|Formation 9 July 2005 (2005-07-09)|
Type Non-profit organization
Purpose Boycotts, political activism
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (also known as BDS and the BDS Movement) is a global campaign attempting to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with the stated goals of the movement: the end of Israel's occupation and colonization of Palestinian land and the Golan Heights, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and acknowledgement of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
- Goals of the campaign
- Reactions by Palestinian authorities
- Reactions by Israeli authorities
- United States
- Academic boycotts
- Business boycotts
- Effects of business boycotts on Palestinian employment
- Examples of business boycotts
- Cultural boycotts
- Impact of BDS
- Political organizations
- Trade unions
- Artists and writers
- Public figures
- Allegations of antisemitism
- Replies to allegations
The campaign is organised and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee. The campaign was started on 9 July 2005 by over 170 Palestinian non-governmental organizations in support of the Palestinian cause for boycott of Israel, disinvestment from Israel and international sanctions against Israel. Citing a body of UN resolutions and specifically echoing the anti-apartheid campaigns against white minority rule in apartheid era South Africa, the BDS campaign called for "various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law". Protests and conferences in support of the campaign have been held in a number of countries around the world.
Supporters of BDS compare the movement with the 20th century Anti-Apartheid Movement and view their actions similar to the boycotts of South Africa during its apartheid era, comparing the situation in Israel to apartheid. Critics of BDS vehemently repudiate the charge that Israel is an apartheid state, asserting, among other things, that in Israel (outside of the West Bank) "Jews and Arabs mix freely and increasingly live in the same neighborhoods...there is no imposed segregation" and that Arabs and Jews interact together in any mall, restaurant, or hospital in Israel.
Critics further argue that the BDS movement disincentivizes the Palestinian leadership from negotiating with Israel at present, is antisemitic, and that it is a form of anti-semitic anti-Zionism that promotes the delegitimization of Israel.
There is considerable debate about the scope, efficacy, and morality of the BDS movement.
One of the objectives stated at the founding of Arab League in 1945 was to "frustrate further Jewish development in Palestine by means of boycott against Zionist products". A central boycott office was established to coordinate this effort. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, the boycott of Jewish products from Palestine was transformed into the boycott of Israeli products and services. The boycott was conducted on a primary level (as a direct boycott of Israeli products), a secondary level (though direct pressure on states and institutions not to deal with Israel), and a tertiary level (to prevent companies from uninvolved third-party states from dealing with companies that had relationships with Israel).
Marc Greendorfer argues that the BDS movement originated in the Arab League's boycott of Israel in name, in function, in tasks, in methodology and in goals.
During the Second Intifada, Palestinians began developing international solidarity and support that could be used to apply pressure on Israel through non-violent means. In 2002, organizations in Europe, Australia, the United States, and the Palestinian territories called for a boycott of Israeli institutions, including a boycott of academic and cultural institutions. Palestinian academics and intellectuals also called for a boycott in October 2003. In 2004, an attempt to coordinate the boycotts gained momentum following the start of the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier. In April 2004, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was founded. One of the founders was Omar Barghouti.
On 9 July 2005, the first anniversary of the advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice in which the West Bank barrier was declared a violation of international law, a large number of organizations representing Palestinians in Israel, Palestine and abroad called upon the international community for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights. At the first Palestinian BDS Conference, held in Ramallah in November 2007, the "BDS National Committee" (BNC) was established as the Palestinian coordinating body for the BDS campaign worldwide. The movement's main example and source of inspiration is the 20th century boycott of South Africa by the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
Goals of the campaign
On 9 July 2005, a broad spectrum of over 170 Palestinian non-governmental organizations initiated a campaign for a boycott, divestment and international sanctions against Israel in support of the Palestinian cause. According to the call, the BDS campaign urges various forms of non-violent punitive measures against Israel until it complies with the precepts of international law. These measures should bring about:
- Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
The BDS campaign is organised and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee. The committee cites a body of UN resolutions and specifically echoes the anti-apartheid campaigns against white minority rule in apartheid era South Africa; the BDS campaign called for "various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law".
The BDS Movement uses the means of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. The campaign has organised demonstrations and protests targeting companies that have contracts with the Israeli military or with companies in Israeli settlements. Actions may also target prominent individuals who openly support settlements businesses.
Social media platforms are used to draw attention to BDS activities. With public calls on social media, protests, petitions and articles, pressure is put on individuals to cancel their participation in events in Israel or in Israeli settlements, such as concerts or academic events. On the other hand, Israelis are pressured not to take part in activities outside Israel or the Occupied territories. Participants in events are sometimes demanded to declare solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
BDS also makes use of Israeli Apartheid Week, which is an annual series of university lectures and rallies against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The series is normally held in February or March. According to the organization, "the aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build BDS campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement." Since IAW began in Toronto in 2005, it has since spread to at least 55 cities around the world including locations in Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Austria, Jordan, Japan, Korea, Brazil, Botswana, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa, Mexico, Norway, Australia, and Palestine.
Reactions by Palestinian authorities
In December 2012, following the withholding of taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called for a boycott of all Israeli goods. In the past, he had unsuccessfully called for a boycott of goods made in Israeli settlements.
During a visit to South Africa in 2013, President Mahmoud Abbas stunned reporters and Palestinian activists by stating that the Palestinians do not support a general boycott of Israel. He supported, however, a boycott of settlement products.
In February 2015, activists from Fatah launched a new campaign in reaction to another Israeli punitive withholding of taxes. They called on people to boycott products made by six major Israeli food companies. Abbas apparently did not openly support the boycott, but rather asked the Fatah-led Palestine Liberation Organization to lead the campaign. At the 25th African Union assembly in the South Africa in June 2015, President Abbas urged the African countries to boycott goods produced by settlement companies in the West Bank.
Reactions by Israeli authorities
On 11 July 2011, the Knesset passed a law making it a civil offence to publicly call for a boycott against the State of Israel, defined as "deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or another factor only because of his ties with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage". According to the law, anyone calling for a boycott can be sued, and forced to pay compensation regardless of actual damages. At the discretion of a government minister, they may also be prevented from bidding in government tenders.
The law drew a lot of criticism. 32 Israeli law professors signed a petition arguing that the law is unconstitutional and does grievous harm to freedom of political expression and protest. Other critics include BDS opponents, such as Gerald Steinberg from NGO Monitor and Morton Klein from the Zionist Organization of America, who criticize the law noting the many better avenues with which to counter BDS.
On 10 December 2012 the Israeli Supreme Court froze the law and issued an interim order to the State of Israel to explain why the law should not be struck down. The court order gave the state until 14 March 2013 to respond. The final hearing on the issue was to be before a nine-justice panel of the court presided over by Asher Grunis, President of the Supreme Court of Israel. Yehuda Weinstein Attorney General of Israel is reported to have called the law "borderline" defensible and admitted in defending the law in the hearing that it had serious problems. The court's 2015 ruling upheld most provisions of the law but struck down the ability for lawsuits to go forward without plaintiffs needing to show damages.
In March 2016 the Israeli Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Yisrael Katz argued that Israel should employ "targeted civil eliminations" against leaders of the BDS movement. The expression puns on the Hebrew word for targeted assassinations.
In June 2016, Haaretz reported that Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister was going to establish a "dirty tricks" unit to "establish, hire or tempt nonprofit organizations or groups not associated with Israel, in order to disseminate" negative information about BDS supporters. The news came on the heels of a report that Israel's efforts to fight the BDS movement have been ineffectual, in part because the responsibility had been transferred to the Strategic Affairs Ministry from the Foreign Ministry. "Despite receiving expanded authority in 2013 to run the government's campaign against the delegitimization and boycott efforts against Israel, the Strategic Affairs Ministry did not make full use of its budget and had no significant achievements in this area," Haaretz quotes the report as saying. "In 2015, it still did not carry out its work plans."
In 2016, in a bipartisan vote, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario passed a resolution that "calls on the legislature to stand against any movement that promotes hate, prejudice and racism" and "reject the 'differential treatment' of Israel by the BDS movement".
In April 2015, Tennessee became the first state in the United States to pass a resolution condemning BDS. There was one vote against the resolution, which passed the General Assembly with bipartisan support. As of January 10 2017, a total of 17 states have passed anti-BDS legislation, including California, New York, Florida, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.
The campaign for academic boycotts of Israel is led by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. It has been endorsed by nearly sixty Palestinian academic, cultural and other civil society federations, unions, and organizations, including the Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities' Professors and Employees and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) in the West Bank. Academics in a number of countries have signed on to support the campaign. In December 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA) joined the boycott of all Israeli academic institutions. Israel is the first nation ever boycotted by the ASA in the 52 years since the organization's founding.
United Nations Special Rapporteur, Richard A. Falk, in his 2012 report to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) recommended that "businesses highlighted in the report – as well as the many other businesses that are profiting from the Israeli settlement enterprise – should be boycotted until they bring their operations into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards." He specifically named the United States' Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett Packard and Motorola; Israel's Ahava, Elbit Systems and Mehadrin; Sweden's Volvo Group and Assa Abloy; France's Veolia Environment; United Kingdom's G4S, Belgium's Dexia Group, Netherlands' Riwal Holding Group and Mexico's Cemex.
Effects of business boycotts on Palestinian employment
Opponents of BDS argue that BDS destroys employment for Palestinians. They argue that companies in settlements are beneficial for Palestinians. They claim that they offer employment with high wages compared with Palestinian factories and that the Palestinians are happy with their jobs and do not feel exploited. Proponents of BDS allege that in 2011 many Palestinians worked in settlements without permits and earn less than the Israeli minimum wage or even less than half the minimum wage. In the former SodaStream factory in Ma'ale Adumim, for example, for entry-level employees there was not much difference in the salaries between SodaStream and Palestinian factories. The majority of Palestinian employees at SodaStream had renewable seasonal contracts that last only three months each. Palestinians work in settlements because they have no other choice and 82% of Palestinians working in Israeli settlements would quit those jobs if viable alternatives were available. Omar Barghouti said that the fact that "tens of thousands" of Palestinians work in settlements is the direct result of Israeli policy. For decades, Israel has been "systematically destroying Palestinian industry and agriculture, confiscating our most fertile lands and richest water reserves, and imposing extreme restrictions of movement preventing many from reaching their workplaces". According to Who Profits, all of the Palestinian trade unions and labor unions and almost all Palestinian civil society organizations, including political parties, support the BDS call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.
Examples of business boycotts
In December 2012 the New Zealand Superannuation Fund excluded three Israeli companies from its portfolio because of their involvement in the construction of Israeli settlements and the Israeli West Bank barrier. The New Zealand Herald described "the fund's investments in the [Israeli] firms", which amounted to less than $83,000, as "insubstantial".
In 2013, Luxembourg's state pension fund, FDC, "excluded from [its] authorised investment universe" eight major Israeli firms, including Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, and AFI Group. FDC also excluded American firm Motorola Solutions. In January 2014, the government of Norway announced that its pension fund will no longer invest in two Israeli companies (Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus). Norway's YMCA-YWCA joined the boycott in 2014, announcing that it will support "[a] broad economic boycott of goods and services from Israel and Israeli settlements". In January 2014, Danske Bank, blacklisted Israeli bank, Bank Hapoalim. Previously, Danske Bank had withdrawn its investments from Africa Israel Investments Ltd. and Danya Cebus. On 21 July 2014, the government of the Maldives announced the annulment of three bilateral trade agreements with Israel, and a government boycott of all Israeli goods. Mohamed Hussain Shareef, the minister at the President's Office, also announced that the government planned to ban the import of Israeli goods into the state. In February 2016, Crepes & Waffles terminated its security transport contracts with British company G4S."
The organizers of the week long Rototom Sunsplash music festival held in Spain in 2015, cancelled the scheduled appearance of Jewish American rapper Matisyahu after he refused to sign a statement supporting a Palestinian state. Matisyahu stated that it was "appalling and offensive" that he was singled out as the "one publicly Jewish-American artist". After criticism from Spain's daily paper El País and the Spanish government as well as Jewish organisations, the organisers apologised to Matisyahu re-inviting him to perform. They stated that "it made a mistake, due to the boycott and the campaign of pressure, coercion and threats employed by the BDS País Valencià."
Impact of BDS
The effectiveness of the movement has been questioned. Many reports from both in and outside of Israel indicated that the movement had made very little impact on the Israeli economy, and suggested that it was unlikely to for the foreseeable future.
In June 2015, an analysis carried out by the Rand Corporation concluded that a successful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, if it could be maintained for 10 years, could potentially cost the Israeli economy $47 billion - this figure, which was not published in the report, was reportedly determined by using a model examining previous attempts to boycott countries. However, the Rand Corporation also noted that "evidence on the effectiveness of sanctions is mixed, making an assessment of the potential economic effects of the BDS movement problematic".
Supporters of BDS include Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Alice Walker. In 2014, an international Jewish group, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, issued a list of signatories endorsing the American Studies Association academic boycott of Israel. The Israeli activist organization Boycott from Within supports the BDS campaign. Boycott From Within regularly releases statements calling on musicians to cancel concerts scheduled in Israel.
The African National Congress endorsed BDS in 2012. The party declared itself to be "unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel". 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". Scotland's Green Party endorsed a boycott of Israel in October 2015. 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.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) supports the campaign for BDS against Israel, fully endorsing it in July 2011. During the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, COSATU vowed to "intensify" their support for the campaign, picketing Woolworths for stocking Israeli goods.
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. In July of that year, the UK's Unite the Union voted to join BDS.
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.
Political parties that oppose BDS include the Liberal Party of Australia and both major political parties in the United States. The European Union has also expressed opposition to boycotting Israel. A common reason given for opposing BDS is that it attacks Israel's legitimacy and fosters antisemitism.
Artists and writers
Israeli-born musician Gene Simmons, lead singer of Kiss, said that artists who avoid Israel would be better served directing their anger at Arab dictators. "The countries they should be boycotting are the same countries that the populations are rebelling," he said.
Other artists include John Lydon, Umberto Eco, Joel and Ethan Coen, J. K. Rowling, Hilary Mantel, Helen Mirren, Ziggy Marley, Jon Bon Jovi, and Howard Stern.
Novelist Ian McEwan, upon being awarded the Jerusalem Prize, was urged to turn it down, but said that "If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed. [...] It's not great if everyone stops talking."
Creative Community for Peace, founded in late 2011, is an anti-BDS organization made up of music executives and music representatives of bands including Aerosmith, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Justin Timberlake.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin describes Israel as a land that is used to debate, criticism, and controversy, but that BDS is an attempt to influence healthy discussion in unhealthy ways. "Boycotts, violence, and incitement only deepen divides, and don't bring us any closer to a solution. When BDS takes over, criticism turns into camouflage for the de-legitimization of the existence of the State of Israel," Rivlin wrote in a 2016 op-ed published on Ynetnews. He added, "I'm sorry to say that some parts of BDS even include factions which are connected to enemies of the State of Israel, and who work in order to eradicate Israel as a Jewish state. Some of them are even worse, and hide their anti-Semitism by calling their actions 'criticism of Israeli policy.'"
The long-standing pro-Palestinian activist and political scientist Norman Finkelstein deemed the BDS movement a "cult". He argued that the worldwide movement was overly controlled by the Ramallah headquarters, made unrealistic claims so as to hide a wish to destroy Israel, and accused the movement of exaggerating its achievements and its capacity, most notably by maintaining that it represents the entire pro-Palestine movement. Finkelstein also asserted that the movement misrepresented and misinterpreted Israel's obligation under international law as defined by the International Court of Justice.
Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, says "I think BDS is an unfair, discriminatory movement based on a moral double standard that is, in the final analysis, anti-Semitic [...] BDS is in fact trying to harm every Israeli citizen and not only the government. In reality what BDS wants is to make life in Israel intolerable so the Jewish nation will not be able to have a normal existence in its state. BDS does not only want to change the government's policy, it wants to empty the country of Jews."
Former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron have both condemned the calls for an academic boycott Israeli educational institutions. President of Al-Quds University Sari Nusseibeh similarly opposes academic boycotts of Israel.
Noam Chomsky warned that the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign could end up harming the Palestinian cause since the demand for a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees has failed to muster significant international support.
According to an editorial by Judea Pearl, the BDS campaign has an anti-academic character.
In December 2015, the executive board of the United Auto Workers struck down a vote by UAW Local 2865 to support the BDS movement. Local 2865 represents students workers on the University of California.
Reception to the BDS movement has been mixed and varies widely depending on geography and politics. Some political parties, such as the NSW Greens in Australia and the Québec solidaire in Canada, have supported BDS. BDS has also found support from some private companies, churches, and academic associations.
The reaction to BDS in the United States has been especially polarizing. Several bills and resolutions have been written in federal and state legislatures with the intent to combat BDS. Noam Chomsky, a prominent American critic of Israel, stated that he supports the "boycott and divestment of firms that are carrying out operations in the occupied territories" but the current BDS movement's "hypocrisy rises to heaven." He stated that the BDS campaign harms the "whole movement. It harms the Palestinians and it is a gift to the Israeli hardliners and their American supporters" because the BDS's "hypocrisy is so transparent ... why not boycott the United States? ... Israeli crimes [are] a fragment of US crimes, which are much worse." He also argued that the Palestinian people don't support boycotting Israel and that the BDS movement is run by "one man NGOs" who falsely claim to represent the Palestinian people. On the other end of the spectrum, the UC Student Association passed a resolution not only to boycott Israel, but also to boycott the United States and several other countries.
According to Yehuda Ben Meir and Owen Alterman in an essay published in the Strategic Survey for Israel 2011 by the Institute for National Security Studies (Israel), by depicting Israel as a racist, fascist, totalitarian, and apartheid state, BDS engages in defamation and demonization of Israel. They state that this is followed by the specific targeting of Israeli diplomatic, economic, academic, and cultural targets—regardless of their position or connection to the conflict, which they describe as incitement. In a 2009 opinion column for the The Jerusalem Post, Gil Troy argued that the BDS movement does not target Israel's policies, but rather targets Israel's legitimacy. The Israeli Reut Institute has argued that the BDS movement singles out Israel, and applies double standards that delegitimize Israel.
The Economist in 2007 called the boycott "flimsy" and ineffective, noted that "blaming Israel alone for the impasse in the occupied territories will continue to strike many outsiders as unfair," and pointed out that the Palestinian leadership did not support the boycott. By early 2014, however, they noted that the campaign, "[o]nce derided as the scheming of crackpots", was "turning mainstream" in the eyes of many Israelis. Alan Dershowitz and the Israeli Action Network point to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's support of a boycott specific to Israeli businesses that operate in Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories over a general boycott of Israel as evidence that the BDS is not in the Palestinians' favor. Dershowitz adds, "The BDS movement is immoral because it would hurt the wrong people" such as Palestinians employees of the firms effected by BDS or patients awaiting medicine made by those firms.
Allegations of antisemitism
The Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Israeli officials categorize the BDS movement as antisemitic. Abraham Foxman penned an advertisement that ran in The New York Times that criticized Brooklyn College's political science department for sponsoring a conference promoting BDS. In the ad, Foxman referred to the BDS movement as antisemitic "at its very core".
Other arguments include:
Replies to allegations
Several replies have been made to the allegations presented above: