The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement promoting boycotts, divestments, and economic sanctions against Israel. Its objective is to pressure Israel to meet what the BDS movement describes as Israel's obligations under international law, 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". The movement is organized and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee. BDS is modeled after the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Its proponents compare the Palestinians' plight to that of apartheid-era black South Africans. 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. Critics say that BDS is antisemitic, delegitimizes Israel, and resembles historical discrimination against Jews.; ; Countering BDS is a top priority for the Israel lobby in the United States, which has successfully lobbied for laws targeting BDS supporters in many U.S. states.


Many authors trace BDS's origins to the NGO Forum at the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in South Africa (Durban I). At the forum, Palestinian activists met with anti-apartheid veterans who identified parallels between Israel and apartheid South Africa and recommended campaigns like those they had used to defeat apartheid. The forum adopted a document that contained many ideas that would later reappear in the 2005 BDS Call; Israel was proclaimed an apartheid state that engaged in human rights violations through the denial of the Palestinian refugees' right of return, the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel. The declaration recommended comprehensive sanctions and embargoes against Israel as the remedy. In March 2002, while the Israeli army reoccupied all major Palestinian cities and towns and imposed curfews, a group of prominent Palestinian scholars published a letter calling for help from the "global civil society." The letter asked activists to demand that their governments suspend economic relations with Israel in order to stop its campaign of apartheid, occupation, and ethnic cleansing. In April 2002, Steven and Hilary Rose, professors at the Open University and the University of Bradford, initiated a call for a moratorium on academic collaboration with Israeli institutions. It quickly racked up over 700 signatories, 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." Similar initiatives followed in the summer. In August, Palestinian organizations in the occupied territories issued a call for a comprehensive boycott of Israel. The majority of the statements recalled the declarations made at the NGO Forum the year before. In October 2003, a group of Palestinian intellectuals called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Attempts to coordinate the boycotts in a more structured way led to the formation of the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) in April 2004. Colin Shindler argues that the Oslo peace process's failure 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. Rafeef Ziadah also attributes BDS to the peace process's failure. She argues that BDS represents a rejection of the peace process paradigm of equalizing both sides in favor of seeing the situation as a colonial conflict between a native population and a settler-colonial state supported by Western powers. Others argue that BDS should be understood in terms of its purported roots in the Arab League's boycott of Zionist goods from Mandatory Palestine. According to 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. Andrew Pessin and Doron Ben-Atar believe that BDS should be viewed in a historical context of other boycotts of Israel.

Philosophy and goals

BDS demands that Israel end its "three forms of injustices that infringe international law and Palestinian rights" by: * Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in 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. 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." Barghouti has also written: BDS sees itself as a movement for all Palestinians, whether they live in the diaspora or in historical Palestine. 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. For those reasons, BDS opposes some forms of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, which it argues are counterproductive. According to BDS, "all forms of international intervention and peace-making until now have failed" and so the international community should impose punitive measures, such as broad boycotts and divestment initiatives, against Israel, like those against South Africa during apartheid."Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS"
BDS Movement, 9 July 2005
on 31 January 2016
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. 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.


BDS believes 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 says 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. 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". BDS sees the Israeli legal definition of itself as a "Jewish and democratic state" as contradictory. According to BDS, 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." Opponents have argued that comparing Israel to South Africa's apartheid regime "demonizes" Israel and is anti-Semitic. Supporters argue that there is nothing anti-Semitic in calling Israel an apartheid state. To support that view, they cite prominent anti-apartheid activists such as Desmond Tutu and South African politician Ronnie Kasrils, who both have said that the situation in Gaza and the West Bank is "worse" than apartheid.

Right of return

BDS demands that Israel allow the Palestinian refugees displaced in the 1948 war to return to what is now Israel. The international community has repeatedly reaffirmed the refugees' right to return, but Israel has prevented them from returning. According to BDS's critics, calling for their right to return is an attempt to destroy Israel. If the refugees returned, Israel would become a Palestinian-majority state and Jewish dominance of Israel would be in jeopardy. They argue that this would undermine the Jewish people's right to self-determination and thus calling for it is a form of anti-Semitism. Former Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman has called it "the destruction of the Jewish state through demography." Nadia Abu el-Haj has written that, indeed, BDS supporters believe that "the Israeli state has no right to continue exist as a racial state that builds the distinction between Jew and non-Jew into its citizenship laws, its legal regimes, its education system, its economy, and its military and policing tactics." BDS supporters further note that the Palestinian liberation movement has always rejected the idea that Israel has a right to exist as a racial state. While BDS deliberately refrains from advocating any particular political outcome, such as the one-state or two-state solution, Barghouti argues that a Jewish state in historical Palestine contravenes the Palestinians' rights: Norman Finkelstein, a vocal supporter of the two-state solution, offers scathing criticism of BDS on this issue. Like Foxman, Finkelstein believes that BDS seeks to end Israel through demography, something he believes Israel will never acquiesce to. He therefore calls BDS a "dishonest cult" because it does not explicitly state that its goal is to end Israel and because, according to him, that goal is unrealistic and broad public support cannot be found for the return of the refugees. Still, he believes that BDS's tactics, boycotts, divestment, and sanctions, are correct. Ali Abunimah, in a reply to Finkelstein, insists that the two-state solution is compatible with BDS's demands and that the Good Friday Agreement that settled the conflict in Northern Ireland could serve as model for the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Barghouti argues that Finkelstein's criticism ignores history: since international pressure brought about the downfall of apartheid in South Africa, the same kind of pressure will force Israel to abide by international law.

Liberal Zionism

BDS criticizes liberal Zionists who oppose the occupation but also the right of return for the Palestinian refugees. According to liberal Zionists, both right-wing Zionists and BDS risk "destroying Israel," defined as turning Israel into a Palestinian-majority state, BDS by demanding equal citizenship for Arab-Palestinians and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, and right-wing Zionists by insisting on building more settlements, eventually making a two-state solution impossible. With the two-state solution off the table, Israel would either have to grant citizenship to the Palestinians living under occupation, thus destroying Israel, or become an apartheid state. Liberal Zionists find apartheid repugnant and oppose apartheid in Israel, so they propose a boycott limited to Israeli West Bank settlements to pressure the Israeli government to stop building settlements. Peter Beinart in 2012 proposed a "Zionist BDS" that would advocate divestment from Israeli West Bank settlements but oppose divestment from Israeli companies. This, Beinart argued, would legitimize Israel and delegitimize the occupation, thus challenging both the vision of BDS and that of the Israeli government. BDS supporters contend that liberal Zionists are more concerned with preserving Israel as a "Jewish state" than with human rights. Barghouti states that by denying the Palestinian refugees right of return simply because they are not Jewish, liberal Zionists adhere to the same Zionist racist principles that treat the Palestinians as a "demographic threat" to be dealt with in order to maintain Israel's character as a colonial, ethnocentric, apartheid state. Sriram Ananth writes that the BDS Call asks people to uncompromisingly stand against oppression. In his view, liberal Zionists have failed to do so by not endorsing the BDS Call.


BDS describes "normalization" as a process by which Palestinians are compelled to stop resisting and to accept their subjugation. BDS analogizes it to a "colonization of the mind," whereby the oppressed comes to believe that the oppressor's reality is the only reality and that the oppression is a fact of life. BDS opposes normalization as a means to resist oppression. Normalization, BDS says, can arise when Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories meet without the Israeli side acknowledging the fundamental injustices Israel inflicts on the Palestinians, corresponding to the BDS's three demands. BDS calls it "co-existence" and argues that it feeds complacency and privileges the oppressor at the expense of the oppressed. Instead, BDS encourages "co-resistance," where "anti-colonial Jewish Israelis" and Palestinians come together to fight against the injustices afflicting the Palestinians. BDS denounces dialogue projects bringing Palestinians and Israelis together without addressing the struggle for Palestinian rights. Such projects, it asserts, "serve to privilege oppressive co-existence at the cost of co-resistance" regardless of their intentions. It also denounces projects that portray the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians as symmetrical. One example of a project BDS denounces is OneVoice, a joint Palestinian-Israeli youth-oriented organization that brings Israelis and Palestinians together under the slogan of ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state. Since OneVoice concerns itself with neither Israeli apartheid nor Palestinian refugees' rights, BDS concludes that it serves to normalize oppression and injustice. Critics of "anti-normalization" rhetorically ask how BDS is supposed to win over the hearts and minds of unconvinced Jewish Israelis if a precondition for dialogue is that they first commit to BDS's principles. They believe that dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians can convince Jewish Israelis that BDS's demands are just. Barghouti contends that the "peace industry," the many dialogue initiatives launched in the 1990s in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords, has not helped the Palestinians at all because they are based on the idea that the conflict is between two equals, rather than about one group oppressing another. He believes that dialogue needs to be based on freedom, equality, democracy, and ending injustice, or else it is at best a form of negotiation between a stronger and weaker party.

Founding and organization

BDS 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. 171 Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) representing every aspect of Palestinian civil society adopted the BDS Call. The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) was established at the first Palestinian BDS conference in Ramallah in November 2007 and in 2008 it became BDS's coordinating body. All BNC members are Palestinian organizations. As of 2020, it has 29 members. The BNC includes a general assembly with representatives from every BNC member, and an 11-seat secretariat elected every two years that governs the BNC. The general assembly meets about every third month while the secretariat handles day-to-day decision making. Mahmoud Nawajaa serves as the BNC's General Coordinator and Alys Samson Estapé as the Europe Coordinator. 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."History"
PACBI website, 21 December 2008. Archived 3 December 2014.

Patrick Strickland, Al Jazeera, 11 February 2014
"Academic boycotter to study in Tel Aviv"
Anshel Pfeffer, ''The Jewish Chronicle'', 23 April 2009
PACBI led the campaign for the academic and cultural boycotts of Israel. It has since been integrated into the larger BDS movement. The U.S. arm of PACBI, the United States Association for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), was founded in 2009. The global BDS movement is by design highly decentralized and independent. This has allowed thousands of organizations and groups to become part of it, some of which are the BNC's main partners. In Israel, BDS is supported by a number of left-wing groups, such as Women in Black, ICAHD, ACRI, and New Profile. Boycott from Within often uses creative performances to display its support for the boycott and the research group Who Profits supplies BDS with information about companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. On campuses in the US, Canada and New Zealand, the student organization Students for Justice in Palestine supports BDS. According to the American coordinating body National Students for Justice in Palestine, it had about 200 chapters in the US as of 2018. The left-wing activist organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) advocates for BDS among American Jewry. In addition to these, political parties, trade unions and other NGOs have endorsed the BDS Call.


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 boycott are selected by the BNC, but supporters are free to choose targets that suit them. The BNC encourages supporters to select targets based on their complicity in Israel's human rights violations, potential for cross-movement solidarity, media appeal, and likelihood of success. It also emphasizes the importance of creating campaigns and events that connect with issues of concern in their own communities. 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.



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 movement, including Code Pink's ''Stolen Beauty'' campaign launched in 2009 against Israeli cosmetics manufacturer Ahava, an Australian campaign against Max Brenner, whose parent company, the Strauss Group, sent care packages to Israeli soldiers, 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. ;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. According to BDS, the boycott had cost Veolia an estimated $20 billion as of 2015. 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." ; Stop G4S - Securing Israeli Apartheid (2012-) Since 2012 BDS has campaigned against G4S, the world's biggest security company, to get it to divest from Israel. As a result, G4S has been targeted by many BDS supporting groups, including Who Profits?, Addameer, Jews for Justice in Palestine, and Tadamon!. The campaign's first victory came in October 2011, when the student council of the Edinburgh University Students' Association adopted a motion to ban G4S from campus. In April 2012 the European Parliament declined to renew its contract with G4S, citing G4S's involvement in violations of international law. In 2014 the Gates Foundation sold its $170 million stake in G4S, a move BDS activists attributed to their campaign. 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. In February 2016, the international restaurant chain Crepes & Waffles terminated its security transport contracts with G4S. 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. ;Woolworths (2014-2016) BDS South Africa undertook a boycott campaign against the South African retail chain Woolworths in 2014 over its trade relations with Israel. It was the first comprehensive consumer boycott of a South African retailer since 1994. The campaign used the Twitter hashtag #BoycottWoolworths which rapidly became one of the top trending hashtags on South African Twitter. The campaign attracted international media attention and was covered by ''The New York Times'', ''Rolling Stone'', and ''Al-Jazeera''. The activists organized flash mobs, die-ins, and placed "Boycott Israeli Apartheid"-stickers on Woolworths' Israeli merchandise, all of which they published on social media. Consumers were encouraged to write to the company's store managers questioning the stocking of Israeli goods. The campaign ended in mid-2016 when Woolworth informed its annual general meeting that it would no longer purchase Israeli products from the occupied territories. ;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 says are complicit in "Israel's occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid regime". 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. 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. In June 2019, Unite, the UK's second-largest trade union, joined the boycott against HP."Unite joins boycott of Hewlett Packard over company's complicity in Palestinian rights violations."
''Morning Star''.
;Orange (2016-) In January 2016, French telecom operator Orange dropped its licensing deal with its Israeli mobile operator, 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. While BDS hailed the move as a significant victory, Orange said it was ending its relationship with Partner for purely commercial reasons. ;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. According to a report by corporate responsibility watchdog SumOfUs, AXA's involvement in Israel's occupation could expose it to criminal prosecution. ;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. In 2018, it scored a victory as Argentina's national football team canceled an upcoming friendly game in Jerusalem. ;Puma (2018-) In July 2018, sportswear manufacturer Puma signed a for-year sponsorship deal with the Israel Football Association (IFA). 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. The sportswear manufacturer didn't, and BDS therefore launched a boycott campaign under the slogan "Give Puma the Boot". 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. 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. ;Boycott Eurovision 2019 (2018-2019) BDS attempted to get artists to boycott Eurovision Song Contest 2019 because it was held 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. Although none of the acts scheduled to appear pulled out, activists considered the efforts successful due to the media coverage generated. 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." 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." In September 2018, 140 artists (including six Israelis) signed an open letter in support of a boycott of Eurovision. 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". 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: "Artists who insist on crossing the Palestinian boycott picket line, playing in Tel Aviv in defiance of our calls, cannot offset the harm they do to our human rights struggle by ‘balancing’ their complicit act with some project with Palestinians. Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly rejects this fig-leafing," it said.

Divestment resolutions at U.S. universities

In North America, many public and private universities have large financial holdings. Campus BDS activists have therefore organized campaigns asking universities to divest from companies complicit in the occupation. These campaigns often revolve around attempts to pass divestment resolutions in the school's student government. While few universities have heeded the call to divest, activists believe the resolutions are symbolically important. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, activists have fielded 135 divestment resolutions since 2005, of which 91, including those vetoed by the student government president or repealed, were defeated. In 2009, Hampshire College became the first U.S. college to divest from companies profiting from Israel's occupation as its board of trustees voted to sell its shares in Caterpillar Inc., Terex, Motorola, ITT, General Electric, and United Technologies. Hampshire's president said that SJP's campaigning brought about the decision, but members of the board of trustees denied that. In 2010, the UC Berkeley Student Senate passed a resolution calling for the university to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel. The resolution was vetoed by the Student Body president, who said it was "a symbolic attack on a specific community." In 2013, another divestment bill passed but the university stated that it would not divest. Many divestment campaigns began in the early 2000s, years before BDS was founded. In some cases, it has taken them over a decade to get resolutions passed. For example, at the University of Michigan, a student group called Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) began campaigning for a divestment resolution in 2002. It was brought up for the eleventh time in 2017 and passed 23–17 with five abstentions. Reportedly, the hearing on the resolution was the longest in student government history. In December, the Board of Regents at the university rejected the resolution, stating, "we strongly oppose any action involving the boycott, divestment or sanction of Israel." Also in 2002, students at Columbia University began promoting a divestment resolution, which passed in 2020. In 2019, Brown University became the first Ivy league university to pass a divestment resolution, with 69% of the students in favor and 31% against. BDS opponents often focus on the supposed divisiveness debates about divestment resolutions cause. According to Nelson, the primary effect divestment resolutions have is the promotion of anti-Israel (and sometimes antisemitic) sentiment within student bodies, faculty, and academic departments. Some opponents argue that activists promoting divestment resolutions often cheat or operate clandestinely. They claim that resolutions are often sprung with minimal notice, giving the opposition no time to react, that activists bring outsiders to influence opinion or to vote on university resolutions even when this is unauthorized, and that activists change the text of resolutions once passed. Judea Pearl believes that to BDS supporters it is irrelevant whether a particular resolution passes or not because the real goal is to keep the debate alive and influence future policymakers to find fault with Israel.

Israel Apartheid Week

Groups affiliated with BDS hold events known as Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) in February or March each year. IAW began at the University of Toronto in 2006, but has since spread and in 2014 was held on 250 campuses worldwide. IAW aims to increase public awareness of the Palestinians' history and the racial discrimination they experience and to build support for BDS. IAW allows activists to frame the issue as one of racial oppression and discrimination rather than a "conflict" between two equal sides. According to BDS's opponents, IAW intends to link Israel to evils such as apartheid and racism.

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. ... iversities also offer the potential for small numbers of BDS activists to leverage institutional status and reputation for a more significant cultural and political impact." 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. Like the BDS-led cultural boycott, the academic boycott targets Israeli institutions and not individual academics. 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.


Thousands of scholars, 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 U.S. endorsers are the American Studies Association (ASA), 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. 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." 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. In December 2013, ASA joined the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.Redden, Elizabeth
"Backing the Israel Boycott"
''Inside Higher Ed''. 17 December 2013.
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."Pearl, Judea. "Boycott Israel? Not on My Campus". Editorial. ''Jewish Journal''. 3–9 January 2014: 9. Print.


In 2018, after previously agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for a student, associate professor John Cheney-Lippold at the University of Michigan 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". 58 civil rights, religious, and education advocacy organizations called on the university to sanction Cheney-Lippold. University officials ended the controversy by disciplining him 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."

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 support "the hegemonic Zionist establishment" and are thus implicated in Israel's crimes and should be boycotted. BDS distinguishes between individuals and institutions. Unlike the cultural boycott against South Africa, BDS's cultural boycott does not target individuals. BDS supports the right to freedom of expression and rejects boycotts based on identity or opinion. 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. BDS also argues for a boycott of "normalization projects", which it defines as 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. 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.


The cultural boycott has been supported by thousands of artists around the world, such as musician 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: Many artists are not heeding BDS's call not to perform in Israel, arguing that: * Performing in a country is not the same as supporting that country's regime; * By performing in Israel, artists have a chance to tell the Israelis what they feel about their regime and that can help bring peace; * By not performing in Israel, artists sever contacts with Israel's strongly pro-Palestinian cultural community, which risks hardening opposition to the Palestinian struggle among Israelis; * BDS supporters like Roger Waters and Brian Eno who urge fellow artists not to perform in Israel are engaging in a form of bullying.


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".''Matisyahu Kicked Off European Festival Over Palestinian Politics''
Kory Grow, 17 August 2015
After criticism from Spain's daily paper ''El País'' and the Spanish government as well as Jewish organisations, 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." 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. Mark LeVine commented that it would hardly have been surprising if a festival had canceled a Palestinian-American rapper who professed support for Hamas. In 2017, a pro-Israel organisation brought charges against eight members of the BDS movement over their role in the 2015 action against Matisyahu. On January 11, 2021, the Valencia Appeals Court acquitted the BDS members of the charges. The court said that the action of the BDS members was "protected by freedom of expression and that their intention was not to discriminate against Matisyahu because he is Jewish but to protest Israel’s policies". 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. In 2019, the parliament of Germany issued a resolution that advocated against financing any project that called for a boycott of Israel on the grounds that the BDS movement was antisemitic. Twenty-five institutions, including the Goethe Institute, the Federal Cultural Foundation, the Berlin Deutsches Theater, the German Academic Exchange Service Artists Exchange, the Berliner Festspiele, and the Einstein Forum issued a joint statement in 2019, after intensive internal debates, that "accusations of antisemitism are being misused to push aside important voices and to distort critical positions". Writing in ''Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung'', Andreas Kilb said the signatories did not provide evidence of such "misuse".



In June 2015, a RAND Corporation study estimated that a successful BDS campaign against Israel, could cost the Israeli economy a cumulative $47 billion over ten years. 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. A leaked Israeli government report estimated a more modest $1.4 billion per year. 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. A 2015 Israeli Knesset report concluded that BDS had no impact on Israel's export-dependent economy and that exports to Europe were growing. 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. Nevertheless, two organizations have divested from Israel in 2014: 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 and Norway's YMCA-YWCA announced that it would support "broad economic boycott of goods and services from Israel and Israeli settlements."


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. 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.

Countering BDS

The Israel lobby considers BDS an "existential threat" to Israel and countering it is therefore highly prioritized.Whether or not BDS is actually an "existential threat" to Israel has been debated even within the pro-Israel communit

/ref> It has organized a counter-campaign to oppose BDS, relying on strategies of defamation, intimidation, and lawfare. Several groups have been created specifically to combat BDS. The Israel Action Network (IAN) was set up in 2010 by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs with a pledge of $6 million. In June 2015, pro-Israel megadonors Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban held a meeting with representatives of 50 Jewish organizations, raising $50 million to fight BDS on U.S. campuses. The same year, the Maccabee Task Force was set up, led by David Brog, with the mission "to ensure that those who seek to delegitimize Israel and demonize the Jewish people are confronted, combatted and defeated".

In academia

The Israel lobby considers academia an important battleground and has spent a lot of effort attempting to counter its growing support for BDS. One tactic the Israel lobby uses to silence activists in academia is blacklisting. This can cause students and untenured faculty, who worry about reprisals and negative publicity, to refrain from activism. The best-known blacklist is the anonymous website Canary Mission, which publishes photos and personal information about students and faculty who promote BDS. The website has threatened to send students' names to prospective employees. According to the ''Intercept'', the website has made it harder for activists to organize activities because people worry that they will end up on it. Activists listed on the site have reported receiving death threats. Another blacklist was the now defunct outlawbds.com, operated by the Israeli private intelligence agency Psy-Group. It sent threatening emails to BDS activists in New York, warning them that they had been identified as "BDS promoter" Many activists have attempted to defuse blacklisting's chilling effect by treating inclusion on blacklists as a badge of honor or by attempting to get themselves blacklisted. The operators of the blacklists often are anonymous. According to ''The Forward's'' investigation, the blacklist "SJP Uncovered" was funded by the Israel on Campus Coalition. According to ''Haaretz'', the Canary Mission was funded by the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco and the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, and operated by the Israeli nonprofit Megamot Shalom.

Anti-BDS laws and resolutions

In response to BDS, several legislatures have passed laws designed to hinder people and organizations from boycotting Israel and goods from Israeli settlements. Proponents of such laws say that they are necessary because BDS is a form of antisemitism. Opponents say that Israel and its supporters are engaging in lawfare and that anti-BDS laws infringe upon the right to free speech. 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. 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. Supporters of anti-BDS statutes argue that boycotts are economic activity, not 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 under the Commerce Clause. Opponents, such as the ACLU, contend that the laws are not analogous to anti-discrimination legislation because they target only boycotts of Israel. Texas, Kansas, and Arizona have amended their anti-BDS laws in response to lawsuits. Israel has enacted two anti-BDS laws: one in 2011 that criminalizes calls to boycott Israel, and one in 2017 that prohibits foreigners who call for such boycotts from entering Israel or its settlements. In 2019, Israel caused some controversy by denying entry to two BDS-supporting U.S. Representatives, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.

Israel's counter-measures

In 2016 Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, stated that Israel was in many countries "so that it will simply be illegal to boycott Israel." In 2020 it was revealed that an Israeli state-funded lobby group had been instrumental in pushing for anti-BDS laws in many U.S. states. In 2018 a new code of ethics was adopted for Israeli universities. The code prohibits faculty from calling for or participating in boycotts of Israel. In 2010, the Israeli think tank Reut InstituteLater renamed to Reut Group. presented a paper, "The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall," at the influential Herzliya Conference. It recommended enlisting intelligence agencies to attack and sabotage what it believed where international "hubs" of the movement in London, Madrid, Toronto, and other cities. In a related paper, the think tank called for pro-Israel advocates to "out, name and shame" Israel's critics and to "frame them...as anti-peace, anti-Semitic, or dishonest purveyors of double standards." In a leaked report from 2017, "The Assault On Israel's Legitimacy The Frustrating 20X Question: Why Is It Still Growing?", Reut recommended making a distinction between hardcore anti-Zionist "instigators" and the "long tail": people who are critical of Israel but do not seek its "elimination". The instigators should be "handled uncompromisingly, publicly or covertly", the report stated, but the long tail should be won over by persuasion, as a heavy-handed approach would risk driving them closer to the "anti-Israel camp."

Ministry of Strategic Affairs

In Israel, the counter-campaign is led by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. In 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the ministry would receive over 100 million shekels as well as ten employees to fight BDS. Some of the funds have been used to buy space in the Israeli press to promote its anti-BDS message. In June 2016, ''Haaretz'' reported that the ministry 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. 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." In 2017, the cabinet allocated 128 million shekels over three years for a front company but it spent only 13 million with little to show by way of results. 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. In 2019, the ministry announced that its economic campaign against BDS had shut down 30 financial accounts of BDS-promoting groups. In October 2020, ''+972 Magazine'' reported that the Ministry of Strategic Affairs paid ''The Jerusalem Post'' over NIS 100,000 in 2019 to publish a special supplement titled ''Unmasking BDS'' in order to delegitimise the BDS movement.

Harassment of BDS activists

The Israeli government has threatened and harassed BDS activists. In September 2009, Mohammed Othman was detained after returning from a trip to Norway where he discussed BDS with Norwegian officials. He was released after four months, after an international campaign in which Amnesty International threatened to declare him a prisoner of conscience. BNC member Jamal Juma was also detained for several weeks in 2009. No charges were leveled against either of them. In March 2016, Israeli minister Yisrael Katz stated that Israel should employ "targeted civil eliminations" against BDS leaders. The term alluded to the policy of targeted assassinations that Israel uses against members of Palestinian armed groups. Erdan called for BDS leaders to "pay the price" for their work. In response, Amnesty International issued a statement expressing its concern about the safety and liberty of Barghouti and other BDS activists. Barghouti has been the target of several travel bans and in 2019 the Israeli government announced that it was preparing to expel him. In July 2020, Israeli soldiers arrested Mahmoud Nawajaa, General Coordinator of BNC, in his home near Ramallah and detained him for 19 days.

Brand Israel

Israel has a terrible brand due to its long-running conflict with the Palestinians which, in combination with BDS activities, has led to the state increasingly being associated with apartheid and war crimes. The Israeli government therefore initiated "Brand Israel", a campaign to improve Israel's image by showing its "prettier face", downplaying religion, and avoiding discussing the conflict with the Palestinians. Brand Israel promotes Israeli culture abroad and also seeks to influence "opinion-formers" by inviting them on free trips to Israel. BDS attempts to counter the campaign by urging people not to participate in its activities. For example, in 2016 the Israeli government offered 26 Oscars-nominated celebrities 10-day free trips to Israel worth at least $15,000 to $18,000 per person. BDS activists took out an ad reading "#SkipTheTrip. Don’t endorse Israeli apartheid" and urged the celebrities not to go. According to Catherine Rottenberg, they were successful and not a single celebrity went on the free trip.


BDS considers the Israeli government's designation of the movement as a "strategic threat" proof of its success. Barghouti believes that the only effect Israel's heavy-handed measures will have is to speed the end of Israel's occupation and apartheid policies, and that its attempt to crush BDS will fail. He argues that BDS has dragged Israel into a "battlefield" over human rights, where its massive arsenal of intimidation, smears, threats, and bullying is rendered as ineffective as its nuclear weapons. Israel's extremism and its willingness to sacrifice its last masks of "democracy" will only help BDS grow, he argues. Hitchcock speculates that many counter-measures might backfire, especially if they are seen as infringing on the right to free speech. As an example, she gives Trump's 2019 order to federal agencies to use a definition of anti-Semitism that includes speech critical of Israel when investigating certain types of discrimination complaints. Critics contended that the intent was to crack down on pro-BDS campus activism, and their critique found its way into mainstream periodicals like ''The New York Times'', ''The New Yorker'', and the ''Los Angeles Times''. Liam Hoare argues that the countermeasures have already backfired, that BDS is unpalatable to the masses and that the Israeli government's heavy-handedness keeps it alive.

Palestinian reactions

BDS enjoys overwhelming support among Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territories. In a poll from 2015, 86% supported the boycott campaign, 64% believed that boycotting would help end the occupation, and 88% said they had stopped buying Israeli products. The number of Palestinian civil society organizations that support BDS has been rising steadily since its inception in 2005. Some of the Palestinian NGOs supporting BDS are umbrella organizations, such as the Palestinian NGOs Network, which has 135 members as of 2020. According to Melanie Meinzer, many Palestinian NGOs refrain from endorsing BDS because their dependence on donors constrain their politics. According to Finkelstein, BDS is exaggerating its level of support and many Palestinian NGOs endorsing it are small, one-person NGOs. Palestinian trade unions have been very supportive of BDS; the 290,000-member Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions was one of the original signatories of the BDS Call. In 2011, the Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS was created with the objective of promoting BDS among trade unions internally. Leading voices in the Palestinian diaspora, such as Ali Abunimah, Joseph Massad, and Linda Sarsour have thrown their weight behind BDS, as have several Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament, including Haneen Zoabi, Basel Ghattas, and Jamal Zahalka. 150px|Mahmoud Abbas has not endorsed BDS. The Palestinian leadership's position on BDS is ambivalent. President Mahmoud Abbas does not support a general boycott against Israel and has said that the Palestinians don't either. Barghouti has disputed Abbas's statement, saying that "ere is no Palestinian political party, trade union, NGO network or mass organization that does not strongly support BDS. 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 six major Israeli food manufacturers to retaliate against Israel withholding Palestinian tax funds. The second-highest authority of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinian Central Council, has meanwhile announced its intention to: A handful of Palestinian scholars have opposed the academic boycott of Israel. Examples include former Al-Quds University president Sari Nusseibeh, who acknowledges that his view is the minority viewpoint among his colleagues. Some Palestinian academics have criticized Nusseibeh's collaboration with Hebrew University, seeing it as a form of normalization. Matthew Kalman speculated in ''The New York Times'' that opposition to boycott is more widespread among Palestinian academics but that they are afraid to speak out."Palestinian academic opposes Israel boycott"
AP, Ynetnews 18 June 2006
Palestinian-Israeli video blogger Nas Daily has expressed opposition to boycotts of Israel. BDS has in turn denounced him for engaging in normalization.


South African support

BDS has received support from South African organizations and public figures that were involved in the struggle against apartheid. Such support is symbolically important for BDS as it tries to position itself as the spiritual successor of the anti-apartheid movement. The South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, known for his anti-apartheid and human rights activism, has endorsed BDS. He came to this conclusion after visiting the Palestinian territories, comparing the conditions there to conditions in apartheid-era South Africa, and suggesting that Palestinian goals should be achieved by the same means used in South Africa. Foxman has criticized Tutu's statements, claiming they convey "bigotry against the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people." In 2012, the South African African National Congress (ANC) party gave BDS its blessing, stating, "the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel." The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) also supports BDS, fully endorsing it in July 2011. During the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, COSATU vowed to "intensify" its support for BDS, picketing Woolworths for stocking Israeli goods.


The membership of the Green Party of Canada voted to endorse BDS in 2016, despite strong objections from the party's leader, Elizabeth May, who threatened to resign. In June 2018 the Socialist International declared its support for BDS. Some political parties have supported BDS, such as Australia's NSW Greens and Canada's Québec solidaire. On 7 February 2019, Copenhagen mayor of technical and environmental affairs Ninna Hedeager Olsen of the Danish party Enhedslisten gave three BDS activists known as the ''Humboldt 3'' an award for their work "to reveal the Apartheid-like nature of the Israeli regime and its systematic violation of international law."

Trade unions

In April 2014, the UK's National Union of Teachers, the EU's largest teacher's union, passed a resolution backing boycotts against Israel. In July of that year, the UK's Unite the Union voted to join BDS. 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 vote in favor. It became the first major US labor union to endorse BDS. 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, represented by the global law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. IEB said that the endorsement of the boycott would interfere with the "flow of commerce to and from earmarked companies." UAW 2865's BDS Caucus repudiated the IEB's argument, saying that the IEB cared more about the "flow of commerce" than solidarity with Palestinian labor unions. The IEB further alleged that the resolution was anti-Semitic; the BDS Caucus called the allegation "the same baseless accusations of anti-Semitism frequently attributed to anyone who is critical of Israel." 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. 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".


Artists, actors, and writers

Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt has argued that if the boycott of Israel was the main goal, then we "would all have to give up our iPhones" because a lot of technology is created in Israel. According to Lipstadt, BDS's objective is 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".


Political parties that oppose BDS include the Liberal Party of Australia and both major U.S. political parties. A common reason given for opposing BDS is that it attacks Israel's legitimacy and fosters antisemitism. In May 2017, the Berlin branch of the Social Democratic Party of Germany passed a resolution condemning BDS as anti-Semitic. 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." 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. 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. 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". In a response to Ireland's progressing of the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, Netanyahu issued a press release condemning the bill as an attempt to support BDS and to "harm the State of Israel". According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the Irish ambassador said that the Irish government opposes BDS.

Public figures

In 2016, Israel's President Reuven Rivlin compared boycotts to violence and incitement. He asserted that boycotts only divide people, that BDS delegitimizes Israel, and that some parts of the movement seek Israel's destruction. Former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar said that BDS applies a double standard to Israel and that it is therefore anti-Semitic. In his view, BDS wants to "empty" Israel of Jews. Former and current British Prime Ministers Tony Blair, David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson have all opposed or condemned boycotts of Israel.


The Arab Council for Regional Integration, a group of 32 Arab intellectuals, repudiated BDS at a London conference in November 2019. 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." 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.

Jewish identity and BDS

Jewish activists have often played central roles in BDS campaigns, something Barghouti argues refutes the anti-Semitism allegation against the movement. Maia Hallward attributes BDS's Jewish support to two factors: the long history of social justice activism among Jews and the desire among activists to defuse allegations of anti-Semitism. Sina Arnold calls it a "form of strategic essentialism," where Jewish activists make themselves visible or are made visible by others. Philip Mendes distinguishes those Jews who recognize Palestinian rights and support Jewish-Arab dialogue from those "unrepresentative token Jews" whom BDS use as an alibi. David Hirsh has written, "Jews too can make anti-Semitic claims ... and play an important, if unwitting, part in preparing the ground for the future emergence of anti-Semitic movement." The ADL has written that Jewish Voice for Peace "uses its Jewish identity to shield the anti-Israel movement from allegations of anti-Semitism and provide a greater degree of credibility to the anti-Israel movement". JVP replies that its activism is grounded in Jewish values and traditions. Judith Butler sees her BDS activism as "affirming a different Jewishness than the one in whose name the Israeli state claims to speak." Jewish BDS activists have had their Jewish credentials questioned by other Jews and some have reported being called "self-hating Jews", "Nazis", or "traitors". The influential rabbi David Wolpe has said that Jewish BDS supporters should be shunned: Arnold believes that the polarization signals a shift among young progressive American Jews who identify with Israel less strongly than older generations. Almost one quarter of American Jews under 40 support boycotting Israeli products, according to a J Street poll in 2020.


According to the Israeli 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 state that boycotting Israeli targets, regardless of their position or connection to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is incitement. In a 2009 opinion column for ''The Jerusalem Post'', Gil Troy argued that BDS targets not Israel's policies but its legitimacy. 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. By early 2014, however, they noted that the campaign, "ce derided as the scheming of crackpots", was "turning mainstream" in the eyes of many Israelis. According to Alan Dershowitz, BDS disincentivizes Palestinians from negotiating with Israel. The ADL similarly argues that BDS ignores the Israeli government's willingness to negotiate with the Palestinians and instead favors delegitimization tactics.

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. 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."Palestinian Workers in Settlements–Who Profits' Position Paper"
. Who Profits, 2013
BDS supporters further argue that, regardless of the economic costs, the boycott against Israel enjoys overwhelming support among Palestinians. Dershowitz and IAN 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. 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. 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."

Connections to terrorism

Some of BDS's opponents have stated that it has ties to militant organizations. Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has argued that there are links between BDS and American supporters of Hamas. In a 2016 congressional hearing he said that some leaders of organizations that had been "designated, shut down, or held civilly liable for providing material support to the terrorist organization Hamas" appeared to have "pivoted to leadership positions within the American BDS campaign." A 2018 report by the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry accused the EU of having given 5 million euros to organizations that "promote anti-Israel delegitimization and boycotts". The report was sharply rebuked by EU officials such as foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who called the accusations "vague and unsubstantiated" and said they conflated "terrorism with the boycott issue." A February 2019 report by the Ministry, ''Terrorists in Suits'', claimed that BDS is a "complementary track to terrorism" and that Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) members had infiltrated organizations affiliated with BDS to advance "the elimination of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people". 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 had participated in meetings organized by JVP and SJP, and Leila Khaled, also a former PFLP member who hijacked a plane in 1969 and attempted to hijack one in 1970 and is a well-known figure in BDS. BDS dismissed the report as "wildly fabricated and recycled propaganda" from "the far-right Israeli government". 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.


The ADL, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), Israeli politicians, and others have called BDS antisemitic.; ; ; 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. Other arguments include: * The AMCHA Initiative stated that there is a "strong correlation" between BDS support and anti-Semitism on U.S. campuses. In September 2019, European Jewish Association founder Menachem Margolin asserted that BDS was "responsible for the vast majority of physical attacks and social media hatred against Jews in Europe." The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism was released by a group of over 200 scholars on 25 March 2021. It explicitly excludes efforts to boycott Israel. The lead drafters are anti-Semitism scholars in the United States, Israel, Germany and Britain. A separate statement a week earlier by a liberal group of Jewish scholars said that "double standards applied to Israel were not necessarily anti-Semitic."

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 stating 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." 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, 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. Israeli Holocaust historian Daniel Blatman, though a BDS opponent, argues that BDS's calls for boycotts of Israel and historical boycotts against Jews have nothing in common.

Singling out Israel

Critics 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 governments engage in similar or more repressive actions. Marc Greendorfer believes that BDS "applies a unique standard o Israelnot applied to any other country." BDS supporters reply that by that logic any movement focusing on a single country's human rights violations would be racist; the Anti-Apartheid Movement singled out South Africa while ignoring human rights violations in other African countries and the U.S. sanctions against Iran affect only Iran and not other countries committing similar human rights violations. Barghouti states that BDS focuses on Israeli oppression because it affects 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!" He and other BDS supporters argue that it is the Western world—not BDS—that has a double standard, by not holding Israel accountable for its human rights violations. Jacobs and Soske state that boycotts, divestment, and sanctions is a strategy that doesn't make sense against all regimes worthy of opprobrium. Pol Pot's regime, Boko Haram, and ISIS would be unlikely to respond to the strategy, but the Israeli regime might, they argue.

Conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism

BDS supporters frequently allege that accusations of anti-Semitism against them are deliberately or mistakenly conflating anti-Zionism or criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. In 2018, for example, 41 left-wing Jewish groups wrote that BDS was not anti-Semitic and that it was important to distinguish between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel. Jay Michaelson wrote that accusing BDS of anti-Semitism "cheapens the meaning of the term 'anti-Semitism' itself". Butler argues that if BDS is anti-Semitic, then human rights, which she believes BDS advocates, are also anti-Semitic.Judith Butler's Remarks to Brooklyn College on BDS
''The Nation'', 7 February 2013
She argues that calling BDS anti-Semitic is a "lamentable stereotype" about Jews since it assumes that all Jews are politically committed to Israel. Barghouti similarly argues that criticizing BDS as an attack on Jews is "a patently racist assumption" since it assumes that all Jews per se are somehow responsible for Israeli crimes.

See also

* Arab League boycott of Israel * Criticism of the Israeli government * Disinvestment from Israel * List of boycotts * Reactions to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

Notes and references





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Journal articles

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External links

BDS movement
official website.
Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS
9 July 2005. BDS movement. ;Opinion

27 February 2012. Jello Biafra. Al Jazeera.
Is BDS campaign working?
31 August 2011. Jiulio Meotti. Ynetnews.
Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel: An Anti-Semitic, Anti-Peace Poison Pill
March 2013. Harold Brackman. Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Delegitimation of Israel and Israel Attachments Among Jewish Young Adults: The College Campus and Other Contributing Factors
Sylvia Barack Fishman. The Jewish People Policy Institute.
Debate between Barghouti and Rabbi Arthur Waskow
4 March 2010. Democracy Now!
Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Resource Page
23 April 2014. NGO Monitor.` {{DEFAULTSORT:Boycott, Divestment And Sanctions Category:Anti-Zionism Category:Boycotts of Israel Category:Non-governmental organizations involved in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict Category:Organizations established in 2005 Category:2005 introductions