Former President Jimmy Carter said Monday, March 24 that he doesn’t support the Palestinian-led “boycott, divest, sanction” (BDS) campaign against Israel, but said products made in Palestinian territories should be clearly labeled so buyers can make a choice about them. In an interview with the Associated Press, Carter said that he and the other retired senior leaders known as the “Elders” recently discussed the economic pressure campaign against Israeli presence in the West Bank. The Elders group was formed by Nelson Mandela in 2007, and includes senior and retired leaders who work together on peace-building and humanitarian initiatives. Members include former Irish president Mary Robinson, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, and former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari.
“We decided not to publicly endorse any kind of embargo, or so forth, against Israeli invasion, or occupying troops in Palestine,” Carter said. But, he added, “We have also encouraged Europeans for instance, at least to label products that are made by Israeli people who occupy Palestine and ship their products out of Palestine to be sold in Europe. … so that the buyers can decide whether they want to buy them or not.”
Israel claims the boycott has strong anti-Semitic connotations and is meant to delegitimize the Jewish state as a whole. For many, the boycott conjures up dark images of the Nazi boycott prior to and during WWII when Jewish academics were kicked out of universities and Jewish businesses were vandalized and boycotted.
Carter went on to say, “I don’t see how the Palestinians or the Arab world can accept that premise, that Israel is an exclusively Jewish state.”
“Israel can claim ‘We are a Jewish state.’ I don’t think the Arab countries will contradict that Jewish statement. But to force the Arab people to say that all the Arab people that they have in Israel have to be Jews, I think that’s going too far,” Carter said.