Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
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 Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respect for the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
The campaign was started on 9 July 2005 by 171 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, the BDS campaign called for "various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law".
There is considerable debate about the scope, efficacy, and morality of the BDS movement. Critics argue that the BDS movement is antisemitic and promotes the delegitimization of Israel. Critics have also accused the movement of using threats, bribes and coercion to ensure that unwilling participants are agreeable to BDS demands.  BDS supporters argue that both the movement (and criticism of the movement) are similar to the earlier boycotts of South Africa during its apartheid era, a comparison that the critics categorically reject on the grounds of dissimilarity of the regimes.
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.
In June 2015, the Financial Times cited the leak of a government report by Calcalist (a financial paper owned by the Yedioth Ahronoth Group) which stated that BDS could potentially cost Israel’s economy $1.4bn a year if the European Union implemented a plan to label goods exported from Israel that are produced in the occupied territories.
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."
- 1 Background
- 2 Goals
- 3 Methods
- 4 Supporters
- 5 Reaction
- 6 Criticism
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Notes
- 10 External links
Debate over a wide ranging boycott of Israel has been ongoing in the Middle East since 1945 when the Council of the Arab League called for an economic boycott against the Jews of Mandatory Palestine. Egypt (1979), the Palestinian Authority (1993), and Jordan (1994) signed peace treaties or agreements that ended their participation in the boycott of Israel. Mauritania, which never applied the boycott, established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999. Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia do not enforce the boycott. In 1994, following the Oslo Peace Accords, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) ended their participation in the Arab boycott against Israel.
According to Julie Norman of the School of International Service, the circumstances in the Palestinian territories of Israeli occupation in combination with the Palestinian Authority acting as a quasi-state institution create unique challenges for civil resistance. Civil society groups have to challenge problems with their own government while keeping the focus of their activities on the occupying power. Norman argues that in this situation withdrawal of consent by the Palestinian population does not undermine the power of the Israeli government provided it retains the support of the Israeli electorate. Thus activists are presented with a more difficult task than the removal of a dictator or political party from government as they must find opportunities for resisting the occupying force while simultaneously convincing the Israeli population and government of the requirement for change.
Rhea DuMont writes that local non-violent means such as direct action, community organizations, media reporting and sumud have enabled a wide range of people to be involved in the resistance to occupation. On a regional level non-violent methods allowed for collaboration between Palestinian and Israeli activists, NGO's and human rights organizations. Globally, they promote the direct participation by international activists and the creation of worldwide support networks and solidarity groups.
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. Following this idea proposals for boycott began in 2002 and 2003, BDS campaigns were initiated, which have continued to develop and expand since the end of the intifada.
Although much has been said about BDS as a non-violent movement, BDS protests occasionally do turn violent. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the BDS movement does not denounce politically motivated violence directed against Israelis or Jews.
According to the July 2005 call, the BDS campaign urges various forms of "non-violent punitive measures" against Israel until it "complies with the precepts of international law" by: "
- Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194."
The campaign uses the means of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel to achieve its goals.
As well as promoting boycott, divestment and sanctions, the campaign seeks to establish a critical image of Israel in contrast to the one it presents to the world. According to Abigail Bakan and Yasmeen Abu-Laban the BDS campaign has been important in contesting what they describe as "the hegemonic framing of Israel as a victim state in the face of Palestinian 'terrorism'." Describing this aspect of the campaign they state:
"The BDS movement has been framed to expose and challenge a series of corresponding repressive policies. These include the denial of the right of return of Palestinian refugees, militarised violence directed against Palestinian men, women and children, the confiscation of land from Palestinians, the demolition of Palestinian homes and the daily racism invoked by a series of policies directed at Palestinians that encumber their freedom of mobility, access to education and ability to earn a living."
English theoretical physicist and professor Stephen Hawking is a supporter of the BDS movement and supports an academic boycott of Israel. In 2013, Mr. Hawkings boycotted the prestigious Israeli Presidential Conference, held by Israeli president Shimon Peres, in protest at the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Hawking had accepted the invitation to attend the conference, then declined after receiving "a number of emails from Palestinian academics" asking him to respect the academic boycott against Israel. Hawking then stated about his original intent, "Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster." He wanted to express his opinion on the prospects of a peace settlement, and to lecture on the West Bank. Among the 20 academics who pressured Hawking to boycott were Professors Noam Chomsky and Malcolm Levitt, with Levitt saying that this was the method available for a scientist to counter the "explicit policy" of "systemic discrimination" against the non-Jewish and Palestinian population. However, Chomsky has also stated that he is against the BDS movement as a whole, which he finds hypocritical. (See below.)
In December 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA) decided to join the boycott of all Israeli academic institutions, a move that yielded multiple accusations of anti-Semitism. 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." Marez acknowledged that the United States has previously, and is currently, the largest supplier of military aid to many governments, including some with poor human rights records, but explained that Israel is the only country in which "civil society groups" had specifically asked the ASA to launch a boycott.
Further responding to accusations that the ASA was singling out Israel while ignoring many other nations that have comparable or even worse human rights records that Israel (including many of Israel's neighbors), Marez replied: "One has to start somewhere."
Over 700 new members joined the organisation between the vote to boycott Israeli academic institutions was passed in April 2014. The ASA subsequently released a statement that said it had "collected more membership revenue in the past three months than in any other three-month period over the past quarter-century" and that their organization is "thriving". In response, a number of organizations and politicians accused the ASA of applying a double standard towards Israel.
In March 2014, in Ireland, members of NUI Galway Students' Union voted 64% to join the BDS campaign, making it the first Irish students' union to endorse a boycott of Israel. The vote is non-binding on the university.
In May 2014, the UK's National Union of Students Black Students conference passed Motion 402: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions by an "overwhelming" majority endorsing the Palestinian call at their national conference at the University of Warwick.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967", Richard A. Falk, 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. 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."
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".
As of 2013, Luxembourg's state pension fund has blacklisted eight Israeli firms along with US firm Motorola Solutions for assisting in human rights violations and illegal settlements in the State of Palestine.
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". 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".
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.
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.
Other prominent people
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." 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.
Jewish and Israeli support for BDS
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." Consequently, Gush Shalom appealed to Israel's Supreme Court to rule the law as 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 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". Peter Beinart, a well-known American liberal Zionist 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". 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". 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". At the same time, she clearly opposes the BDS movement, calling it "inflammatory and counter-productive." After a visit to the West Bank, Rabbi Ellen Lippmann has issued a statement retracting her initial opposition to the boycott of settlement goods: "I have changed my mind about the purchase of products made in the Jewish West Bank. All the rabbis I spoke to in Israel, who were not only RHR rabbis, are not buying West Bank products. I have decided to join them. Therefore, I will no longer oppose those who refuse to buy Ahava products." 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".
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. 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. 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. Jewish American academic, Colin Dayan has also written in support of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. 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.
The NSW Greens State Conference prior to the 2011 NSW State Election adopted a resolution in support of BDS. In support of the statement, Senator Lee Rhiannon said it was "motivated by the universal principles of freedom, justice and equal rights" and also "I see the value of that tactic as a way to promoting Palestinian human rights." Following the election, Federal leader Bob Brown said that he had conveyed his disapproval of this policy emphasis to Rhiannon.
In December 2011, the NSW Greens reviewed their support the BDS campaign against Israel, bringing the branch more closely in line with the federal Greens Party position. However, they did vote to support BDS as a "legitimate political tactic". Rhiannon said that this was not a defeat, but rather, "The resolution recognizes the legitimacy of the BDS as a political tactic."
In October 2011, Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia said that he is against the "full-scale" BDS campaign, and condemned the occasionally violent protests at the Max Brenner stores in Australia, saying, "BDS is a non-violent process and I don't think it's the right of anybody to use BDS as a violent action or to prevent people from buying from any place."
In New South Wales in 2011, Walt Secord of the Labor Party's NSW Legislative Council, called on the NSW Minister for Police, Michael Gallacher, to "provide assurances for the protection of businesses with Israeli links" after two BDS protesters were arrested outside a Max Brenner store. Also in New South Wales, on 19 April 2011, Marrickville municipal council held a fiery meeting over whether to support the global BDS campaign. Though they struck down the motion, one councillor went on record hoping Israelis and Palestinians could "live in peace in the future without Marrickville Council trying to interfere".
In August 2012, Liberal MP David Southwick said in parliament that Labor MP Martin Foley had links to BDS group through union membership. Foley responded by saying "I seek his withdrawal of these comments where he has sought to associate [me] with this racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel boycott movement."
Following the incident, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that the "campaign does not serve the cause of peace and diplomacy for agreement on a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine", and added that Australia has always had firm opposition to the BDS movement. Others, including former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, also condemned the protests in a follow-up article by the Australian discussing protests at the University of New South Wales.
Representing the Coalition prior to the 2013 federal election, Liberal Party deputy leader Julie Bishop reaffirmed Gillard's stance by promising to cut off federal grants for individuals and institutions who support the BDS campaign. On 29 May 2013, Jewish Australian academics Andrew Benjamin, Michele Grossman, and David Goodman condemned the Coalition's election promise as "an anti-democratic gesture par excellence".
The most visible face of organizing in support of BDS in Canada is Israeli Apartheid Week, originally started in Toronto in 2005. The United Church of Canada voted to boycott products from Israeli settlements. In March 2014, the University of Windsor Student Alliance is considering plans to implement the results of a referendum vote in which the majority of voters called for the University to boycott companies with ties to Israel.
In Québec the political party Québec solidaire, the second largest public sector union Centrale des syndicats du Québec and the feminist organization Fédération des femmes du Québec have all supported the BDS campaign. Amir Khadir has sponsored a petition to the National Assembly of Quebec calling for the suspension of Québec's cooperation accord with Israel.
In 2006, the Canadian Union of Public Employees voted to join the boycott of Israel "until that state recognizes the Palestinian right to self-determination" and "until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law".
In February 2011, the Québec National Assembly voted against a motion that condemned boycotts of Québec businesses that sell products made in Israel and "reiterates Québec's support for the understanding on co-operation between the government of Québec and the government of the State of Israel, which was signed in Jerusalem in 1997 and renewed in 2007".
An Israeli activist group launched in 2009 to support BDS from within Israel. It concentrates on cultural boycott by appealing to international personalities, artists and academics who consider visiting Israel.
The 'Who profits?' project is another Israeli group involved in the BDS campaign that documents and publicizes how profits are made from the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, including documentation of who benefits from the occupation. According to 'Who Profits?', both Israeli and international corporations are involved "in the construction of Israeli colonies and infrastructure in the Occupied Territories, in settlements' economy, in building walls and checkpoints, in the supply of specific equipment used in the control and repression of civilian population under occupation".[importance?]
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.
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. 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.
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 will be before a nine-justice panel of the court presided over by Asher Grunis President of 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.
A group of Israeli businessmen have started a sales website called "Shop-a-Fada" in order to promote Israeli products. Tal Brody is the honorary chairman of the initiative and said the purpose is to "fight back against those who think that they'll be able to destroy Israel by waging economic warfare".[importance?]
Some Jewish factory managers who employ Palestinian labor have condemned the boycott, claiming a boycott of Israeli products will result in the loss of Palestinian jobs.
The lower house of the Dutch Parliament passed a motion on 18 March 2014 undermining the concept of BDS. It came in response to water company Vitens' BDS support. Kees van der Staaij of the Reformed Political Party and Joel Voordewind of the ChristianUnion jointly submitted the motion. It calls on the government "to indicate in a visible and convincing way that it encourages relations between Dutch and Israeli businesses and institutions" because "economic cooperation promotes peace, security, stability in the region." It passed by a large majority.
Claiming "respect for international law, the positions of the EU and the protection of Romanian citizens", Romania announced in 2012 that it will not allow Romanian labourers to be sent to Israel unless guarantees are provided that they will not be employed in construction projects in the West Bank. Commenting on the refusal to grant this condition for Romanian workers, Israeli MK Michal Rozin stated that "Israelis are being harmed by the government's activity in the territories."
The University of Johannesburg has issued conflicting stances toward BDS. In 2011, it voted not to renew a joint agreement with Israel's Ben-Gurion University for research in biotechnology and water purification. A campaign before the vote cited BGU's cooperation with the military, occupation and apartheid. The vote did not preclude faculty members from individually choosing to continue in the joint project. However, two days after the vote, Vice Chancellor Ihron Rensburg, a principal of UJ, stated that "UJ is not part of an academic boycott of Israel. ... It has never been UJ's intention to sever all ties with BGU, although it may have been the intention of some UJ staff members."
On 31 August 2012, the Wits University Students' Representative Council (Wits SRC) adopted a declaration of academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Several days later, the Executive Committee of Wits Convocation, representing the alumni and academic staff of the university, distanced itself from the declaration. The South African Union of Jewish Students, sharply criticized the resolution, calling it "a vicious and one-sided resolution aimed at shutting down all debate and discussion surrounding the Israeli–Palestinian conflict".
In March 2013, eleven student BDS supporters at the Wits University were charged by the university after they forced the cancellation of a concert by Israeli pianist Yossi Reshef. They were subsequently sentenced by the university to community service. At a follow up concert held on 28 August 2013, which featured Israeli jazz saxophonist Daniel Zamir, dozens of BDS protesters gathered outside. Due to security measures implemented by the University, the protesters were unable to disrupt the performance, as they were kept from entering the venue. However, concert goers were subject to verbal abuse including the singing of a song that included the lyrics "Dubula iJuda" (Shoot the Jew), at as well as chants of "There is no such thing as Israel" and "Israel apartheid". Some attendees were also pelted with sheets of paper. The actions of the protesters were condemned by University Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib and by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. Muhammed Desai, coordinator of BDS South Africa later went on to justify the actions. Several days later, however, BDS released an official statement condemning the chants of "dubula ijuda". Desai was later called on to resign by BDS supporters.
On 8 March 2015, outside a South African Zionist Federation event, BDS supporters staged a protest at which protesters threatened to kill Jews. They chanted antisemitic slogans such as "You think this is Israel, we are going to kill you!" and "You Jews do not belong here in South Africa!" The picketers who were joined by members of the South African Communist Party also included the head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC)'s International Relations, Government Deputy Minister Obed Bapela who accused Israel of oppressing Palestinians. In another March 2015 event in South Africa, a mob of BDS supporters threw rocks, broke equipment, and looted a store that sells products from Israel.
On 22 April 2005, the Association of University Teachers (AUT) Council voted to boycott two Israeli universities: University of Haifa and Bar-Ilan University. The motions to AUT Council were prompted by the call for a boycott from Palestinian academics and others. The AUT Council voted to boycott Bar-Ilan because it runs courses at colleges in the occupied West Bank (in Ariel College) and "is thus directly involved with the occupation of Palestinian territories contrary to United Nations resolutions". It boycotted Haifa because it was alleged that the university had wrongly disciplined a lecturer. The action against the lecturer was supposedly for supporting a student who wrote about attacks on Palestinians during the founding of the state of Israel (he withdrew the claims when sued for libel and the University denied having disciplined the lecturer). The boycott, which was not compulsory, was set to last until Haifa "ceases its victimisation of academic staff and students who seek to research and discuss the history of the founding of the state of Israel". and by Universities UK.
After both internal and external backlash and condemnation, members of the AUT, headed by Open University lecturer Jon Pike – gathered enough signatures to call a special meeting on the subject. The meeting was held on 26 May 2005, at Friends Meeting House in London. At the meeting the AUT decided to cancel the boycott of both Israeli universities. Reasons cited for the decision were the damage to academic freedom, the hampering of dialogue and peace effort between Israelis and Palestinian, and that boycotting Israel alone could not be justified.
At the 2006 annual conference of the United Kingdom lecturers' union, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), members were asked to support a motion calling for a boycott of Israeli academics and universities that did not distance themselves from "apartheid policies". Although the motion was passed it ceased to be official policy just two days later when the union merged with the Association of University Teachers.
Prior to the NATFHE debate the Federation of Unions of Palestinian University Professors and Employees and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel described the campaign in a letter to the Times Higher Education Supplement as "the only non-violent forms of action available to people of conscience the world over" adding, "We salute those who recognise that, since justice for Palestinians cannot be expected from the international centres of world power, they must organise to further the cause of justice and genuine peace." In contrast, Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg argued:
"it is never a good idea for academics to boycott colleagues in other countries on political grounds. During the Cold War, American and Soviet scientists were careful to keep intellectual communication open; this not only served the cause of science, but promoted personal relationships that led to initiatives in arms control. In a similar spirit, when I ran the Jerusalem Winter School of Theoretical Physics we did what we could to recruit Arab students from Muslim countries whose governments discriminated against Jews. We never dreamt of boycotting them."
In March 2009, large scale student demonstrations were held at several UK Universities to protest Israel's actions in Gaza. At Cardiff University the protests led to the University divesting all investments in BAE Systems, an arms manufacturer that co-operates with Israel. In May 2009, advertisements for tourism in Israel were removed from the London underground network in response to pressure from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. In July 2009, Dexia, a Belgian-French financial group, stopped all financial services to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In 2009, the UK's University and College Union passed a resolution to boycott Israeli academics and academic institutions by a large majority. Delegates stated that Israeli academics were complicit in their government's acts against Palestinians. However, the vote was immediately declared invalid as UCU attorneys repeated previous warnings that such a boycott would likely trigger legal action against the union.
In July 2014, UK department store John Lewis removed all SodaStream products from all its shelves, amid growing pressure from the public and declining sales. John Lewis' Oxford Street, London, store has been the site of biweekly BDS protests for its sale of SodaStream products. SodaStream operates its primary manufacturing facility in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. Additionally, after two years of weekly BDS protests, SodaStream closed its Brighton store in July 2014.
Noam Chomsky is against the formal BDS movement, but supports certain aspects of boycotting Israel. The prominent activist for Palestinian human rights and 2011 Sydney Peace Prize recipient stated he supports the "boycott and divestment of firms that are carrying out operations in the occupied territories" 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. In the same interview, he also criticized BDS founder Omar Barghouti for advocating a full boycott of Israel, despite having studied at Tel Aviv University. Despite his disdain for the formal BDS movement, he was among the academics who lobbied Stephen Hawking to boycott an Israeli conference. (See above.)
Liberal Zionist Peter Beinart, in his 2012 book The Crisis of Zionism, describes BDS as a "shrewd tactic" in that "[a]s a non-violent movement, it turns the world's attention away from terrorism, which has long undermined sympathy for the Palestinian cause. It gives activists frustrated by America's unwillingness to pressure Israel a mechanism to do so themselves. It harnesses new technologies that empower citizens to organize across national lines. And it capitalizes on the revulsion that many people whose nations were once colonized – or were once colonizers – feel toward an Israeli occupation with clear colonial features."
Norman Finkelstein, a harsh critic of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory, has also expressed an ambivalent attitude towards BDS. He has supported economic boycott of Israel and said that BDS has the "right tactics", but that it needs to be "explicit on its goal" and that "the goal has to include recognition of Israel, or it won't reach the public". He is hostile towards the BDS movement in its current form, labeling it a "hypocritical, dishonest cult" led by "dishonest gurus" who want to "selectively enforce the law" and try to cleverly pose as human rights activists, whereas their real goal is the destruction of Israel. In addition, he said, "I'm getting a little bit exasperated with what I think is a whole lot of nonsense. I'm not going to tolerate silliness, childishness and a lot of leftist posturing. I loathe the disingenuousness. We will never hear the solidarity movement [back a] two-state solution." Furthermore, Finkelstein stated that the BDS movement has had very few successes, and that like a cult, the leaders pretend that they are hugely successful when in reality the general public rejects their extreme views.
In April 2014, the Washington State Court of Appeals upheld a 2012 ruling, affirming the dismissal of a lawsuit against the Olympia Food Co-op for their 2011 decision to boycott Israeli products, mandating the plaintiffs pay $160,000 in statutory damages as well as other legal fees. In a press release, the Center for Constitutional Rights quoted one of the defendants and a Co-op staff member: "We are thrilled to hear that ... our right to freedom of speech has been upheld [..] Boycotts are a longstanding form of non-violent political expression; using the Court system to attempt to silence our right of expression clearly qualifies as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation."
Official government responses and legislation
In February 2015, the "U.S.-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act" was introduced to Congress by Peter Roskam and Juan Vargas. According to its authors, the bill will "leverage ongoing trade negotiations to discourage prospective U.S. trade partners from engaging in economic discrimination against Israel" through the monitoring of pro-BDS activities of foreign companies that trade on American stock exchanges and by prohibiting American courts from "enforcing rulings made by foreign courts against American companies solely for conducting business in Israel." However, the bill does not actually impose penalties for supporting BDS. Roskam justified the bill, which may affect current negotiations for the Transatlantic Free Trade Area, stating that there are "an alarming number of countries within the European Union and beyond have embraced BDS as a form of economic warfare aimed to cripple Israel’s economy and demonize its very existence. These attacks not only threaten Israel but commercial relations across the globe." Another bill introduced in March 2015, the "Boycott Our Enemies, Not Israel Act," would require that contractors with whom the U.S. government does business to certify that they do not participate in boycotts against Israel.
Illinois became the first state in the US to pass a bill that requires state pension funds to divest from companies that support BDS. According to Eugene Kontorovich, professor at Northwestern University School of Law and the head of the International Law Department at the Kohelet Policy Forum, this law and a similar one in South Carolina do not violate the First Amendment.
On 9 April 2015, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a resolution formally condemning BDS. The resolution passed the upper house by a vote of 30-0 and the lower house by a vote of 93-1. The resolution, the first of its kind to be passed by a state government, declared that BDS is "one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state" and "undermine[s] the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, which they are fulfilling in the State of Israel." The bill was introduced by State Senator Dolores Gresham and co-sponsored with State Representative Sheila Butt. In an interview, Gresham stated that the resolution is proof that the state legislature "chooses to preserve its values by publicly condemning this blatantly anti-Semitic, anti-Israel bigotry, and send a clear message that Tennessee condemns such views."
In April 2015, the Indiana General Assembly passed a resolution that "condemns" the BDS movement for "seeking to undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination", "activities that contribute directly or indirectly to the denial, violation, or delegitimization of any people’s academic freedom", "agenda inherently antithetical and deeply damaging to the cause of peace, justice, equality, democracy, and human rights" and "promoting a climate of hatred, intimidation, intolerance and violence against Jews".
As of 2012, "[n]o American university has divested from Israel and prominent campus presidents have said they would oppose such efforts." University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann said in January 2012 that the university "has clearly stated on numerous occasions that it does not support sanctions or boycotts against Israel". She said that the school was not a sponsor of a BDS conference taking place on campus in February 2012.
In January 2012, The Forward published an article about Jewish presidents of universities, saying that "many college presidents" see BDS as a "red line" and "presidents who were previously disinclined to speak out against anti-Israel activity on campus in the name of preserving open dialogue found themselves publicly opposing the movement." According to an editorial by Judea Pearl, calls for academic boycotts of Israel usually fall on deaf ears because universities recognize the anti-academic character of the BDS campaign and understand that the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is more complex than the BDS campaign asserts it to be.
To date, student governments at six of the 10 University of California (UC) system schools (Berkeley, Irvine, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Cruz, and UCLA) have passed resolutions calling for their schools to divest themselves of their investments in Israel. The UC Student Association passed a resolution not only to boycott Israel, but also to boycott the United States and several other countries. In response to this, Herbert London, president of the London Center for Policy Research, wrote University of California President Janet Napolitano, urging her to get personally involved in the debate at UC system schools about divesting themselves of investments in Israel. He cited the viciousness of BDS and its potential to "poison the minds" of the next generation of leaders.
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), the BDS campaign operates under a two-pronged approach in targeting Israel. The authors argue that BDS engages in defamation and demonization of Israel by depicting Israel as a racist, fascist, totalitarian, and apartheid state. 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.
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. In Haaretz article 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.
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. The Israeli Reut Institute has argued that the BDS movement singles out Israel, and applies double standards that delegitimize Israel.
Martin Raffel, who oversees the Israel Action Network, argued in March 2011 that Israel's supporters can respectfully debate artists who choose to boycott the West Bank town of Ariel, but that "not recognizing Israel as a Jewish democratic state is a completely different story".
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. 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.
The director of communications for the New Israel Fund wrote in March 2012 that the BDS movement "has accomplished very little" and that it should be relegated "to the trash-heap of failed strategies, where it belongs". Naftali Balanson, writing a response, says "Even if BDS messaging were improved and there was no backlash among 'besieged' Israelis, BDS would still be immoral and inherently wrong."
According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, "BDS supports and promotes completely different values than those which currently stand at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations."
In July 2014, Noam Chomsky warns 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. He also said "if we boycott Tel Aviv University because Israel violates human rights at home, then why not boycott Harvard because of far greater violations by the United States?".
In September 2014, over 620 academics, most of whom are based in North America and Israel, signed an online petition which states that the undersigned "vigorously support free speech and free debate but we oppose faculty or student boycotts of Israel’s academic institutions, scholars and students." The petition states that the BDS movement "violates the very principle of academic freedom" and charges that it engages in "accusations and narratives" that are derived from "overstatements, cherry picked evidence, outright falsehood" or "disputed or highly biased data." Academics who have signed the petition include Alan Dershowitz, Eric Alterman, Judea Pearl and Deborah Dash Moore.
A Danish bus company dropped a BDS campaign on 35 buses in the Copenhagen area with the slogan "Our conscience is clean! We neither buy products from the Israeli settlements nor invest in the settlement industry." The company stated the ads were "unnecessarily offensive."
Effect on Palestinians
Some critics note that the Palestinian economy is heavily dependent on Israel. While the BDS movement is having very limited impact on the Israeli economy, Palestinians are being hit harder. Israeli companies employ over 110,000 Palestinians in the West Bank, many of whom make three to five times the wages than they would locally. The BDS movement has caused Palestinians to lose their jobs working for Israeli companies.
Criticism by artists and public figures
The Palestinian Authority officially supports "a boycott only against products made in West Bank settlements". Although the authority rejects Israeli occupation and settlements in the West Bank, an advisor to Abbas said, "We are neighbors with Israel, we have agreements with Israel, we recognize Israel, we are not asking anyone to boycott products of Israel."
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.
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."
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.
Other artists who have voiced opposition to the campaign include John Lydon, Umberto Eco, Joel and Ethan Coen, and Ziggy Marley. 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."
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.
Allegations of antisemitism
The Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Israeli officials categorize the BDS movement as antisemitic. 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".
- 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." 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."
- The claim that BDS objectives encourage terrorism and impede peace.
- The claim that the BDS movement indiscriminately targets all Israeli citizens, so the Jewish nation will not be able to have a normal existence in its state.
- The accusation that supporters of the campaign make anti-Semitic statements or engage in anti-Semitic activity. For example, some supporters compare Israel's contemporary treatment of Arabs to Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews during the Holocaust and deny Israel's right to self-determination. The Australian attributes BDS supporters with anti-Semitic activity including the publication of material on the internet that denies the Holocaust and promotes attacks against "Jews and Jew lovers".
- Seeing similarities between BDS and historical acts of discrimination against Jewish minorities, such as historic antisemitic boycotts, in particular the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.
- The argument that BDS is a significant step in the creeping normality of anti-Semitism. For example, several commentators described the UCLA student council's resolution to support BDS as the subtext for the anti-Semitism directed at a Jewish applicant to the Judicial Board of the council.
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".
- Judith Butler wrote that BDS policy is to target the state of Israel and its institutions, rather than individuals for their citizenship, or their beliefs, though she admits "not all versions of BDS have been consistent on this point in the past".
- The human rights argument claims that BDS' demands are fully compatible with, and derived from, international standards for human rights. From this Judith Butler draws the conclusion that equating BDS with antisemitism amounts to the assertion, that those standards are antisemitic.
- The "double-standards" argument has seen several types of rejoinders.
- One approach rejects the "double-standards" allegation, claiming that the situation in Israel is unique in some sense, different from other situations in which human rights violations are committed, and this uniqueness justifies boycotting Israel but not other countries. For example, 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. 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, and that such a unified effort is not paralleled in otherwise comparable political contexts today. 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".
- 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. This logic is reflected in an article published in the Chicago Tribune, in which Professor of Law George Bisharat criticized the argument that it is antisemitic to boycott Israel before other human rights abusers, writing "There has never been a "worst first" rule for boycotts. Activists urging divestment from apartheid South Africa were not racist because they failed to simultaneously condemn the demonstrably worse Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. Nor were U.S. civil rights protesters required to inventory the world and only protest if our nation exceeded the abuses of others. Boycotts are justified whenever they are necessary and promise results."
- A third approach accuses those who invoke the "double-standards" argument of hypocrisy, noting that they invoke it only against critics of Israeli violence, not against critics of Palestinian violence.
- 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. This line of argumentation chimes with the words of University of California, Berkeley Professor of Sociology Claude S. Fischer, when he writes, "It is certainly true that anti-Semitism fuels the BDS movement. But most of the fuel — and the greatest problem for Western defenders of Israel—is the occupation, its settlements and the ugliness it often brings. That is why, for example, one of the powerful voices at the Berkeley BDS meeting for the proposal was that of an Israeli graduate student who had fought with the IDF in Lebanon. Fischer suggests that the right-wing Israeli "hard-core may stop up their ears, shut their eyes and yell 'anti-Semite' as loud as they can, but" they ought to listen to people who have legitimate criticisms of Israel and allow them into the mainstream conversation.
- Critique of an assumption implicit in the allegation, that being Jewish necessarily implies identification with the state of Israel. For example, 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. 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, a position "as absurd and bigoted as claiming that a boycott of a self-defined Islamic state like Saudi Arabia, say, because of its horrific human rights record, would of necessity be Islamophobic".
The Rototom Sunsplash and Matisyahu affair
The organizers of the week long Rototom Sunsplash music festival held in Spain from August 15 to 22nd 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."
El País Spain's highest-circulation daily paper wrote "The decision by the organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash music festival in Benicássim to ban reggae singer Matisyahu from performing this Saturday is a serious case of religious and political discrimination. ... He is the only musician performing at Rototom, which is funded with public money, who has been demanded to make such a statement, and to make matters worse, he has been asked to do so solely on the grounds that he is Jewish". 
After further criticism from the Spanish government as well as Jewish organisations,  the organisers apologised to Matisyahu re-inviting him to perform on Saturday August 22. The organizers stated that "it made a mistake, due to the boycott and the campaign of pressure, coercion and threats employed by the BDS País Valencià."
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"The call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by: Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall; Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
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When you’re looking at the dollar sense, you forget the geopolitical reality
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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
- BDSISRAEL Canadian Anti-BDS Association – Countering BDS Movement
- 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