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Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

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Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
BDS Movement logo.gif
Formation 9 July 2005 (2005-07-09)
Type Non-profit organization
Purpose Boycotts, political activism
Website bdsmovement.net
A BDS demonstration outside the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, April 2017.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (also known as the BDS Movement) is a global campaign promoting various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets what the campaign describes as "[Israel's] obligations under international law",[1] defined as withdrawal from the occupied territories, removal of the separation barrier in the West Bank, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and promotion of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.[1]

The campaign, organised and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee,[2] was started on 9 July 2005 by over 170 Palestinian non-governmental organizations in support of the Palestinian cause for boycott of Israel, disinvestment from Israel and international sanctions against Israel, citing a body of UN resolutions and specifically echoing the anti-apartheid campaigns against white minority rule in apartheid era South Africa.[3] Protests and conferences in support of the campaign have been held in a number of countries around the world.

There is considerable debate about the scope, efficacy, and morality of the BDS movement. Supporters of BDS compare the movement with the 20th century anti-apartheid movement and view their actions similar to the boycotts of South Africa during its apartheid era, comparing the situation in Israel to apartheid.[4][5][6] Critics of BDS vehemently repudiate the charge that Israel is an apartheid state, asserting, among other things, that in Israel (outside of the West Bank) "Jews and Arabs mix freely and increasingly live in the same neighborhoods...there is no imposed segregation" and that Arabs and Jews interact together in any mall, restaurant, or hospital in Israel.[7]

Critics further argue that the BDS movement disincentivizes the Palestinian leadership from negotiating with Israel at present,[8] and that it is antisemitic[9][10] in the form its opposition to Zionism takes,[11][12] in resembling historic boycotts such as the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses[13][14][15] and in promoting the delegitimization of Israel.[16][17]

According to a survey by Geocartography Knowledge, 85% of Palestinian residents in the West Bank are interested in cooperation with Israel.[18] The PLO, its branches, Palestinian businesses and universities cooperate with Israel daily. According to the head of the Federation of Trade Unions of Palestine, Shaher Saad, in 2011 the number of Palestinians employed in Israeli settlements increased significantly to around 31,000 due to the high rate of unemployment and poverty, and that about 70,000 worked in Israel proper.[19] Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University, opposed a boycott of Israeli universities in 2014; other Palestinian academics also told The New York Times they oppose cutting ties to Israeli universities. However, opinions of academics were split, with at least some of those who favour BDS noting they were unsure if BDS will have any effect.[20]


One of the objectives stated at the founding of the Arab League in 1945 was to "frustrate further Jewish development in Palestine by means of boycott against Zionist products". A central boycott office was established to coordinate this effort. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, the boycott of Jewish products from Palestine was transformed into the boycott of Israeli products and services. The boycott was conducted on a primary level (as a direct boycott of Israeli products), a secondary level (though direct pressure on states and institutions not to deal with Israel), and a tertiary level (to prevent companies from uninvolved third-party states from dealing with companies that had relationships with Israel).[21]

Zachor Legal Institute founder Marc Greendorfer argued in the Roger Williams University Law Review that the BDS movement originated in the Arab League's boycott of Israel in name, in function, in tasks, in methodology and in goals.[22] Historian Alex Joffe agreed and added the General Union of Palestinian Students, Muslim Brotherhood activities within the United States, and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as historical antecedents. Accordingly, Joffe wrote, unresolved issues originating in the Cold War relationship between pan-Islamism and Communism are driving historical forces behind the BDS movement.[23]

During the Second Intifada, Palestinians began developing international solidarity and support that could be used to apply pressure on Israel through non-violent means.[24][25] In 2002, organizations in Europe, Australia, the United States, and the Palestinian territories called for a boycott of Israeli institutions, including a boycott of academic and cultural institutions.[26] Palestinian academics and intellectuals also called for a boycott in October 2003.[26] In 2004, an attempt to coordinate the boycotts gained momentum following the start of the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier.[24] In April 2004, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was founded.[27] One of the founders was Omar Barghouti.[28][29]

On 9 July 2005, the first anniversary of the advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice in which the West Bank barrier was declared a violation of international law, a broad spectrum of over 170 Palestinian non-governmental organizations initiated a campaign for a boycott, divestment and international sanctions against Israel until it complied with international law and universal principles of human rights.[30] At the first Palestinian BDS Conference, held in Ramallah in November 2007, the "BDS National Committee" (BNC) was established as the Palestinian coordinating body for the BDS campaign worldwide.[30] The movement's main example and source of inspiration is the 20th century boycott of South Africa by the Anti-Apartheid Movement.[31]

Goals of the campaign

The BDS campaign urges various forms of non-violent punitive measures against Israel until it complies with the precepts of international law.[32] These measures should bring about:[32]

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

The BDS campaign is organised and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee.[2] The committee cites a body of UN resolutions and specifically echoes the anti-apartheid campaigns against white minority rule in apartheid era South Africa;[3] the BDS campaign called for "various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law".[1]


BDS protest in Melbourne, Australia against Israel's Gaza Blockade and attack on humanitarian flotilla in 2010.

The BDS Movement uses the means of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. The campaign has organised demonstrations and protests targeting companies that have contracts with the Israeli military or with companies in Israeli settlements.[33][34][35] Actions may also target prominent individuals who openly support settlements businesses.[29]

Social media platforms are used to draw attention to BDS activities.[36] With public calls on social media, protests, petitions and articles, pressure is put on individuals to cancel their participation in events in Israel or in Israeli settlements, such as concerts or academic events.[37] On the other hand, Israelis are pressured not to take part in activities outside Israel or the Occupied territories.[38] Participants in events are sometimes demanded to declare solidarity with the Palestinian cause.[39]

BDS also makes use of Israeli Apartheid Week, which is an annual series of university lectures and rallies against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The series is normally held in February or March. According to the organization, "the aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build BDS campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement."[40] Since IAW began in Toronto in 2005, it has since spread to at least 55 cities around the world including locations in Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Austria, Jordan, Japan, Korea, Brazil, Botswana, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa, Mexico, Norway, Australia, and Palestine.[41][42][43][44][45][46]

Responses by governments

Reactions by Palestinian authorities

In December 2012, following the withholding of taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called for a boycott of all Israeli goods. In the past, he had unsuccessfully called for a boycott of goods made in Israeli settlements.[47]

During a visit to South Africa in 2013, President Mahmoud Abbas stunned reporters and Palestinian activists by stating that the Palestinians do not support a general boycott of Israel. He supported, however, a boycott of settlement products.[48]

In February 2015, activists from Fatah launched a new campaign in reaction to another Israeli punitive withholding of taxes. They called on people to boycott products made by six major Israeli food companies. Abbas apparently did not openly support the boycott, but rather asked the Fatah-led Palestine Liberation Organization to lead the campaign.[49] At the 25th African Union assembly in the South Africa in June 2015, President Abbas urged the African countries to boycott goods produced by settlement companies in the West Bank.[48]

Reactions by Israeli authorities

On 11 July 2011, the Knesset passed a law making it a civil offence to publicly call for a boycott against the State of Israel, defined as "deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or another factor only because of his ties with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage". According to the law, anyone calling for a boycott can be sued, and forced to pay compensation regardless of actual damages. At the discretion of a government minister, they may also be prevented from bidding in government tenders.[50]

The law drew a lot of criticism. 32 Israeli law professors signed a petition arguing that the law is unconstitutional and does grievous harm to freedom of political expression and protest.[51] Other critics include BDS opponents, such as Gerald Steinberg from NGO Monitor and Morton Klein from the Zionist Organization of America, who criticize the law noting the many better avenues with which to counter BDS.[52]

On 10 December 2012 the Israeli Supreme Court froze the law and issued an interim order to the State of Israel to explain why the law should not be struck down. The court order gave the state until 14 March 2013 to respond. The final hearing on the issue was to be before a nine-justice panel of the court presided over by Asher Grunis, President of the Supreme Court of Israel. Yehuda Weinstein Attorney General of Israel is reported to have called the law "borderline" defensible and admitted in defending the law in the hearing that it had serious problems.[53] The court's 2015 ruling upheld most provisions of the law but struck down the ability for lawsuits to go forward without plaintiffs needing to show damages.[54]

In March 2016 the Israeli Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Yisrael Katz argued that Israel should employ "targeted civil eliminations" against leaders of the BDS movement. The expression puns on the Hebrew word for targeted assassinations.[55]

In June 2016, Haaretz reported that Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister was going to establish a "dirty tricks" unit to "establish, hire or tempt nonprofit organizations or groups not associated with Israel, in order to disseminate" negative information about BDS supporters.[56] The news came on the heels of a report that Israel's efforts to fight the BDS movement have been ineffectual, in part because the responsibility had been transferred to the Strategic Affairs Ministry from the Foreign Ministry. "Despite receiving expanded authority in 2013 to run the government's campaign against the delegitimization and boycott efforts against Israel, the Strategic Affairs Ministry did not make full use of its budget and had no significant achievements in this area," Haaretz quotes the report as saying. "In 2015, it still did not carry out its work plans."[57]

On 6 March 2017, Israel passed the Amendment No. 27 to the Entry Into Israel Law which prohibited the entry into Israel of anyone who made a "public call for boycotting Israel" or the Israeli settlements, a measure aimed at the BDS movement and its supporters.[58]

On 7 January 2018, Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs published a list of 20 specific non-government organizations whose officials would be banned from entering the country, including the BDS national committee, BDS France, BDS South Africa, BDS Italy, BDS Chile, and BDS Kampagne.[59][60][61]

Responses by other governments


Legislative Assembly of Ontario

In 2016, a non-binding motion was passed in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that "calls on the legislature to stand against any movement that promotes hate, prejudice and racism" and "reject the 'differential treatment' of Israel by the BDS movement". The motion was supported by the two largest parties, the governing centrist Ontario Liberal Party and the opposition centre-right Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, with only the social democratic Ontario New Democratic Party opposed.[62]


In France, the 2003 Lellouche law outlaws discrimination based on a variety of immutable characteristics, including national origin."[63][64] That law and hate speech laws have been applied to BDS activities.[65]

United States

In April 2015, Tennessee became the first state in the United States to pass a resolution condemning BDS.[66] As of June 2017, a total of 21 states have passed anti-BDS legislation.[67]


In December 2017, Munich passed a bill banning boycotts of Israel, becoming the first German city to deny space and public funds for the BDS campaign. Charlotte Knobloch, a holocaust survivor and chairwoman of the Munich Jewish community who campaigned for the legislation, said that "Munich sent a signal against antisemitism".[68]

Academic boycotts

The campaign for academic boycotts of Israel has been led by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which has been endorsed by nearly 60 Palestinian academic, cultural and other civil society federations, unions, and organizations, including the Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities' Professors and Employees and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) in the West Bank.[69] Academics in a number of countries have signed on to support the campaign.[70][71][72][73] In December 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA) joined the boycott of all Israeli academic institutions.[74][75] Israel is the only nation ever boycotted by the ASA in the 52 years since the organization's founding.

Business boycotts

United Nations Special Rapporteur, Richard A. Falk,[76] in his 2012 report to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) recommended that "businesses highlighted in the report – as well as the many other businesses that are profiting from the Israeli settlement enterprise – should be boycotted until they bring their operations into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards." He specifically named the United States' Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett Packard and Motorola; Israel's Ahava, Elbit Systems and Mehadrin; Sweden's Volvo Group and Assa Abloy; France's Veolia Environment; United Kingdom's G4S, Belgium's Dexia Group, Netherlands' Riwal Holding Group and Mexico's Cemex.[77]

Effects of business boycotts on Palestinian employment

Opponents of BDS argue that BDS destroys employment for Palestinians. They argue that companies in settlements are beneficial for Palestinians. They claim that they offer employment with high wages compared with Palestinian factories and that the Palestinians are happy with their jobs and do not feel exploited.[29] Proponents of BDS allege that in 2011 many Palestinians worked in settlements without permits and earn less than the Israeli minimum wage or even less than half the minimum wage.[78] In the former SodaStream factory in Ma'ale Adumim, for example, for entry-level employees there was not much difference in the salaries between SodaStream and Palestinian factories. The majority of Palestinian employees at SodaStream had renewable seasonal contracts that last only three months each. According to a study conducted by Al Quds University, 82% of Palestinians working in Israeli settlements stated they would like to quit these jobs if alternative employment were available in the West Bank.[79] Omar Barghouti said that the fact that "tens of thousands" of Palestinians work in settlements is the direct result of Israeli policy. For decades, Israel has been "systematically destroying Palestinian industry and agriculture, confiscating our most fertile lands and richest water reserves, and imposing extreme restrictions of movement preventing many from reaching their workplaces".[29] According to Who Profits, all of the Palestinian trade unions and labor unions and almost all Palestinian civil society organizations, including political parties, support the BDS call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.[78]

Examples of business boycotts

In December 2012 the New Zealand Superannuation Fund excluded three Israeli companies from its portfolio because of their involvement in the construction of Israeli settlements and the Israeli West Bank barrier. The New Zealand Herald described "the fund's investments in the [Israeli] firms", which amounted to less than $83,000, as "insubstantial".[80][81]

In 2013, Luxembourg's state pension fund, FDC, "excluded from [its] authorised investment universe" eight major Israeli firms, including Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, and AFI Group. FDC also excluded American firm Motorola Solutions.[82][83] In January 2014, the government of Norway announced that its pension fund will no longer invest in two Israeli companies (Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus).[84] Norway's YMCA-YWCA joined the boycott in 2014, announcing that it will support "[a] broad economic boycott of goods and services from Israel and Israeli settlements".[85][86][87] In January 2014, Danske Bank, blacklisted Israeli bank, Bank Hapoalim. Previously, Danske Bank had withdrawn its investments from Africa Israel Investments Ltd. and Danya Cebus.[84] On 21 July 2014, the government of the Maldives announced the annulment of three bilateral trade agreements with Israel, and a government boycott of all Israeli goods. Mohamed Hussain Shareef, the minister at the President's Office, also announced that the government planned to ban the import of Israeli goods into the state.[88][89] In February 2016, Crepes & Waffles[90] terminated its security transport contracts with British company G4S."[91]

Cultural boycotts

The organizers of the week long Rototom Sunsplash music festival held in Spain in 2015, cancelled the scheduled appearance of Jewish American rapper Matisyahu after he refused to sign a statement supporting a Palestinian state. Matisyahu stated that it was "appalling and offensive" that he was singled out as the "one publicly Jewish-American artist".[39] After criticism from Spain's daily paper El País[92] and the Spanish government as well as Jewish organisations,[93] the organisers apologised to Matisyahu re-inviting him to perform. They stated that "it made a mistake, due to the boycott and the campaign of pressure, coercion and threats employed by the BDS País Valencià."[94]

In December 2017, New Zealand popstar Lorde cancelled the 5 June, 2018 concert of her Melodrama World Tour in Tel Aviv after being urged by fans to boycott Israel, supporting the ongoing cultural boycott on the nation.[95]

Impact of BDS

The effectiveness of the movement has been questioned. Many reports from both in and outside of Israel indicated that the movement had made very little impact on the Israeli economy, and suggested that it was unlikely to for the foreseeable future.[96][97][98][99][100]

In June 2015, an analysis carried out by the Rand Corporation concluded that a successful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, if it could be maintained for 10 years, could potentially cost the Israeli economy $47 billion – this figure, which was not published in the report, was reportedly determined by using a model examining previous attempts to boycott countries. However, the Rand Corporation also noted that "evidence on the effectiveness of sanctions is mixed, making an assessment of the potential economic effects of the BDS movement problematic".[101][102]


Supporters of BDS include Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters,[103] Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Alice Walker.[104] In 2014, an international Jewish group, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, issued a list of signatories endorsing the American Studies Association academic boycott of Israel.[105] The Israeli activist organization Boycott from Within supports the BDS campaign. Boycott From Within regularly releases statements calling on musicians to cancel concerts scheduled in Israel.[106]

Political organizations

The African National Congress endorsed BDS in 2012. The party declared itself to be "unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel".[107] Following Israel's ground invasion of Gaza in 2014, the Green Party of England and Wales's conference supported "active participation in the BDS movement".[108] Scotland's Green Party endorsed a boycott of Israel in October 2015.[109] Members of the Green Party of Canada voted to endorse BDS in August 2016, despite the objections of the party's leader and sole MP Elizabeth May.[110] In June 2018, the Socialist International issued a Declaration expressing supporting "Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli occupation, all the occupation institutions, and the illegal Israeli settlements including the total embargo on all forms of military trade and cooperation with Israel as long as it continues its policies of occupation and Apartheid against the Palestinian people".[111][112]

Trade unions

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) supports the campaign for BDS against Israel, fully endorsing it in July 2011.[113] During the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, COSATU vowed to "intensify" their support for the campaign, picketing Woolworths for stocking Israeli goods.[114]

In April 2014, the UK's National Union of Teachers, the largest teacher's union in the EU, passed a resolution backing boycotts against Israel.[115] In July of that year, the UK's Unite the Union voted to join BDS.[116]

In April 2015, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, Quebec, Canada, representing 325,000 in nearly 2,000 unions, voted to join the campaign for BDS and support a military embargo against Israel.[117]



Political parties that oppose BDS include the Liberal Party of Australia and both major political parties in the United States.[118][119] The European Union has also expressed opposition to boycotting Israel,[120] A common reason given for opposing BDS is that it attacks Israel's legitimacy and fosters antisemitism.[121][122] Berlin's Social Democratic Party (SPD) accused BDS of antisemitism in May 2017 and some observers, such as Reinhard Schramm, the head of the SPD in Ilmenau and the head of the Jewish community of the state of Thuringia, say that BDS shows the SPD's commitment to protecting the Jewish state is doubtful.[123]

Artists, actors, and writers

Israeli-born musician Gene Simmons, lead singer of Kiss, said that artists who avoid Israel would be better served directing their anger at Arab dictators. "The countries they should be boycotting are the same countries that the populations are rebelling," he said.[124]

Other artists who oppose the BDS movement include John Lydon,[125] Umberto Eco,[126] Joel and Ethan Coen,[127] J. K. Rowling,[128] Hilary Mantel,[128] Helen Mirren,[128] Ziggy Marley,[129] Jon Bon Jovi,[130] Howard Stern,[130] and Ed Asner.[131]

Novelist Ian McEwan, upon being awarded the Jerusalem Prize, was urged to turn it down, but said that "If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed. [...] It's not great if everyone stops talking."[126]

Creative Community for Peace, founded in late 2011, is an anti-BDS organization made up of music executives and music representatives of bands including Aerosmith, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Justin Timberlake.[132]

Public figures

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin describes Israel as a land that is used to debate, criticism, and controversy, but that BDS is an attempt to influence healthy discussion in unhealthy ways. "Boycotts, violence, and incitement only deepen divides, and don't bring us any closer to a solution. When BDS takes over, criticism turns into camouflage for the de-legitimization of the existence of the State of Israel," Rivlin wrote in a 2016 op-ed published on Ynetnews.[133] He added, "I'm sorry to say that some parts of BDS even include factions which are connected to enemies of the State of Israel, and who work in order to eradicate Israel as a Jewish state. Some of them are even worse, and hide their anti-Semitism by calling their actions 'criticism of Israeli policy.'"[133]

The long-standing pro-Palestinian activist and political scientist Norman Finkelstein deemed the BDS movement a "cult". He argued that the worldwide movement was overly controlled by the Ramallah headquarters, made unrealistic claims so as to hide a wish to destroy Israel, and accused the movement of exaggerating its achievements and its capacity, most notably by maintaining that it represents the entire pro-Palestine movement. Finkelstein also asserted that the movement misrepresented and misinterpreted Israel's obligation under international law as defined by the International Court of Justice.[134][135][136][137]

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, says "I think BDS is an unfair, discriminatory movement based on a moral double standard that is, in the final analysis, anti-Semitic [...] BDS is in fact trying to harm every Israeli citizen and not only the government. In reality what BDS wants is to make life in Israel intolerable so the Jewish nation will not be able to have a normal existence in its state. BDS does not only want to change the government's policy, it wants to empty the country of Jews."[138]

Former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron have both condemned the calls for an academic boycott Israeli educational institutions. President of Al-Quds University Sari Nusseibeh similarly opposes academic boycotts of Israel.[139]

Noam Chomsky warned that the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign could end up harming the Palestinian cause since the demand for a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees has failed to muster significant international support.[140]

According to an editorial by Judea Pearl, the BDS campaign has an anti-academic character.[141]

Trade unions

In December 2015, the executive board of the United Auto Workers struck down a vote by UAW Local 2865 to support the BDS movement. Local 2865 represents students workers on the University of California.[142][143]


Reception to the BDS movement has been mixed and varies widely depending on geography and politics. Some political parties, such as the NSW Greens in Australia and the Québec solidaire in Canada, have supported BDS.[144][145] BDS has also found support from some private companies, churches, and academic associations.[146]

The reaction to BDS in the United States has been especially polarizing. Several bills and resolutions have been written in federal and state legislatures with the intent to combat BDS.[147][148][149][150][151][152][153] On the other end of the spectrum, the UC Student Association passed a resolution not only to boycott Israel, but also to boycott the United States and several other countries.[154][155]


New Criterion reported that "some 300 university presidents denounced BDS as inimical to the academic spirit."[156] According to Yehuda Ben Meir and Owen Alterman in an essay published in the Strategic Survey for Israel 2011 by the Institute for National Security Studies (Israel), by depicting Israel as a racist, fascist, totalitarian, and apartheid state, BDS engages in defamation and demonization of Israel. They state that this is followed by the specific targeting of Israeli diplomatic, economic, academic, and cultural targets—regardless of their position or connection to the conflict, which they describe as incitement.[157] In a 2009 opinion column for The Jerusalem Post, Gil Troy argued that the BDS movement does not target Israel's policies, but rather targets Israel's legitimacy.[158] The Israeli Reut Institute has argued that the BDS movement singles out Israel, and applies double standards that delegitimize Israel.[159]

In 2007, The Economist called the boycott "flimsy" and ineffective, noted that "blaming Israel alone for the impasse in the occupied territories will continue to strike many outsiders as unfair," and pointed out that the Palestinian leadership did not support the boycott.[160] By early 2014, however, they noted that the campaign, "[o]nce derided as the scheming of crackpots", was "turning mainstream" in the eyes of many Israelis.[161] Alan Dershowitz and the Israeli Action Network point to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's support of a boycott specific to Israeli businesses that operate in Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories over a general boycott of Israel as evidence that the BDS is not in the Palestinians' favor.[162][163] Dershowitz adds, "The BDS movement is immoral because it would hurt the wrong people" such as Palestinians employees of the firms affected by BDS or patients awaiting medicine made by those firms.[164]

Allegations of antisemitism

The Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Israeli officials categorize the BDS movement as antisemitic.[13][165][166][167] Abraham Foxman penned an advertisement that ran in The New York Times that criticized Brooklyn College's political science department for sponsoring a conference promoting BDS. In the ad, Foxman referred to the BDS movement as antisemitic "at its very core".[9][10]

Other arguments include:

  • The "double-standards" argument claims that the BDS campaign singles out Israel, or that it judges the state with standards different from those used to judge other political situations. For example, Charles Krauthammer writes: "Israel is the world's only Jewish state. To apply to the state of the Jews a double standard that you apply to none other, to judge one people in a way you judge no other, to single out that one people for condemnation and isolation – is to engage in a gross act of discrimination."[168] Retired Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz compares the way BDS proponents "single-out" Israel for its human rights violations with the way Harvard president A. Lawrence Lowell defended his decision to impose anti-Jewish quotas in the beginning of the twentieth century. When asked why there should be a quota on Jews, Lowell replied, "Jews cheat." When reminded that Christians cheat too, Lowell responded, "You're changing the subject. We are talking about Jews now."[169]
  • The accusation that supporters of the campaign make antisemitic statements or engage in antisemitic activity.[9] For example, some supporters compare Israel's contemporary[170] treatment of Arabs to Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews during the Holocaust and deny Israel's right to self-determination.[13][171] The Australian attributes BDS supporters with antisemitic activity including the publication of material on the Internet that denies the Holocaust and promotes attacks against "Jews and Jew lovers".[172]
  • Seeing similarities, or exact identification,[173][15] between BDS and historical acts of discrimination against Jewish minorities, such as historic antisemitic boycotts such as the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.[13][174]
  • The argument that BDS is a significant step in the creeping normality of antisemitism.[175]
  • In the case of academic boycotts, BDS targets Israelis who are often on record as opposing the continued Israeli presence in Palestinian territories and supporting Arab–Israeli peace initiatives.[176]
  • According to Ira M. Sheskin of the University of Miami and Ethan Felson of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, BDS efforts have, at times, targeted Jewish individuals who have little or nothing to do with the Arab–Israeli conflict.[177]

Replies to allegations

Several replies have been made to the allegations presented above:

  • Jay Michaelson wrote an editorial in The Jewish Daily Forward critical of Foxman's position. His editorial mentioned that several leaders of the BDS movement are themselves Jewish and state that the ADL, "with every pro-censorship stance it takes [...] loses more and more credibility and cheapens the meaning of the term 'anti-Semitism' itself".[178]
  • Judith Butler asserts that BDS' demands are fully compatible with, and derived from, international standards for human rights. From this Butler draws the conclusion that equating BDS with antisemitism amounts to the assertion that those standards are antisemitic.[179]
  • The "double-standards" argument has seen several types of rejoinders.
    • Some argue that Israel is one of the most highly subsidized American allies and that thanks to their unique political and historical relationships with Israel, Americans have a special responsibility to the status of human rights in that country.[180][181] Another reason for treating the Israeli case differently is that the call for boycott is the result of a unified effort by numerous civil societies whose members see themselves as the victims of Israeli human rights violations.[180][181] An example for this latter effect can be found in the words of scientist Stephen Hawking, explaining that his decision to withdraw from Israel's Presidential Conference was motivated by calls from Palestinian academics, who were unanimous in their conviction that he "should respect the boycott".[182]
    • Another rejoinder holds that eventually, all countries must be held accountable to human rights standards, but that there is no standard answer to the question of which should be held accountable first.[183]
  • The ad hominem argument claims that personal attacks of BDS supporters are logically irrelevant, because they focus on individuals' character, acts, and/or motivation, rather than on the arguments for or against the BDS initiative in and of themselves.[181]
  • Butler argues that the allegation of anti-Semitism springs necessarily from a false "generalizations about all Jews", presuming that "they all share the same political commitments" while ignoring a view prevalent among some Jews who were "exceedingly critical" of the state.[179] A similar line of reasoning was developed by Omar Barghouti, who claims that those who criticize BDS as an attack on all the Jewish people are equating the latter with the state of Israel.[184]
  • Suggested similarities between BDS and boycotts imposed on Jews by antisemitism[13][174] have been challenged by Daniel Blatman, Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the Hebrew University.[185] Blatman, a liberal Zionist and an opponent of BDS, argues that "the boycott imposed on Jews by antisemitism and the boycott of Israel today have nothing in common... The antisemitic boycott movement was directed against the authorities who had not acted against those who were not considered to belong to the nation, and even deemed the nation's enemy. The Israeli equivalent of the boycott movement can be found in right-wing circles, who have called for a boycott of Arab produce...."

Allegations of ties to Hamas

According to Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former terrorism finance analyst for the U.S. Treasury Department, there are links between American supporters of Hamas and the BDS campaign. In April 2016, Schanzer testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade that "in the case of three organizations that were designated, shut down, or held civilly liable for providing material support to the terrorist organization Hamas, a significant contingent of their former leadership appears to have pivoted to leadership positions within the American BDS campaign."[186][187]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Tripp, Charles (25 February 2013). The Power and the People: Paths of Resistance in the Middle East. Cambridge University Press. pp. 125–6. ISBN 978-0-521-80965-8. 
  2. ^ a b "Palestinian BDS National Committee". BDS Movement, 9 July 2005. Archived on 31 January 2016
  3. ^ a b Mitchell G. Bard; Jeff Dawson (2012). "Israel and the Campus: The Real Story" (PDF). AICE. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "Boycotts that aid the Palestinians", Ben White, Al Jazeera, 16 August 2013.
  5. ^ "What's So Wrong With BDS?", Jerry Haber, The Daily Beast, 7 February 2013.
  6. ^ "Israel is new South Africa as boycott calls increase", Jonathan Owen, The Independent, 3 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Israel isn't, and will never be, an apartheid state". 17 May 2014 – via LA Times. 
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Further reading

  • Barghouti, Omar (2011). Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights. Haymarket Books. ISBN 978-1-60846-114-1. 
  • Mendes, Philip & Dyrenfurth, Nick (2015). Boycotting Israel is Wrong: The Progressive Path to Peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Sydney, Kensington: NewSouth (University of New South Wales Press). ISBN 978-1-74-223414-4: A critique of the BDS Movement.
  • Nelson, Cary (2016). Dreams Deferred: A Concise Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Movement to Boycott Israel. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-25-302518-0. 

External links

Supportive of BDS

  • Global BDS Campaign
  • BRICUP (the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine) the body that promotes the academic boycott in the UK
  • PACBI (Palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel)
  • Palestinian United Call for BDS against Israel by the Boycott National Committee
  • Jello Biafra: "Caught in the crossfire: Should musicians boycott Israel?" on Al Jazeera website (critically supportive)

Critical of BDS

  • "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)", Anti-Defamation League, 2014.
  • Jiulio Meotti, Is BDS campaign working?, Ynetnews, 31 August 2011
  • NGO Monitor, Israeli anti-BDS organisation
  • "Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel: An Anti-Semitic, Anti-Peace Poison Pill", Simon Wiesenthal Center, March 2013
  • Delegitimation of Israel and Israel Attachments Among Jewish Young Adults:The College Campus and Other Contributing Factors, a paper by The Jewish People Policy Institute

Debates on BDS and Mixed Support

  • Debate between Omar Barghouti and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Democracy Now!
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