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Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

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Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
BDS Movement logo.png
Formation9 July 2005 (2005-07-09)
FounderOmar Barghouti,[1] Ramy Shaat[2]
TypeNon-profit organization
PurposeBoycotts, political activism
Key people
Mahmoud Nawajaa[3]
Parent organization
Palestinian BDS National Committee[4]
A BDS demonstration outside the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, April 2017

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) is a Palestinian-led[5][6][7] movement promoting boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel. Its objective is to pressure Israel to meet what it describes as Israel's obligations under international law,[8] defined as withdrawal from the occupied territories, removal of the separation barrier in the West Bank, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and "respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties".[8] The movement is organized and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee.[9]

BDS is modeled after the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.[10] Its proponents compare the Palestinians' plight to that of apartheid-era black South Africans.[11][12] Protests and conferences in support of the movement have been held in several countries. Its mascot, which features on its logotype, is Handala, a symbol of Palestinian identity and defiance.

The Israeli government funds lobbying groups like the Israel Allies Foundation, which has been successful in passing laws banning state agencies from contracting with BDS supporters in 25 American states. The laws all draw on a draft originally written by an Israeli legal scholar.[13] Critics say BDS is antisemitic, questions the legitimacy of Israel,[14] and resembles the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.[15][16][17]


Area C (blue), the part of the West Bank under full Israeli control, in 2011

During the Second Intifada, Groups of Palestinians, frustrated with the military occupation's brutality, began developing new nonviolent methods focused on garnering international support for pressuring Israel.[18][19] This led to international calls for boycotts of Israeli institutions, including academic and cultural ones.

In April 2002, during Operation Defensive Shield, a British-led initiative called for a moratorium on academic collaboration with Israeli institutions.[20] It quickly racked up over 700 signatures, among them Colin Blakemore and Richard Dawkins, who said they could no longer "in good conscience continue to cooperate with official Israeli institutions, including universities."[21] Similar initiatives followed in the summer. In August, Palestinian organizations in the occupied territories called for a comprehensive boycott of Israel. In October 2003, a group of Palestinian intellectuals called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.[22] In 2004, an attempt to coordinate the boycotts gained momentum after the start of the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier.[18]

Colin Shindler has argued that the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, the breakdown of negotiations with Benjamin Netanyahu's first government, and the intifada in the context of measures taken by Ariel Sharon's government created a political void that allowed what had been a marginal rejectionist attitude to Israel to enter the European far-left mainstream in the form of proposals for a boycott.[23] Others have argued that the BDS movement should be understood in terms of its purported roots in the Arab League's boycott of Zionist goods from Mandatory Palestine that began in 1945, three years before Israel's founding. [24][25] [26] Israel's economic relations with Arab countries have thawed somewhat since then, and the League's boycott has been only sporadically enforced. The archaeologist and ancient historian Alex Joffe, BDS is merely the spearhead of a larger anti-Western juggernaut in which the dialectic between Communism and Islam remains unresolved, and has antecedents in The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the General Union of Palestinian Students and the Muslim Brotherhood.[27]

Andrew Pessin and Doron Ben-Atar contend that BDS has its origins in the 2001 Durban UN Conference against Racism. They believe that BDS should be placed in a historical context of other boycotts of Israel.[24]

Philosophy and goals

BDS demands that Israel end its "three forms of injustices that infringe international law and Palestinian rights" by:[28][29]

These demands, enshrined in a declaration named the BDS Call, are non-negotiable to BDS. Co-founder of the movement Omar Barghouti, citing South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has written: "I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights."[30] BDS, therefore repudiates the 1993 Oslo accords and similar attempts at compromising with Israel. Barghouti has also written:[31]

"Ending the largely discernible aspects of Israeli occupation while maintaining effective control over most of the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967 "in return" for Palestinians' accepting Israel's annexation of the largest colonial blocks ... has become the basic formula for the so-called peaceful settlement endorsed by the world's hegemonic powers and acquiesced to by an unelected, unrepresentative, unprincipled, and visionless Palestinian 'leadership.' The entire spectrum of Zionist parties in Israel and their supporters in the West, with few exceptions, ostensibly accept this unjust and illegal formula as the "only offer" on the table for the Palestinians—or else the menacing Israeli bludgeon."

BDS believes that negotiations with Israel should focus on "how Palestinian rights can be restored" and that they can only take place after Israel has recognized these rights. It frames the Israel-Palestinian conflict as between colonizer and colonized, between oppressor and oppressed, and rejects the notion that both parties are equally responsible for the conflict.[32] For those reasons, BDS opposes normalization activities such as some forms of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, which it argues is counterproductive.[33]

BDS claims that "all forms of international intervention and peace-making until now have failed" and therefore calls upon the international community to impose punitive measures, such as broad boycotts and divestment initiatives, against Israel, similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.[28]

BDS uses the framework of "freedom, justice, and equality," arguing that Palestinians are entitled to those rights like everyone else. It is therefore an antiracist movement and rejects all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.[34][35] More generally, BDS frames itself as part of a global social movement that challenges neoliberal Western hegemony and struggles against racism, sexism, poverty and similar causes. Its struggle for Palestinian rights should be seen as a small but critical part of that struggle, BDS argues.[36]

Allegations of apartheid

BDS argues that Israel is an apartheid state as defined by two international treaties, the 1973 The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It claims that while there are differences between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa, such as Israel's lack of explicit racial segregation laws, the systems are fundamentally similar.[37]

One of the main differences between South African and Israeli apartheid, BDS argues, is that in the former a white minority dominated a black minority, but in Israel, a Jewish majority discriminates against a Palestinian minority in Israel and also keeps Palestinians under military occupation. It further contends that South African apartheid depended on black labor while Israeli apartheid is grounded in efforts to expel Palestinians from "Greater Israel".[38]

BDS sees the Israeli legal definition of itself as a "Jewish and democratic state" as contradictory.[39] It claims that Israel upholds a facade of democracy but is not and cannot be a democracy because it is, in Omar Barghouti's words, "a settler-colonial state."[40]

Opponents argue that comparing Israel to South Africa's apartheid regime is "demonizing Israel" and anti-Semitic.[17][41] Supporters argue that there is nothing anti-Semitic in calling Israel an apartheid state.[37] To support that view, they cite prominent anti-apartheid activists such as Tutu and South African politician Ronnie Kasrils, who have both said that the situation in Gaza and the West Bank is "worse" than apartheid.[42]

One-state solution

BDS deliberately refrains from advocating any particular political outcome, such as a one-state or two-state solution,[43] but Barghouti personally rejects the notion of a Jewish state and favors a non-racial democratic state encompassing all of historical Palestine:

A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically. Just as we would oppose a "Muslim state" or a "Christian state" or any kind of exclusionary state, definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine. Accepting modern-day Jewish-Israelis as equal citizens and full partners in building and developing a new shared society, free from all colonial subjugation and discrimination, as called for in the democratic state model, is the most magnanimous, rational offer any oppressed indigenous population can present to its oppressors. So don’t ask for more.[44]

BDS's opponents argues that this view, and its promotion of the right of the "Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties," undermines the Jewish people's right to self-determination and is a form of anti-Semitism.[45] According to them, the call for the right of return is an attempt to destroy Israel.[46] Abraham Foxman of ADL describes it as "the destruction of the Jewish state through demography."[47] BDS supporters assert that opposing Israel as a Jewish state is anti-Zionism but not anti-Semitism.[48]

Founding and organization

Official BDS literature claims that the movement was founded on 9 July 2005, on 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. Over 170 Palestinian non-governmental organizations representing every aspect of Palestinian civil society adopted the BDS Call, calling for international boycotts of Israel.[49][50]

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) was established at the first Palestinian BDS conference in Ramallah in November 2007.[49] It consists of a large number of Palestinian civil society organizations and has managed the BDS movement since 2008. Mahmoud Nawajaa serves as the BNC's General Coordinator.[3] Riya Hassan serves as the Europe Campaigns Officer of the BNC.[51] Thousands of organizations and groups are part of the global BDS movement, some of which are the BNC's main partners.[52]

A precursor to BDS is the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which was founded in April 2004 in Ramallah with Barghouti as a founding committee member.[53][54][55] PACBI led the campaign for the academic and cultural boycotts of Israel. It has since been integrated into the larger BDS movement.

BDS is upported by a number of left-wing groups in Israel, such as Women in Black, ICAHD, ACRI, and New Profile.[56] Boycott from Within often uses creative performances to display their support for the boycott and the research group Who Profits supplies BDS with information about companies complicit in the Israeli occupation.[57] On campuses in the US, Canada and New Zealand, the student organization Students for Justice in Palestine is propagating for BDS. According to the American coordinating body, National Students for Justice in Palestine, it had about 200 chapters in the US as of 2018.[58] The left-wing activist organization Jewish Voice for Peace advocates on behalf of BDS among American Jewry.[59]

In addition to these, political parties, trade unions and other NGOs have endorsed BDS' call for boycott, some of which are described in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions#Support.


BDS protest in Melbourne, Australia against Israel's 2007–present Gaza blockade and 2010 attack on a humanitarian flotilla, June 2010

BDS organizes campaigns for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Boycotts are facilitated by urging the public to avoid purchasing goods made by Israeli companies, divestment by urging banks, pension funds, international companies, etc. to stop doing business in Israel, and sanctions by pressuring governments to end military trade and free-trade agreements with Israel and to suspend Israel's membership in international forums. Global targets for boycotts, divestment and sanctions are selected centrally by the BDS movement, but local groups are free to choose targets that suit them.[60][61]

At the grassroots level, BDS uses social media, petitions, articles, on-campus events and organizes public demonstrations to apply pressure on individuals and corporations to cut ties with Israeli institutions.[62]

BDS's opponents argue that, at official university levels, it inundates organizations and departments with various and recurring anti-Israel resolutions, often without notice or time for open debate. They say that BDS supporters bring outsiders to influence opinion or to vote on university resolutions even when this is unauthorized.[63] Whether a resolution passes is not as important as keeping the debate alive at official university levels. The goal is to influence future policymakers to find fault with Israel.[64]

Campaigns and activities

In addition to the campaigns listed in this section, a number of local campaigns have been created by BDS-affiliated groups and endorsed by the BDS movement. They include Code Pink's Stolen Beauty campaign launched in 2009 against Israeli cosmetics manufacturer Ahava,[65] an Australian campaign against Max Brenner, whose parent company, the Strauss Group, sent care packages to Israeli soldiers.[66], and a campaign by the group Vermonters for Just Peace in Palestine against ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry over its sales of ice-cream in Israeli settlements.[67]

Israel Apartheid Week (2005-)

Groups affiliated with BDS holds worldwide events known as Israel Apartheid Week in February or March each year.[68] According to BDS, the events' aim is to raise awareness of Israel's apartheid regime.[69] According BDS's opponents, the events are intended to link Israel to negatively charged words such as "apartheid" and "racism."[24] Since Israel Apartheid Week began in Toronto in 2005, it has since spread to at least 55 cities around the world.[70][71][72][73][74][75]

Derail Veolia and Alstom (2008-)

Since November 2008, BDS has campaigned against the multinational French conglomerates Veolia and Alstom for their involvement in the Jerusalem Light Rail because it runs through the Israeli-occupied parts of East Jerusalem.[76] According to BDS, the boycott had cost Veolia an estimated $20 billion as of 2015.[77] In 2015 Veolia sold off its final investment in Israel, a 5% state in CityPass owned by its subsidiary Transdev. BDS attributed the sell-off to its campaign, but Richard Dujardin, a member of Transdev's executive committee, said: "I will not say that it is pleasant to be chased by people saying we are not good guys all the time but really it was a business decision."[78]

Stop G4S (2012-)

Since 2012 BDS has campaigned against G4S, the world's biggest security company, to get it to divest from Israel.[79] The campaign's first success came in October 2011, when the student council of the Edinburgh University Students' Association adopted a motion to ban G4S from campus.[80] In 2014 the Gates Foundation sold its $170 million state in G4S, a move BDS activists attributed to their campaign.[81] The same year activists thanked officials in Durham County, North Carolina, for terminating its contract with G4S, though it wasn't clear that BDS's campaign was the cause.[82] In February 2016, Crepes & Waffles terminated its security transport contracts with G4S.[83]

G4S sold off its Israeli subsidiary G4S Israel in 2016, but BDS continues to campaign against G4S because it maintains a 50% stake in Policity, an Israeli police training center with presence inside Israeli prisons where thousands of Palestinians are detained.[84][85]

Boycott HP (2016-)

BDS runs a boycott campaign against the multinational information technology company Hewlett-Packard's two successors, HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which it claims are complicit in "Israel's occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid regime".[86] According to the campaign, HP supplies Israel with a biometric ID card system used to restrict Palestinians' freedom of movement and provides servers for the Israel Prison Service.[87]

In April 2019, Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging, the Netherlands' largest trade union, dropped HP in its offer to its members. According to a spokesperson for the boycott HP campaign, the union used to offer a 15% discount on HP products and this would no longer be the case.[88] In June 2019, Unite, the UK's second-largest trade union, joined the boycott against HP.[89]

Orange (2016-)

In January 2016, it was reported that French telecom operator Orange would end its licensing agreement with Israel's second-largest mobile company, Partner Communications. According to BDS, the deal was the result of its six-year campaign by unions and activists in France, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.[90] While BDS hailed the move as a significant victory, Orange said it was ending its relationship with Partner for purely commercial reasons.[91]

AXA Divest (2016-)

The French multinational insurance agent AXA has since 2016 been the target of a campaign urging it to divest from Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems and five major Israeli banks. AXA has, according to BDS, a responsible investment policy that forbids it from investing in, among other things, manufacturers of cluster bombs, and Elbit Systems makes cluster bombs.[92] According to a report by corporate responsibility watchdog SumOfUs, AXA's involvement in Israel's occupation could expose it to criminal prosecution.[93]

Red Card Israel (2016-)

Red Card Israel is BDS's campaign to get Israel expelled from FIFA due to alleged violations against Palestinian football and because several Israeli teams from the Israeli-occupied West Bank are allowed to play in its national league, the Israel Football Association.[94][95] In 2018, it scored a victory as Argentina's national football team canceled an upcoming friendly game in Jerusalem.[96]

Puma (2018-)

In July 2018, sportswear manufacturer Puma signed a for-year sponsorship deal with the Israel Football Association (IFA).[97] The IFA includes six football clubs based in Israeli settlements. BDS wrote an open letter signed by over 200 Palestinian sports clubs urging the brand to end its sponsorship of teams in the settlements.[98] The sportswear manufacturer didn't, and BDS therefore launched a boycott campaign under the slogan "Give Puma the Boot".[99][100][101]

In October 2019, activists placed unauthorized posters in the London underground urging people to boycott Puma. Transport for London said that it was flyposting and that it would immediately take action against the posters.[102] In February 2020, Malaysia's largest university, Universiti Teknologi MARA, announced that it would end its sponsorship deal with Puma due to its involvement in Israel.[103][104]

Boycott Eurovision 2019 (2018-2019)

BDS ran a campaign to get artists to boycott Eurovision Song Contest 2019, which was held in Tel Aviv in Israel. BDS accused Israel of using Eurovision to whitewash and distract attention from alleged war crimes against Palestinians. It also accused Israel of pinkwashing, due to Eurovision's popularity among LGBTQ fans.[105][106] Although none of the acts scheduled to appear pulled out, activists considered the campaign successful due to the controversy it generated.[107]

American pop star Madonna was one of the artists BDS urged to cancel her appearance at Eurovision. Roger Waters of Pink Floyd also tried to get her to cancel, saying that it "normalizes the occupation, the apartheid, the ethnic cleansing, the incarceration of children, the slaughter of unarmed protesters."[108] Madonna refused, saying that she would neither "stop playing music to suit someone's political agenda" nor "stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be."[109]

In September 2018, 140 artists (including six Israelis) signed an open letter in support of a boycott of Eurovision.[110][111] In response to the calls for boycott, over 100 celebrities, including English actor Stephen Fry, signed a statement against boycotting Eurovision in Israel: "We believe the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition".[112]

Hatari, the band representing Iceland in the contest, held up Palestinian banners in front of the cameras at the event's finals, defying the EBU's rules against political gestures. BDS was not mollified.[113]

Academic boycott

Universities have been primary targets of the BDS movement, according to English professor Cary Nelson, "because faculty and students can become passionate about justice, sometimes without adequate knowledge about the facts and consequences. ... [U]niversities also offer the potential for small numbers of BDS activists to leverage institutional status and reputation for a more significant cultural and political impact."[114] BDS argues that there is a close connection between Israeli academic institutions and the Israeli state, including its military, and that an academic boycott is warranted. Modern weapon systems and military doctrines used by the Israeli military are developed at Israeli universities that also use a system of economic merit and scholarship to students who serve in the army.[115][116][115] Like the BDS-led cultural boycott, the academic boycott targets Israeli institutions and not individual academics.[117] The events and activities BDS encourages academics to avoid include academic events convened or co-sponsored by Israel, research and development activities that involve institutional cooperation agreements with Israeli universities, projects that receive funding from Israel or its lobby groups, addresses and talks by officials from Israeli academic institutions at international venues, study-abroad programmes in Israel for international students, and publishing in Israeli academic journals or serving on such journals' review boards.[118]


Thousands of scholars,[119] including luminaries such as the late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, and a large number of academic and student associations have endorsed the academic boycott against Israel. Some of the US endorsers include: the American Studies Association, the American Anthropological Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, the Association for Humanist Sociology, the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Middle East Studies Association, the National Women's Studies Association along with dozens of other student associations.[120][121][122][123][124] While a boycott of Israel has overwhelming support among Palestinians,[125] a handful of Palestinian scholars have come out against an academic boycott. Examples include Sari Nusseibeh, former president of the Palestinian Al-Quds University, who acknowledges that his view is the minority viewpoint among his colleagues. Matthew Kalman has speculated in The New York Times that dissent is more widespread among academics but that they are afraid to speak out.[126][127]

In 2007, the American Jewish Committee ran an ad in The Times titled "Boycott Israeli universities? Boycott ours, too!" It was initially signed by 300 university presidents and denounced the academic boycott against Israel. It argued that an academic boycott would be "utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment."[128] Phil Gasper, writing for the International Socialist Review, argued that the ad grossly misrepresented the argument proponents of the boycott make and that its characterization of it as "political disagreements of the moment" was trivializing.[129][importance?]

In December 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA) joined the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.[130] Israel is the only nation the ASA has boycotted in the 52 years since its founding. Judea Pearl lambasted the ASA's endorsement of the boycott and wrote that it had a "non-academic character."[131]

As of March 2018, resolutions to endorse BDS had not had any effect on college investment decisions, according to Nelson. The effect they do have, he says, is the promotion of anti-Israel (and sometimes antisemitic) sentiment within student bodies, faculty, and academic departments.[132]


University of Michigan has been the site of controversies relating to BDS. A student group called Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) had since 2002 tried to get a resolution passed through the student government to ask the university to divest from companies doing business with Israel. The resolution was brought up for the eleventh time in November 2017 and finally passed 23-17 with five abstentions. Reportedly, the hearing on the resolution was the longest in student government history.[133] In December, the Board of Regents at the university rejected the resolution, stating that "we strongly oppose any action involving the boycott, divestment or sanction of Israel."[134]

In 2018, after previously agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for a student, associate professor John Cheney-Lippold declined to write it after discovering the student was planning to study in Israel. After critics called a letter to the student antisemitic, Cheney-Lippold said he supported BDS for human rights reasons and rejected antisemitism. Guidelines from PACBI say faculty "should not accept to write recommendations for students hoping to pursue studies in Israel".[135][136] 58 civil rights, religious, and education advocacy organizations called on the university to sanction Cheney-Lippold.[137] University officials ended the controversy by disciplining him[138] and issuing a public statement that read in part, "Withholding letters of recommendation based on personal views does not meet our university’s expectations for supporting the academic aspirations of our students. Conduct that violates this expectation and harms students will not be tolerated and will be addressed with serious consequences. Such actions interfere with our students' opportunities, violate their academic freedom and betray our university's educational mission."[139]

Cultural boycott

BDS believes that Israel uses culture as a form of propaganda to whitewash and justify its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people. Therefore, it argues, Israel should be subjected to a cultural boycott like the one against apartheid-era South Africa. According to BDS, most, but not all, Israeli cultural institutions have "cast their lot with the hegemonic Zionist establishment in Israel" and are therefore implicated in Israel's crimes and should be boycotted by cultural organizations and workers worldwide.[140]

BDS distinguishes between individuals and institutions. Unlike the cultural boycott against South Africa, BDS's cultural boycott does not target individuals.[141] BDS supports the right to freedom of expression and rejects boycotts based on identity or opinion.[142] Thus, Israeli cultural products are not per se subject to boycott. But if a person is representing Israel, aids its efforts to "rebrand" itself, or is commissioned by an official Israeli body, then their activities are subject to the institutional boycott BDS is calling for.[140]

BDS also argues for a boycott of "normalization projects", which it defines as "[c]ultural activities, projects, events and products involving Palestinians and/or other Arabs on one side and Israelis on the other (whether bi- or multilateral) that are based on the false premise of symmetry/parity between the oppressors and the oppressed or that assume that both colonizers and colonized are equally responsible for the 'conflict' are intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible forms of normalization that ought to be boycotted."[140] The only Israeli-Palestinian projects that BDS favors are those in which the Israeli party recognizes the three rights enumerated in the "BDS Call" and that also emphasize resistance to oppression over coexistence.[140] BDS strongly discourages "fig-leafing" by international culture workers—attempts to "compensate" for participating in Israeli events using "balancing gestures" that promote Palestinian rights. BDS argues that fig-leafing contributes to the false perception of symmetry between the colonial oppressor and the colonized.[140][self-published source][better source needed]


The cultural boycott has been supported by thousands of artists around the world, such as Roger Waters and American author Alice Walker. In 2015, more than 1,000 British artists pledged their support for the boycott, drawing parallels to the one against South African apartheid: "Israel’s wars are fought on the cultural front too. Its army targets Palestinian cultural institutions for attack and prevents the free movement of cultural workers. Its own theatre companies perform to settler audiences on the West Bank—and those same companies tour the globe as cultural diplomats, in support of 'Brand Israel'. During South African apartheid, musicians announced they weren’t going to 'play Sun City'. Now we are saying, in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ashkelon or Ariel, we won’t play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run masterclasses or workshops until Israel respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians."[143][144]

Many cultural workers have also criticized the boycott. In 2015, author J. K. Rowling tweeted:

The Palestinian community has suffered untold injustice and brutality. I want to see the Israeli government held to account for that injustice and brutality. Boycotting Israel on every possible front has its allure… What sits uncomfortably with me is that severing contact with Israel’s cultural and academic community means refusing to engage with some of the Israelis who are most pro-Palestinian, and most critical of Israel’s government.[145]

In 2017, singer Thom Yorke of the English band Radiohead defied pressure not to perform in Israel, saying, "Playing in a country isn't the same as endorsing the government. Music, art and academia is about crossing borders, not building them, about open minds, not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression."[146]

Novelist Ian McEwan, upon being awarded the Jerusalem Prize, was urged by activists to turn it down, but said, "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."[147]


The organizers of the weeklong 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 said that it was "appalling and offensive" that he was singled out as the "one publicly Jewish-American artist".[148] After criticism from Spain's daily paper El País[149] and the Spanish government as well as Jewish organisations,[150] the organisers apologised to Matisyahu and reinvited him to perform, saying they "made a mistake, due to the boycott and the campaign of pressure, coercion and threats employed by the BDS País Valencià."[151]

BDS País Valencià denied that Matisyahu was targeted because he is Jewish, writing that they tried to get him cancelled because of his views on Israel. In particular, they noted that he had played at a fundraiser for the IDF and at a conference for AIPAC and had defended Israel's boarding of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters.[152] Mark LeVine commented that it would hardly have been surprising if a festival had canceled a Palestinian-American rapper who professed support for Hamas.[153][importance?]

In July 2019, after the Open Source Festival in Düsseldorf disinvited the American rapper Talib Kweli for refusing to denounce the BDS movement, 103 artists, including Peter Gabriel, Naomi Klein and Boots Riley, signed an open letter condemning Germany's attempts to impose restrictions on artists who support Palestinian rights.[154]



The economic impact of BDS's and other boycott initiatives on Israel is disputed, with proponents generally claiming that the impact has been major and opponents that it has been minor.

In June 2015, a RAND Corporation study concluded that a successful BDS campaign against Israel, if maintained for ten years, could cost the Israeli economy $47 billion. The figure was based on a model that examined previous international boycotts; the report noted that making an assessment of BDS's economic effects is difficult because evidence of the effectiveness of sanctions is mixed.[155][156]

Pessin and Ben-Atar have argued that since Israel's gross domestic product nearly doubled between 2006 and 2015 and foreign investment in Israel tripled during the same period, BDS has not had a significant impact on Israel's economy.[157]

A 2015 Israeli Knesset report concluded that BDS had no impact on Israel's export-dependent economy and that exports to Europe were growing.[158]

Adam Reuter of the Israeli Reuter Meydan Investment House has argued that boycotts of consumer goods are ineffective because 95% of Israel's exports are business-to-business.[159]

Proponents of BDS point to a number of public and private organizations that have divested from Israel. In 2014, it was reported that Luxembourg's state pension fund, FDC, had excluded eight major Israeli firms, including Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, AFI Group and the American firm Motorola Solutions as part of its socially responsible investments programme.[160][161] Norway's YMCA-YWCA joined the boycott in 2014, announcing that it would support "[a] broad economic boycott of goods and services from Israel and Israeli settlements".[162][163]


According to Haaretz columnist and Brown University student Jared Samilow, BDS's most significant impact is the social cost it puts upon Jews living outside Israel.[164] A 2016 poll found that 58% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza think BDS has had a positive impact, and 14% believe it to be negative.[165]

Reviewing four lists of achievements published by the BDS movement between July 2017 and December 2018, analyst Amin Prager concluded that, with some exceptions, the impact was limited but that BDS's greatest potential effect arises from its long-term aim to influence discourse about Israel's legitimacy and international standing.[166]

Anti-BDS laws and resolutions

In response to the BDS movement, several legislatures have passed laws designed to hinder people and organizations from boycotting Israel and goods from Israeli settlements. Proponents of such laws claim that they are necessary because BDS is a form of antisemitism.[167] Opponents claim that Israel and its supporters are engaging in lawfare by lobbying for anti-BDS laws and that such laws infringe upon the right to free speech.[168]

In the US, a large number of anti-BDS laws have been passed. As of 2020, 32 states have laws that prevent boycotts against Israel and a number of non-binding resolutions have been passed denouncing BDS. A majority of these have passed with strong bipartisan support.[169] Two federal acts have been introduced, the 2017 Israel Anti-Boycott Act and the 2019 Combating BDS Act, both intended to deprive entities participating in boycotts of Israel of government contract work.

In several states, these laws have been challenged on First Amendment grounds for violating citizens' freedom of speech.[170] Supporters of anti-BDS statutes argue that boycotts are economic activity, rather than speech, and that laws prohibiting government contracts with groups that boycott Israel are similar to other anti-discrimination laws that have been upheld as constitutional. Opponents, such as the ACLU, contend that the laws are not analogous to anti-discrimination legislation because they only target boycotts of Israel.[171] Texas, Kansas, and Arizona have amended their anti-BDS laws in response to lawsuits.[172][173]

Israel has enacted two anti-BDS laws, the 2011 Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott[174] and the 2017 Amendment No. 28 to the Entry Into Israel Law. The former criminalizes calls to boycott Israel and the latter prohibits foreigners who call for such boycotts from entering Israel or its settlements.[175] In 2019, Israel caused some controversy by denying entry to two BDS-supporting U.S. Representatives, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.[176]

In December 2019, the British Conservative government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that it would attempt to pass a law banning local councils from supporting BDS.[177][178]


Responses by Palestinian authorities

Mahmud Abbas does not support a general boycott against Israel and has said that the Palestinian people don't either. Barghouti has disputed Abbas's claim, saying that there indeed is a "Palestinian national consensus" in favor of the boycott. Abbas does, however, support a boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements, and the Palestinian Authority has at times used boycotts to gain leverage on Israel. For example, in 2015, it imposed a boycott on five major Israeli food manufacturers to retaliate against Israel withholding Palestinian tax funds.[179][180]

Responses by Israeli authorities

The Israeli government's response to BDS has been harsh. It views it as a long-term strategic threat and has implemented measures to combat it.

In March 2016, Israeli Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Yisrael Katz argued that Israel should employ "targeted civil eliminations" against BDS leaders. The expression puns on the Hebrew word for targeted assassinations.[181] Amnesty International in response issued a statement expressing its concern about the safety and liberty of Palestinian human rights defender Barghouti and other BDS activists.[182]

In June 2016, Haaretz reported that Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs was going to establish a "dirty tricks" unit to "establish, hire or tempt nonprofit organizations or groups not associated with Israel, in order to disseminate" negative information about BDS supporters.[183] The news came on the heels of a report that Israel's efforts to fight BDS had been ineffectual, in part because the responsibility had been transferred to the Strategic Affairs Ministry from the Foreign Ministry. "Despite receiving expanded authority in 2013 to run the government's campaign against the delegitimization and boycott efforts against Israel, the Strategic Affairs Ministry did not make full use of its budget and had no significant achievements in this area," Haaretz quotes the report as saying. "In 2015, it still did not carry out its work plans."[184]

On 21 March 2017, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan announced a plan to set up a database of Israeli citizens who support BDS. The database would be compiled using open sources such as Facebook and social media posts. Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit objected, saying that only the Israeli secret police, Shin Bet, has the authority to monitor citizens in that way. Arab Israeli Knesset member Ayman Odeh slammed the idea, saying the government was afraid of a nonviolent struggle against occupation.[185]

In a response to Ireland's progressing of the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018,[186] the Israeli Prime Minister issued a press release stating that it "strongly condemns the Irish legislative initiative, the entire goal of which is to support the BDS movement and harm the State of Israel" and instructed that "the Irish Ambassador to Israel be summoned to the Foreign Ministry on this matter."[187] According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the Irish ambassador said that this is not a BDS initiative and that the Irish government opposes BDS.[188]

On 31 July 2020, Israeli soldiers arrested Mahmoud Nawajaa, General Coordinator of BNC, in his home near Ramallah and detained him for 19 days.[189][3][190]

In 2020 it was revealed that the Israel Allies Foundation, which is partly funded by the Israeli government, was instrumental in pushing for legislation that passed in 25 American states to ban state agencies from contracting with any entity that supports a boycott of Israel. Its initial lobbying occurred in South Carolina, where they put politicians in contact with an Israeli legal scholar to draft the relevant bill. That draft has been the basis for similar bills in all the states concerned. In 2019 the group received another $100,000 in Israeli government funding.[13]


South African support

BDS has received strong support from South African organizations and public figures that were involved in the struggle against apartheid. Such support is extra valuable and symbolically important for BDS as it tries to position itself as the spiritual successor of the anti-apartheid movement.

The South African cleric Desmond Tutu, known for his anti-apartheid and human rights activism, has endorsed the BDS Movement,[191] saying, "In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the apartheid regime."[192][193] In an essay for Haaretz, Tutu wrote, "Those who contribute to Israel’s temporary isolation are saying that Israelis and Palestinians are equally entitled to dignity and peace."[194]

In 2012, South African African National Congress (ANC) party gave its support to the BDS movement stating it was "unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel."[195] In January 2018, it notified Israel that blacklisting individuals who support BDS has only served to strengthen the ANC's support for the Palestinian people.[196]

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) also supports BDS, fully endorsing it in July 2011.[197] During the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, COSATU vowed to "intensify" their support for the campaign, picketing Woolworths for stocking Israeli goods.[198]

Artists, actors, and writers

In 2014, Roger Waters wrote, "After more than two decades of negotiations, the vulnerable Palestinian population still lives under occupation, while more land is taken, more illegal settlements built, and more Palestinians are imprisoned, injured or killed struggling for the right to live in dignity and peace, to raise their families, to till their land, to aspire to each and every human goal, just like the rest of us. The Palestinians’ prolonged statelessness has made them among the most vulnerable of all peoples".[199]


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".[200] Scotland's Green Party endorsed a boycott of Israel in October 2015.[201] Members of the Green Party of Canada voted to endorse BDS in August 2016, despite the objections of the party's leader and sole MP Elizabeth May.[202] In June 2018 the Socialist International issued a Declaration expressing support for "Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli occupation, all the occupation institutions, and the illegal Israeli settlements, including the total embargo on all forms of military trade and cooperation with Israel as long as it continues its policies of occupation and Apartheid against the Palestinian people".[203][204]

Some political parties have supported BDS, such as the NSW Greens in Australia[205] and the Québec solidaire in Canada.[206]

According to Newsweek and The Jerusalem Post, three German Nazi parties, The III. Path, The Right and the National Democratic Party, support BDS.[207][208] According to Ha'Aretz, German Nazi parties and BDS find common ground in the effort to dilute "the widely accepted definition of anti-Semitism put forward by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Since the IHRA definition cites the demonization of Israel as an example of contemporary anti-Semitism, BDS supporters ... oppose this definition just as bitterly as neo-Nazis."[209]

On 7 February 2019, Ninna Hedeager Olsen of the Danish party Enhedslisten, and mayor of technical and environmental affairs in Copenhagen, gave an award to three BDS activists known as the Humboldt 3, for their work "to reveal the Apartheid-like nature of the Israeli regime and its systematic violation of international law."[210][211]

Trade unions

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.[212] In July of that year, the UK's Unite the Union voted to join BDS.[213]

In December, 2014 UAW Local 2865, a local chapter of the United Auto Workers union, representing over 14,000 workers at the University of California adopted a resolution in support of BDS with 65 percent of the votes in favor.[214] It became the first major US labor union to endorse BDS.[215]

A year after the vote, the UAW International Executive Board (IEB) informed UAW Local 2865 that it had nullified the vote. The opposition to the BDS resolution came from a small pro-Israel group known as the Informed Grads,[216] represented by the global law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. IEB claimed that the endorsement of the boycott would interfere with the "flow of commerce to and from earmarked companies." The BDS Caucus of UAW 2865 repudiated the IEB's argument, claiming that the IEB cared more about the "flow of commerce" than solidarity with Palestinian labor unions.[215] The IEB further alleged that the resolution of anti-Semitism and the BDS Caucus defended itself, calling the accusations "the same baseless accusations of anti-Semitism frequently attributed to anyone who is critical of Israel."[215]

In April 2015, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, Quebec, Canada, representing 325,000 in nearly 2,000 unions, voted to join the campaign for BDS and support a military embargo against Israel.[217]

On 11 September 2019, the British Trades Union Congress passed a motion titled "Palestine: supporting rights to self-determination", called for the prioritization of "Palestinians' rights to justice and equality, including by applying these principles based on international law to all UK trade with Israel", and declared its opposition to "any proposed solution for Palestinians, including Trump’s 'deal', not based on international law recognising their collective rights to self-determination and to return to their homes".[218]


Artists, actors, and writers

People who oppose the BDS movement include Howard Stern[219] and Ed Asner.[220]

Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt argued in an interview with The New Yorker in 2019 that the intent of BDS is to destroy the State of Israel because it calls for a full right of return for the Palestinian refugees. She further argued that if the boycott of Israel was the main goal, then "would all have to give up our iPhones" because a lot of technology is created in Israel. She thought the objective of BDS was to make anything coming out of Israel seem toxic but did not think that "any kid who supports B.D.S. is ipso facto an anti-Semite".[221]

Australian singer-songwriter and author Nick Cave called BDS "cowardly and shameful" and accused it of trying to "bully, shame and silence musicians" after refusing demands to cancel concerts in Israel from supporters of the movement such as Roger Waters.[222][223][224]


Political parties that oppose BDS include the Liberal Party of Australia[225] and both major political parties in the United States.[226] A common reason given for opposing BDS is that it attacks Israel's legitimacy and fosters antisemitism.[227][228]

In May 2017, the Berlin branch of the Social Democratic Party of Germany passed a resolution condemning BDS as anti-Semitic.[229]

In 2017 all 50 US state governors and the mayor of Washington, D.C., signed on to "Governors United Against BDS", an initiative sponsored by the American Jewish Committee that condemns BDS as "antithetical to our values and the values of our respective states" and emphasizes "our support for Israel as a vital U.S. ally, important economic partner and champion of freedom."[230]

On 17 May 2017, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu encouraged Danish minister of foreign affairs Anders Samuelsen to stop funding Palestinian organizations supporting the BDS movement.[231] Two days later, the Danish ministry of foreign affairs began an investigation of the 24 organizations in Israel and Palestine that Denmark supports. On 24 May Netanyahu called Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen to complain about Denmark's funding activities in the area.[232] In December 2017, the Danish ministry of foreign affairs announced that Denmark would fund fewer organizations and that the conditions for obtaining Danish funds needed to be "stricter and clearer". Michael Aastrup Jensen, spokesman of foreign affairs for Venstre, said, "Israel has objected emphatically. And it is a problem that Israel sees it as a problem, so now we clear up the situation and change our support".[233]

Public figures

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin wrote in an op-ed in Ynetnews in 2016: "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 delegitimization of the existence of the State of Israel,"[234] He added, "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.'"[234]

Norman Finkelstein, a harsh critic of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory, has also expressed an ambivalent attitude towards BDS. He has supported an economic boycott of Israel[235] 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, labelling 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.[236][237]

Former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar said, "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."[238]

Former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair, David Cameron and Theresa May have condemned calls for a boycott of Israel.[239][240][241] Current British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also opposed BDS.[242][243]


The Arab Council for Regional Integration, a group of 32 Arab intellectuals, repudiated BDS at a London conference in November 2019.[244] It said that BDS has cost the Arab nations billions in trade, "undercut Palestinian efforts to build institutions for a future state, and torn at the Arab social fabric, as rival ethnic, religious and national leaders increasingly apply tactics that were first tested against Israel."[245] At the council, Kuwaiti information minister Sami Abdul-Latif Al-Nisf spoke about the opportunity costs to Palestinians, saying that outsize focus on BDS draws money and attention away from investment in Palestinian professionals such as doctors and engineers.[246]


Criticism of the BDS

According to the Institute for National Security Studies, by depicting Israel as a racist, fascist, totalitarian, and apartheid state, BDS engages in defamation and demonization of Israel. They claim that boycotting Israeli targets, regardless of their position or connection to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is incitement.[247]

In a 2009 opinion column for The Jerusalem Post, Gil Troy argued that BDS targets not Israel's policies but its legitimacy.[248]

In 2007, The Economist called the boycott "flimsy" and ineffective, noted that "blaming Israel alone for the impasse in the occupied territories will continue to strike many outsiders as unfair," and pointed out that the Palestinian leadership did not support the boycott.[249] 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.[250]

According to Alan Dershowitz, BDS disincentivizes Palestinians from negotiating with Israel.[251] The Anti-Defamation League similarly encouraged critics of Israel to promote constructive dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian actors rather than destructive and one-sided delegitimization tactics.[252]

BDS hurts Palestinians economically

BDS's opponents argue that it is good for Palestinians in the West Bank that Israeli companies operate there. They say that they offer employment with higher wages than Palestinian employers and that the employees do not feel exploited. It is therefore counterproductive to boycott companies operating in the settlements, they argue.[54]

BDS supporters say that many Palestinian workers in settlements earn less than the Israeli minimum wage, that their salaries are often withheld, their social rights denied, and that they are often exposed to danger in the workplace. To work in settlements, Palestinians must obtain work permits from the Israeli Civil Administration. The permits can be annulled at any time—for example, if the workers try to unionize or engage in any kind of political activity.[253][unreliable source?] BDS supporters further argue that, regardless of the economic costs, the boycott against Israel enjoys overwhelming support among Palestinians.[125]

Dershowitz and the Israeli Action Network point to 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 BDS is not in the Palestinians' favor.[254][255] Dershowitz added, "The BDS movement is immoral because it would hurt the wrong people", such as Palestinians employees of the firms affected by BDS or patients awaiting medicine made by those firms.[256] Similarly, Cary Nelson wrote, "BDS actually offers nothing to the Palestinian people, whom it claims to champion. Perhaps that is the single most cruel and deceptive feature of the BDS movement. Its message of hate is a route to war, not peace."[132]

Connections to terrorism

Some of BDS's opponents have claimed that it has ties to militant organizations.

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former terrorism finance analyst for the U.S. Treasury Department, has argued that there are links between BDS and American supporters of Hamas. In April 2016 Schanzer testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade that "in the case of three organizations that were designated, shut down, or held civilly liable for providing material support to the terrorist organization Hamas, a significant contingent of their former leadership appears to have pivoted to leadership positions within the American BDS campaign."[257][258]

A report published in 2018 by the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry, titled The Money Trail: The millions given by EU institutions to NGOs with ties to terror and boycotts against Israel accused the EU of having giving 5 million euros to organizations that "promote anti-Israel delegitimization and boycotts". The report was sharply rebuked by EU officials such as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini who said the accusations in the report were "vague and unsubstantiated" and that it conflated "terrorism with the boycott issue."[259] Another report by the Ministry in February 2019, Terrorists in Suits: The Ties Between NGOs promoting BDS and Terrorist Organizations claimed that BDS was a "complementary track to terrorism" and that Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) members had infiltrated organizations affiliated with the movement to advance their goal: "the elimination of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people".[260] As examples of such infiltration the report listed Rasmea Odeh, a former member of PFLP who was involved in a bombing in Jerusalem in 1969 and who had participated in meetings organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine and Leila Khaled, also a former PFLP member who carried out a plane hijacking in 1969 and an attempted plane hijacking in 1970 and who is a well-known figure in the boycott movement.[260] In June, the Israeli Ministry announced that its economic campaign against BDS had shut down 30 accounts linked to it over the last two years - ten in the United States and 20 in Europe.[261]

BDS dismissed the report: "This wildly fabricated and recycled propaganda report from the far-right Israeli government cannot be dignified with any response."[262] Both the Ministry's reports were cited by an Amnesty report from 2019 as examples of Israel's efforts to delegitimize Israeli and Palestinian human rights defenders and organizations.[263]


The Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), Israeli officials, and others describe BDS as antisemitic.[17][264][265][266]

According to Ira M. Sheskin of the University of Miami and Ethan Felson of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, BDS efforts have, at times, targeted Jewish people who have little or nothing to do with the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. They argue that BDS causes Jews to be blamed for the supposed sins of other Jews.[267]

Other arguments include:

  • Some argue that academic boycotts often target Israelis who oppose the Israeli presence in Palestinian territories and support Arab–Israeli peace initiatives.[268]
  • The AMCHA Initiative has claimed that there is a "strong correlation" between BDS support and anti-Semitism on U.S. campuses.[269]
  • Some see similarity[270][271] between BDS and historical acts of discrimination against Jewish minorities, such as the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.[17][272]
  • Some argue that BDS is a significant step in creating an "anti-Jewish atmosphere in public spaces" on university campuses and in classrooms.[273][274] The resulting atmosphere encourages Jewish students on American college campuses to retreat from campus life and targets Jewish academics.[273]

Several replies have been made to these allegations:

  • Daniel Blatman, professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at the Hebrew University, has challenged the suggestion of similarity between BDS and boycotts imposed on Jews.[275] A liberal Zionist and BDS opponent, Blatman 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".

Targeting Jews

Some opponents argue that there are similarities between BDS and historical boycotts against Jews. For example, in May 2019, the German Bundestag passed a resolution claiming that BDS was "reminiscent of the most terrible chapter in German history" and that it triggered memories of the Nazi slogan "Don't buy from Jews."[276] Blatman, though a BDS opponent, argues that BDS's calls for boycotts of Israel and historical boycotts against Jews have nothing in common.[275]

Supporters argue that BDS does not target Jews because boycott targets are selected based on their complicity in Israel's human rights violations, potential for cross-movement solidarity, media appeal, and likelihood of success, but not on their national origin or religious identity. According to Barghouti, the majority of companies targeted are non-Israeli foreign companies that operate in Israel and Palestine.[277]

Singling out Israel

Critics such as Dershowitz, conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer, and the Israeli Reut Institute argue that BDS employs a "double standard" and "singles out" Israel. In their view, it is a form of anti-Semitism to campaign against Israeli human rights violations when other regimes are much worse.[278][279][280]

BDS supporters reply that by that logic any movements focusing on a single country's human rights violations would be racist. For example, the Anti-Apartheid Movement singled out South Africa while ignoring human rights violations in other African countries. The United States sanctions against Iran would also be racist, they argue, as they affect only Iran and not other countries committing similar human rights violations.[281]

Barghouti argues that BDS focuses on Israeli oppression because it is the oppression affecting the Palestinians and BDS is a Palestinian movement. He rhetorically asks: "If you suffer from the flu and seek medication from it, is it misguided to do so when there are worse diseases out there? Well, the flu is the disease that is afflicting you!"[282] He believes that it is the US and most of the Western world, not BDS, that is guilty of applying a double standard with its lenient treatment of Israel.[283]

Conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism

BDS supporters frequently allege that accusations of anti-Semitism against the movement are deliberately or mistakenly conflating anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. For example, in 2018, 41 left-wing Jewish groups stated that BDS's tools and tactics "should not be defined as antisemitic" and emphasized the importance of distinguishing between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel.[284] Writing for The Forward, Jay Michaelson wrote that accusing BDS of anti-Semitism "cheapens the meaning of the term 'anti-Semitism' itself".[285]

Judith Butler, a strong BDS supporter, argues that if BDS is anti-Semitic, then human rights, which she believes BDS struggles for, are also anti-Semitic.[286] She also argues that calling BDS anti-Semitic is a "lamentable stereotype" about Jews since it assumes that they are all politically committed to Israel.[286] Barghouti argues similarily, saying that those who criticize BDS as an attack on Jewish people are equating the latter with Israel.[287]

See also


  1. ^ According to Hitchcock, occupied in 1967 wasn't in the original BDS Call. She writes: "It is not clear who decided to revise this phrase or exactly why, but it is likely that this phrase was added to clarify that the statement refers only to the West Bank and Gaza and not to the entirety of Palestine including Israel inside the internationally recognized 1967 Green Line... While I was unable to find any credible discussion of how this clarifying phrase came to be inserted into later versions of the BDS call, is seems fair to guess that it may have been added after criticism by those who thought it was too suggestive of a one-state solution. The fact that the original 2005 Call text and wording remains publicly available on the BDS movement website and in other locations may still elicit different readings from different audiences, though."


  1. ^ Omar Barghouti , 'The BDS movement explained. Why I've boycotted Israel,' New York Daily News, 25 February 2013
  2. ^ "Palestinian civil society calls on Egyptian authorities to immediately release activist Ramy Shaath".
  3. ^ a b c "#FreeMahmoud: Israeli occupation forces arrest BDS coordinator Mahmoud Nawajaa during night raid". BDS Movement. 30 July 2020.
  4. ^ "Palestinian BDS National Committee".
  5. ^ Trew, Bel (15 May 2019). "Tourists come face-to-face with Eurovision's darker side: 'No pride in apartheid'". The Independent. Retrieved 16 May 2019. And so the event has also been hounded by activists spearheaded by the Palestinian-led campaign Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS).
  6. ^ Holmes, Oliver (7 May 2019). "Israel says it will not allow in activists planning to 'disturb' Eurovision". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 May 2019. The event has become a target for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign
  7. ^ "BDS-backed Twitter bot network is targeting Eurovision, Israel charges". The Times of Israel. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2019. The Strategic Affairs Ministry said the Palestinian-led movement that promotes boycotts against Israel is behind the effort.
  8. ^ a b Tripp 2013, p. 125.
  9. ^ "Palestinian BDS National Committee". BDS Movement, 9 July 2005. Archived on 31 January 2016
  10. ^ David M. Halbfinger; Michael Wines; Steven Erlanger. "Is B.D.S. Anti-Semitic? A Closer Look at the Boycott Israel Campaign". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Barghouti 2011, p. 12.
  12. ^ "Israel is new South Africa as boycott calls increase", Jonathan Owen, The Independent, 3 June 2012.
  13. ^ a b 'U.S. pro-Israel groups failed to disclose grants from Israeli government,' The Forward 31 August 2020.
  14. ^ "A blueprint to combat the assault on Israel's legitimacy in Europe". The Jerusalem Post. 4 June 2014. At its core, the assault on Israel's legitimacy is a denial of the Jewish people's right to self-determination.
  15. ^ Nasr, Joseph and Riham Alkousaa. "Germany designates BDS Israel boycott movement as anti-Semitic." Reuters. 17 May 2019. 5 August 2020. "The motion said a BDS campaign calling for Israeli products to be labeled with 'Don’t Buy' stickers was reminiscent of the Nazi-era boycott of Jewish businesses."
  16. ^ Jews and the Left: The Rise and Fall of a Political Alliance, Chapter Two: Anti-Semitism and support for Jewish rights: an analysis of socialist attitudes to the Jews, P. Mendes, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, page 89
  17. ^ a b c d "Report" (PDF). Wiesenthal.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  18. ^ a b Daniel Coleman; Erin Goheen Glanville; Wafaa Hasan; Agnes Kramer-Hamstra (26 April 2012). Countering Displacements: The Creativity and Resilience of Indigenous and Refugee-ed Peoples. University of Alberta. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-88864-592-0. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  19. ^ Julie M. Norman (2009). The Activist and the Olive Tree: Nonviolent Resistance in the Second Intifada. p. 281. ISBN 978-1-109-16669-9. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  20. ^ "More pressure for Mid East peace". The Guardian. 6 April 2002.
  21. ^ Suzanne Goldberg (8 July 2002). "Israeli boycott divides academics". The Guardian.
  22. ^ "Boycotting the Israeli Academy". Lisa Taraki, ZNet, 19 August 2004
  23. ^ Colin Shindler,The Hebrew Republic: Israel's Return to History, Rowman & Littlefield 2017 ISBN 978-1-442-26597-4 p.xv.
  24. ^ a b c Pessin, Andrew and Doron S. Ben-Atar. Introduction. Anti-Zionism on Campus, Pessin and Ben-Atar, Indiana UP, 2018, pp. 1-40.
  25. ^ Greendorfer, Marc (7 January 2015). "The BDS Movement: That Which We Call a Foreign Boycott, By Any Other Name, Is Still Illegal": 19. SSRN 2531130. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  26. ^ The Israeli anti-boycott law: Should artists be worried? Cardozo AELJ
  27. ^ Alex Joffe, "Palestinians and Internationalization: Means and Ends." Begin–Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. 26 November 2017. 28 November 2017.
  28. ^ a b "Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS". BDS Movement, 9 July 2005. Archived on 31 January 2016
  29. ^ Hitchcock 2020, p. 9.
  30. ^ Barghouti 2011, p. 6.
  31. ^ Barghouti 2011, p. 7.
  32. ^ "FAQs: BDS Movement". The BDS movement therefore opposes activities that create the false impression of symmetry between the colonizer and the colonized, that portray Israel as a ‘normal’ state like any other, or that hold Palestinians, the oppressed, and Israel, the oppressor, as both equally responsible for 'the conflict'. ... Negotiations will at some point be needed to discuss the details of how Palestinian rights can be restored. These negotiations can only take place when Palestinian rights are recognised.
  33. ^ PACBI (27 December 2011). "What is normalization?". +972 Magazine.
  34. ^ Barghouti 2011, p. 49.
  35. ^ Sunaina Maira (2018). Boycott!: The Academy and Justice for Palestine. Univ of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-29489-9.
  36. ^ Barghouti 2011, p. 58-59: BDS will unavoidably contribute to the global social movement’s challenge to neoliberal Western hegemony and the tyrannical rule of multi/transnational corporations. In that sense, the Palestinian boycott against Israel and its partners in crime becomes asmall but critical part in an international struggle to counter injustice, racism, poverty, environmental devastation, and gender oppression, among other social and economic ills.
  37. ^ a b Mullen & Dawson 2015, p. 3.
  38. ^ Mullen & Dawson 2015, p. 4.
  39. ^ Mullen & Dawson 2015, p. 6.
  40. ^ Barghouti 2011, p. 14The facade of democracy, not democracy itself, is what is truly collapsing in Israel, as democracy has never existed in any true form - nor could have existed - in a settler-colonial state like Israel.
  41. ^ "Demonizing Israel: The Anti-Israel Movement's Exploitation of the Holocaust". Anti-Defamation League. 24 January 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  42. ^ Jacobs & Soske 2015, p. 4.
  43. ^ Hitchcock 2020, p. 48.
  44. ^ "Letters From the August 26-September 2, 2019".
  45. ^ "Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Resource Page". NGO Monitor. 14 July 2011. 1 June 2013.
  46. ^ Hitchcock 2020, p. 49.
  47. ^ "Is BDS Hate Speech?" The Jewish Daily Forward. 14 February 2013. 2 June 2013.
  48. ^ "Wielding Antidiscrimination Law to Suppress the Movement for Palestinian Rights". Harvard Law Review. 10 February 2020. Retrieved 28 August 2020. Opponents counter that BDS leaders’ statements advocating the end of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state are direct evidence of anti-Semitism.... Such statements are anti-Zionist, and equating anti-Zionism ... with anti-Semitism ... requires a logical leap that defeats finding direct evidence of religious discrimination.
  49. ^ a b "Introducing the BDS Movement". BDS Movement. Accessed April 2016
  50. ^ Barghouti 2011, p. 4-5.
  51. ^ "EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, affirms the right to BDS". Riya Hassan, Europe Campaigns Officer of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society that leads the global BDS movement, commented:
  52. ^ "Join a BDS campaign".
  53. ^ "History", PACBI website, 21 December 2008. Archived 3 December 2014.
  54. ^ a b SodaStream controversy continues to bubble. Patrick Strickland, Al Jazeera, 11 February 2014
  55. ^ "Academic boycotter to study in Tel Aviv". Anshel Pfeffer, The Jewish Chronicle, 23 April 2009
  56. ^ Fleischmann 2019, p. 40.
  57. ^ Fleischmann 2019, p. 41.
  58. ^ "About National SJP". As of 2018, we have roughly 200 chapters nationwide!
  59. ^ "JVP Supports the BDS Movement". Jewish Voice for Peace. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  60. ^ "What is BDS?". BDS Movement. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  61. ^ "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions".
  62. ^ "Palestinians urge Oscar nominees to reject Israel junket". Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, 10 February 2016
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    "All of this is supplemental to the widely reported ... anti-Jewish atmosphere in public spaces reported on some campuses by undergraduates, an atmosphere that helps convince students that passionate departmental attacks on Israel may be antisemitic .... Although the intimidation of graduate students and young faculty members is less widely known than the antisemitic incidents on campus, the increasing examples of career intimidation are deeply troubling. An undergraduate can can often keep her or his head down or retreat to Hillel to avoid hostile social confrontations over Jewish identity, a retreat that encourages the ghettoization of pro-Israel sentiment on campus. ... A prejudicial classroom, however, is another matter."

    Nelson, "Conspiracy Pedagogy on Campus," p. 195.
  274. ^ Pohl, Michaela. "Vassar Through the Eyes of a Non-Jewish Zionist Professor." Forward. 21 March 2016. 21 September 2020.
  275. ^ a b Blatman, Daniel. Not anti-Semitism but hysteria, Haaretz, 18 June 2015.
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  277. ^ "Wielding Antidiscrimination Law to Suppress the Movement for Palestinian Rights". Harvard Law Review. 10 February 2020. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  278. ^ Krauthammer:Poison of anti-Semitism continues to proliferate 9 January 2014
  279. ^ Dershowitz, Alan. "Boycotting Israeli universities: A victory for bigotry". Haaretz. 17 December 2013.
  280. ^ "The Reut Institute: The BDS Movement Promotes Delegitimization against Israel". Retrieved 13 August 2010.
  281. ^ "Wielding Antidiscrimination Law to Suppress the Movement for Palestinian Rights". Harvard Law Review. 10 February 2020. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  282. ^ Mullen & Dawson 2015, p. 62.
  283. ^ Barghouti 2011, p. 62.
  284. ^ "First-ever: 40+ Jewish groups worldwide oppose equating antisemitism with criticism of Israel". Jewish Voice for Peace. 17 July 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  285. ^ "The Wrong Way To Fight BDS". The Forward. 21 February 2013. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  286. ^ a b Judith Butler's Remarks to Brooklyn College on BDS, The Nation, 7 February 2013
  287. ^ Why the boycott movement scares Israel, The New York Times, 31 January 2014.


Further reading

External links