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New Swedish Foreign Minister: ‘BDS legitimate not anti-Semitic movement’

Sweden’s new foreign minister, Anna Lindh, said the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) is not anti-Semitic, but rather a legitimate and non-violent movement.

According to the website of Yediot Ahronoth, Lindh’s remarks were enough to irritate Israel, like former Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom, who resigned from her post earlier last month.

In an interview with Swedish television, Lindh indicated that she does not support boycotts, or boycotting trade and cooperation with Israel. However, she asserted that “boycotts are a legitimate political means as part of a non-violent political struggle for human rights, democracy, freedom of expression, and ending the occupation.”

Lindh stressed that her country supports organisations that attack the Israeli occupation.

The new foreign minister, who visited Israel several times, conveyed that her country’s government does not support boycotting Israel. However, she stated that the BDS movement has the right to represent its positions, noting that the Swedish government does not see any similarity between the BDS campaign and Anti-Semitic activities.

Responding to allegations by other Swedish MPs that the boycott movement is anti-semitic Lindh explained that “Sweden and the EU support civil society organisations that are active in various ways to advance democracy and human rights, both in Israel and in Palestine.”

“We support these organisations to advance their contribution to a free and pluralistic society. It is not because we support the boycott movement or its activists,” she said.

According to Lindh, the Swedish government opposes boycotting Israel and aspires to strengthen cooperation with the Israeli authorities. She added that “the government supports Israel’s security needs. Israel’s right to exist is not a subject for discussion. The government takes the threats Israel is facing seriously. The fact that the Israeli state is located in a region that places its right to exist into question makes it targeted. However, dealing with the issue of an area that needs to advance the principles of democracy and human rights is permissible.”

READ: Israel’s top court rejects petition seeking disclosure over government’s anti-BDS efforts

Lindh also dealt with relations between Sweden and Israel, saying it was “important to normalise relations between the two countries,” adding that she would like to pay an official visit to Israel while stressing the need for her country to have good relations with the Palestinians as well.

Lindh noted that she had already visited Sderot and witnessed the damage caused by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. She said that she did not question Israel’s desire to receive a security guarantee, but added that this does not contradict the fact that Israel cannot continue to occupy land in a way that contravenes the law. Palestinians equally have the right to live in safety within recognised boundaries.

In response to Linda’s statements, the newspaper quoted Israeli officials saying that despite the minister’s positive statements about Israel, “talking about a change in the Swedish Foreign Ministry will be only carried out at a superficial level”, adding that Israel was still far from changing its policy towards Sweden. However, the Israeli authorities will examine whether Lindh’s remarks would be applied to specific policies and actions.

Israeli political officials also attacked the Swedish foreign minister saying: “If this is the way to improve relations with Israel, then relations are going in the opposite direction.”

They added that “without any connection to the question of whether the boycott movement is anti-Semitic or not, the movement is part of a campaign to delegitimise Israel, and therefore it plays in favour of anti-Semitism.”

According to the website Yediot Ahronoth, Israel has boycotted former Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom following statements it deemed “anti-Israel”. Wallstrom had called for launching an investigation into crimes committed against the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation army without being held accountable or tried, linking the terrorist attack on Paris with the state of desperation experienced by the Palestinian people.

The website also reported that the first step taken by Wallstrom upon entering the ministry was to recognise the Palestinian state. Therefore Israel considered her as “an undesirable personality”, rejecting her requests to visit Israel.”