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Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

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Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
File:BDS Movement logo.gif
Formation 9 July 2005 (2005-07-09)
Type Non-profit organization
Purpose Boycotts, political activism

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement) is a global campaign attempting to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with the stated goals of the movement: the end of Israel's occupation and colonization of Palestinian land and the Golan Heights, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respect for the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

The campaign is organised and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee.[1] The campaign was started on 9 July 2005 by over 170 Palestinian non-governmental organizations in support of the Palestinian cause for boycott, divestment 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,[2] the BDS campaign called for "various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law".[3]

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] Protests and conferences in support of the campaign have been held in a number of countries around the world. Supporters of BDS include academics, trade unions, political parties and Israeli citizens.[7]

There is considerable debate about the scope, efficacy, and morality of the BDS movement. Critics argue that the BDS movement disincentivizes the Palestinian leadership from negotiating with Israel at present,[8] is antisemitic,[9][10] and that it is a form of anti-semitic anti-Zionism[11][12] that promotes the delegitimization of Israel.[13][14] BDS supporters counter accusations of anti-semitism by noting the many Jewish and Israeli supporters of the movement.[15][16][17][18]

File:Boycott Israel-poster.jpg
"Refuse to finance the occupation – Boycott Israel" – Swedish poster calls for boycott of Israel.


In 1967, Israel occupied the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan. After the signing of the 1993-95 Oslo Accords, the Palestinians expected to establish their own independent state. Israel, however, did not end the occupation.

During the Second Intifada Palestinians began establishing new approaches that concentrated on developing international solidarity and support that could be used to apply pressure on Israel through non-violent means.[19][20] Calls for a boycott campaign emerged in 2002 and 2003.[19] In April 2002, at the point that the Israeli assault upon Palestinian cities and towns in Operation Defensive Shield was at its height, an initial call for a limited academic boycott of Israeli institutions was made in the UK. The call was widely supported among Palestinian academics. It was followed by other initiatives in Europe, Australia, and the US. In August 2002, a group of Palestinian organizations in the occupied territories, including the Palestinian NGO Network, issued a statement calling for a comprehensive boycott of Israel, including a boycott of academic and cultural institutions.[21] Palestinian academics and intellectuals also called for a boycott, in October 2003.[21] In 2004, an attempt to coordinate the boycotts gained momentum following the start of the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier.[19] In April 2004, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was founded.[22] One of the founders was Omar Barghouti.[23][24]

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 large number of organizations representing Palestinians in Israel, Palestine and abroad called upon the international community for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights.[25] 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.[25] The movement's great example and source of inspiration is the 20th century boycott of South Africa by the Anti-Apartheid Movement.[26]

Goals of the BDS campaign

On 9 July 2005, a broad spectrum of over 170 Palestinian non-governmental organizations[25] initiated a campaign for a boycott, divestment and international sanctions against Israel in support of the Palestinian cause. According to the call, the BDS campaign urges various forms of non-violent punitive measures against Israel until it complies with the precepts of international law.[27] These measures should bring about:[27]

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


File:Israel - Boycott, divest, sanction.jpg
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 which have contracts with the Israeli military or with companies in Israeli settlements.[28][29][30] Actions may also target prominent individuals who openly support settlements businesses.[24]

Social media platforms are used to draw attention to BDS activities.[31] With public calls on social media, protests, petitions and in articles, pressure is put on individuals to cancel their participation in events in Israel or in Israeli settlements, such as concerts or academic events.[32] On the other hand, Israelis are pressured not to take part in activities outside Israel or the Occupied territories.[33] Participants in events are sometimes demanded to declare solidarity with the Palestinian cause.[34]

Naomi Klein has described BDS as one of the few non-violent tactics to protest that Palestinians still have at their disposal.[35]

Israeli Apartheid Week

Israeli Apartheid Week 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."[36] 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.[37][38][39][40][41][42]

Responses by Palestine and Israel

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.[43]

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.[44]

In February 2015, activists from Fatah launched a new campaign in reaction on 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.[45] 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.[44]

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.[46]

The new 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.[47] 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.[48]

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.[49]

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.[50]

Academic boycotts

The campaign for academic boycotts of Israel is led by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. It has been endorsed by nearly sixty 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.[51] Academics in a number of countries have signed on to support the campaign.[52][53][54][55]

In December 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA) decided to join the boycott of all Israeli academic institutions.[56][57] Israel is the first nation ever boycotted by the ASA in the 52 years since the organization's founding. The New York Times reported that ASA's president Curtis Marez argued that America has "a particular responsibility to answer the call for boycott because it is the largest supplier of military aid to the state of Israel"

Business boycotts

United Nations Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967", Richard A. Falk,[58] 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.[59] At a news conference Falk said: "The focus on business activities is partly an expression of frustration about the inability to obtain compliance with these fundamental legal obligations of Israel and the ineffectiveness of the U.N. efforts to condemn settlement expansion." He also stated "The whole issue of Palestinian self-determination is at risk here."[60]

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.[24] 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.[61] 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. Palestinians work in settlements because they have no other choice and 82% of Palestinians working in Israeli settlements would quit those jobs if viable alternatives were available. 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".[24] 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.[61]

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 fund's manager for responsible investment stated that "Findings by the United Nations that the separation barrier and settlement activities were illegal under international law were central to the fund's decision to exclude the companies." The New Zealand Herald described "the fund's investments in the [Israeli] firms", which amounted to less than $83,000, as "insubstantial".[62][63]

In late 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, for "financing" or "supporting [the] construction" of "illegal settlements in occupied territories", namely the State of Palestine, or, in the case of Elbit Systems, "providing security systems for [the] illegal separation barrier on occupied territories". FDC also excluded American firm Motorola Solutions for "assisting in human rights violations in occupied territories" in the State of Palestine.[64][65]

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) "due to [their] contribution to serious violations of individual rights in war or conflict through the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem".[66] 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".[67][68][69]

In January 2014, Danske Bank, which is the largest bank in Denmark, blacklisted Israel's largest bank, Bank Hapoalim, for "acting against the rules of international humanitarian law" due to its funding of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Previously, Danske Bank had withdrawn its investments from Africa Israel Investments Ltd. and Danya Cebus for the same reasons.[66]

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.[70][71]

In February 2016, Crepes & Waffles, a Colombian restaurant chain with international presence in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Spain,[72] decided to terminate its security transport contracts with the British G4S citing that "contracting G4S ran counter to the chain’s ethical principles and offended many of its loyal clients."[73] G4S has provided equipment to Israeli prisons where human right abuses have been reported to occur.[74]

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."[34] After criticism from Spain's daily paper El País,[75] the Spanish government as well as Jewish organisations,[76] 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."[77]

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.[78][79][80][81][82]

In June 2015, the Rand Corporation reported 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."[83][84]


Political organizations

The African National Congress, South Africa's governing political party, 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."[85] 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".[86] Scotland's Green Party endorsed a boycott of Israel in October 2015.[87]

Trade unions

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) supports the campaign for BDS against Israel, fully endorsing it in July 2011.[88] During the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, COSATU vowed to "intensify" their support for the campaign, picketing Woolworths for stocking Israeli goods.[89]

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.[90] In July of that year, the UK's Unite the Union voted to join BDS.[91]

In April 2015, The Central Council of the Confederation of National Trade Unions, Quebec, Canada, representing 325,000 in nearly 2,000 unions, voted to join the campaign for BDS and support a military embargo against Israel.[92]

Other prominent people

Other supporters of BDS include Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters,[93] Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Alice Walker.[94]

Jewish individuals and organizations outside of Israel

Peter Beinart has repeatedly written in support of a settlements boycott in order to "save Israel". Beinart supports a targeted approach to boycotting West Bank settlements, specifically calling on American Jews: "We should lobby to exclude settler-produced goods from America’s free-trade deal with Israel. We should push to end Internal Revenue Service policies that allow Americans to make tax-deductible gifts to settler charities. Every time an American newspaper calls Israel a democracy, we should urge it to include the caveat: only within the green line".[95] In 2011, the liberal Zionist organization Meretz USA called on American Jews to boycott West Bank settlement goods to "Buy Israel—Don't buy Settlements".[96] Naomi Paiss, the vice president of public affairs for the New Israel Fund shows support for the same type of targeted approach, claiming that "boycotting settlements is not anti-Israel".[97] At the same time, she clearly opposes the BDS movement, calling it "inflammatory and counter-productive."[98] The Australian Jewish Democratic Society, "has become the first Australian community-affiliated Jewish organization to adopt the view that some boycotts of Israel may indeed be justified", according to their website. The group only supports "selected BDS actions designed to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation, blockade and settlement on Palestinian lands lying outside of the June 1967 Israeli borders." The organization resolves to boycott settlement products as well "specific academics openly supportive of the Occupation".[99]

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.[100] Peter Slezak, co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices, Jewish human rights activist, and professor at the University of NSW stands in favour of the academic boycott through his vocal support of Sydney University’s Professor Jake Lynch.[101] Jewish American academic, Colin Dayan has also written in support of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.[102] Charles H. Manekin, an orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor who divides his time between Israel and the United States, stated in 2014 that he is "sympathetic" to the BDS movement.[103]

Israeli individuals and organizations

Settlement boycott

In 2006 the Israeli peace activism group headed by Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom, published "a list of several hundred products made in areas beyond the Green Line. The list, containing many food products, also includes businesses operating in the Golan Heights."[104] In 2011, Israel enacted a law that established civil penalties on any individual who called for a boycott of Israel or of the settlements.[105] Consequently, Gush Shalom appealed to Israel's Supreme Court to rule the law unconstitutional, joined by several minority rights groups, including: The Civil Rights Association, Yesh Din, Adalah, the Women’s Coalition for Peace, The Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, Knesset member Ahmed Tibi and The Arab Monitoring Committee[106] Similarly taking a stand in the eye of the public, Israeli politician, Zehava Gal-On, head of the Meretz opposition party, "said that while she opposes international boycott efforts against Israel as a whole, she refrains from consuming settler products because there must be a 'price to the occupation.'" Civilian support for the boycott of settlement goods continues to grow amongst Israelis, causing manufacturers and producers in the West Bank and Gaza to "encounter obstacles" in the marketing of their goods "Not just overseas, also in Tel Aviv".[107]

Academic boycott

In 2009, the Israel-based Alternative Information Center released a report which alleged the complicity of all Israeli universities in the Occupation of Palestinian territory.[108]

In 2013, a group of Palestinian, Israeli and other oral historians and academics from Europe, South Africa, Oceana, Asia, and the Americas issued an international call for the boycott of the "International Oral History Conference" organized by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

General boycott

The Israeli activist organisation Boycott from Within supports the BDS campaign, including the call for a cultural boycott of Israel. Boycott From Within regularly releases statements calling on musicians to cancel concerts scheduled in Israel.[18]


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.[109][110] BDS has also found support from some private companies, churches, and academic associations.[111]

Political parties that oppose BDS include the Liberal Party of Australia and the Democratic Party in the United States.[112] The European Union has also expressed opposition to boycotting Israel.[113] A common reason given for opposing BDS is that it attacks Israel's legitimacy and fosters antisemitism.[114][115]

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.[116][117][118][119][120][121][122] Prominent critics of Israel such as Noam Chomsky stated that he supports the "boycott and divestment of firms that are carrying out operations in the occupied territories"[123][124] but the current BDS movement's "hypocrisy rises to heaven." He stated that the BDS campaign harms the "whole movement. It harms the Palestinians and it is a gift to the Israeli hardliners and their American supporters", because the BDS's "hypocrisy is so transparent... why not boycott the United States?.. Israeli crimes [are] a fragment of US crimes, which are much worse." He also argued that the Palestinian people don't support boycotting Israel and that the BDS movement is run by "one man NGOs" who falsely claim to represent the Palestinian people.[125] 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.[126][127]


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.[128] In a 2009 opinion column for the The Jerusalem Post, Gil Troy argued that the BDS movement does not target Israel's policies, but rather targets Israel's legitimacy.[129] The Israeli Reut Institute has argued that the BDS movement singles out Israel, and applies double standards that delegitimize Israel.[130]

The Economist in 2007 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.[131] 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.[132] 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.[133][134] Dershowitz adds, "The BDS movement is immoral because it would hurt the wrong people" such as Palestinians employees of the firms effected by BDS or patients awaiting medicine made by those firms.[135]

Criticism by 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.[136] 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.'"[136]

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 irrealistic 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.[137][138][139][140]

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."[141]

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.[142]

According to an editorial by Judea Pearl, the BDS campaign has an anti-academic character.[143]

Criticism by artists and writers

Israeli-born musician Gene Simmons, lead singer of Kiss, said that artists who avoid Israel—such as Elvis Costello, the Pixies, and Roger Waters—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.[144] Other artists who have voiced opposition to the campaign include John Lydon,[145] Umberto Eco,[146] Joel and Ethan Coen,[147] and Ziggy Marley.[148] 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."[146] 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.[149]

Allegations of antisemitism

The Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Israeli officials categorize the BDS movement as antisemitic.[150][151][152][153][154] 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."[155] 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."[156]
  • The accusation that supporters of the campaign make antisemitic statements or engage in antisemitic activity.[9] For example, some supporters compare Israel's contemporary[157] treatment of Arabs to Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews during the Holocaust and deny Israel's right to self-determination.[150][158] 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".[159]
  • Seeing similarities between BDS and historical acts of discrimination against Jewish minorities, such as historic antisemitic boycotts.[150][160]
  • The argument that BDS is a significant step in the creeping normality of antisemitism.[161]

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".[162]
  • Judith Butler assets 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.[163]
  • 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.[164][165] 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.[164][165] 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".[166]
    • 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 which should be held accountable first.[167]
  • 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.[165]
  • 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.[163] 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 state of Israel.[168]
  • Suggested similarities between BDS and boycott imposed on Jews by antisemitism[150][160] have been challenged by Daniel Blatman, Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the Hebrew University.[169] 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...".

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Palestinian BDS National Committe. BDS Movement, 9 July 2005. Archived on 31 January 2016
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mitchell G. Bard; Jeff Dawson (2012). "Israel and the Campus: The Real Story" (PDF). AICE. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Charles Tripp (25 February 2013). The Power and the People: Paths of Resistance in the Middle East. Cambridge University Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-521-80965-8. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  4. Boycotts that aid the Palestinians by Ben White, Al Jazeera, 16 August 2013.
  5. What's So Wrong With BDS? by Jerry Haber, The Daily Beast, 7 February 2013.
  6. Israel is new South Africa as boycott calls increase by Jonathan Owen, The Independent, 3 June 2012.
  7. "BDS in 2015: Seven ways our movement broke new ground against Israeli settler-colonialism and apartheid". 2015-12-29. Retrieved 2016-02-17. 
  8. "Final score: Dershowitz 137, BDS 101". The Jerusalem Post | 2015-11-03. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
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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 9781742234144. A critique of the BDS Movement.

External links

Supportive of BDS

Critical of BDS

Debates on BDS and Mixed Support