed” and Palestinians and their supporters call “occupied.”
Pompeo’s trip to the Shaar Binyamin winery near the settlement of Psagot, just north of Jerusalem, marked the first-ever visit by a U.S. secretary of state to an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
With the precedent-setting visit, Palestinians accused Pompeo of helping Israel to cement its control over West Bank land that they seek for a state.
Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian negotiator, accused Pompeo of using the visit “to set yet another illegal precedent, violate international law, and perhaps to advance his own future political ambitions.”
Palestinians and some countries regard settlements in the West Bank as illegal under international law. In a landmark move, Pompeo announced in 2019 that the United States under President Donald Trump no longer viewed Israel’s settlements as “inconsistent with international law.”
“For a long time, the State Department took the wrong view of settlements,” Pompeo said during the Nov. 19 press event. “It took a view that didn’t recognize the history of this special place. And instead, now, today, the United States Department of State stands strongly to the recognition that settlements can be done in a way that are lawful and appropriate and proper.”
Pompeo also announced his intention to visit the Golan Heights, another territory viewed as either disputed or occupied, and over which Trump recognized Israel’s sovereignty in 2019.
“The simple recognition of this as part of Israel, too, was a decision President Trump made that is historically important and simply a recognition of reality,” Pompeo said on Nov. 19.
The Palestinian leadership cut ties with the Trump White House three years ago, accusing it of pro-Israel bias.
Reuters contributed to this report.