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Germany designates BDS Israel boycott movement as anti-Semitic

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By Joseph Nasr and Riham Alkousaa

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German parliament voted on Friday to condemn as anti-Semitic a movement that calls for economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian land, grant Arab citizens equal rights and recognise the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

A majority of lawmakers in the Bundestag voted in favour of a motion to label the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement as an entity that uses anti-Semitic tactics to fulfil its political goals.

"The argumentation patterns and methods used by the BDS movement are anti-Semitic," read the motion submitted by Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, their Social Democrat coalition partners as well as the Greens and Free Democrats.

Securing Israel's survival has been a priority for Germany since the defeat of the Nazi dictatorship that committed the Holocaust in which some six million Jews were murdered.

Israel Katz, Israel's acting foreign minister, welcomed the Bundestag decision, saying on Twitter: "The German parliament ruled that it is an anti-Semitic movement that promotes illegal boycotts against Israel. This is an important step, and we hope that other countries in Europe will go in the same direction."

The BDS was not immediately available for comment.

Lawmakers from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party abstained during the symbolic vote. They had submitted their own motion calling for a total ban of the BSD in Germany. That motion was defeated.

A majority of the far-left Die Linke party had voted against the motion. The party also submitted its own proposal, which called to oppose the BDS and commit the German government to work towards a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on U.N. Security Council resolutions. The motion was also defeated.

The latest battle between the BDS and the Israeli government has been over the Eurovision Song Contest final, which takes place in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

In the run-up to the event, the BDS has called on artists, music fans and broadcasters to avoid the event, arguing it amounts to "whitewashing" Israel's policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

With Friday's Bundestag motion, Germany has effectively backed Israel's position that international boycotts are discriminatory and anti-Semitic.

The motion said a BDS campaign calling for Israeli products to be labelled with "Don't Buy" stickers was reminiscent of the Nazi-era boycott of Jewish businesses, known in German as "Judenboykott", which used slogans such as: "Don't buy from Jews."

Israel's ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, welcomed the Bundestag decision.

"It (the motion) has broader European significance given that BDS makes no attempt to build coexistence and peace between Israel and all of its neighbors," he wrote on Twitter.

(Additional reporting by Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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