BDS protest
© Stefanie Loos / Reuters
Germany's parliament has passed a motion defining the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic. It calls on Berlin to cut funding to groups supporting BDS.

The Bundestag voted to adopt the non-binding motion backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party on Friday, making it the first European parliament to do so.

The FDP motion supported by the CDU, CSU, SPD and Greens says the "arguments and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic," as it calls for the boycott of Israeli artists and because the BDS 'don't buy' labels put on Israeli goods "recall the most terrible phase of German history," referring to the Nazi slogan 'Don't buy from Jews'.

The motion urges the German government not to fund or support groups "that question Israel's right to exist," although that isn't what the BDS movement sets out to do.

BDS is an international effort to use non-violence to pressure the state of Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories and give full equality to its Arab-Palestinian citizens. It also calls for the right of return for Palestinian refugees by encouraging a cultural, economic and political boycott. The movement is inspired by the international boycott of apartheid South Africa and was started by Palestinian groups in 2005.

Israel's President Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the "important decision" and called on other countries to adopt similar legislation.

Critics of the Bundestag motion called it draconian, saying it silences Palestinians' freedom of expression. A group of 50 Israeli academics opposed the "deceitful allegation" that BDS is anti-Semitic in a letter to German politicians, and critics have also pointed out that the motion doesn't distinguish the 'don't buy' labels on goods from the Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.

"In view of Germany's historical responsibility, it is of great value that a large majority of the German Bundestag, across faction boundaries, has repeatedly committed itself to security and the protection of Israel as well as to the fight against anti-Semitism," the Greens and SPD said in a statement released before the vote.

The motion says that because the parliament has recognized the importance of combating anti-Semitism, it should also condemn calls to boycott Israel. It did have a clause that said criticizing Israeli policies is legitimate, but this has since been removed.

Two other BDS-related motions are being voted on on Friday, but aren't expected to pass. AfD is calling to outlaw BDS, and Die Linke wanted a softer version of the motion that condemns "anti-Semitic incidents" in the movement.

Germany saw a 19.6 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents last year, security officials said.

The state accepted the International Alliance for Holocaust Remembrance definition of anti-Semitism in 2017, which includes newer criteria such as denying Jewish people their right to self-determination by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor is anti-Semitic.