The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign
BDS is a global campaign to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. The purpose of BDS is not to protest Israeli policies as some claim, but to isolate and pressure Israel until it collapses as a Jewish and democratic state. Furthermore, BDS dehumanizes Israelis and actively harms peace efforts by opposing Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.
Good riddance! The two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israel conflict is finally dead. But someone has to issue an official death certificate before the rotting corpse is given a proper burial and we can all move on and explore the more just, moral and therefore enduring alternative… the one-state solution… where, by definition Jews will be a minority
While BDS claims the movement began in 2005, campaigns to boycott and divest from Israel were launched years before, propelled by a UN conference held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. At the Durban conference, which former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler described as, "a festival of racism against Israel and the Jewish people," a group of international organizations called for "comprehensive sanctions and embargoes" against the Jewish state.
That same year, activists on American campuses and elsewhere initiated a series of anti-Israel campaigns, which were largely unsuccessful. In the U.S. effort was initiated and led by an American professor named Francis Boyle, who has urged Palestinian leaders to "sign nothing with Jewistan/Israel," and let it "collapse."
The failure of these early efforts led to the "official launch" of the BDS movement in 2005, re-branded as a "Palestinian Civil Society call for BDS". The claim that BDS broadly represents Palestinian society is questionable at best. While there certainly are Palestinians who support the movement, it is not clear how many. Leading pro-Palestinian activist Norman Finkelstein has stated the following about the organizations behind the groups that "launched" BDS:
“Who are these organizations? They’re NGOs in Ramallah, one person operations, and they claim to represent what they call ‘Palestinian Civil Society’. If they really were Palestinian Civil Society as they claim, then why can they never organize a demonstration of more than 500 people? …They’re just Ramallah NGOs which represent absolutely nothing…”
Furthermore, Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid writes that,
“BDS spokespeople justify calling for boycotts that will result in increased economic hardships for the Palestinians by asserting that Palestinians are willing to suffer such deprivations in order to achieve their freedom. It goes without saying that they themselves live in comfortable circumstances elsewhere in the world and will not suffer any such hardship… As a Palestinian who actually lives in East Jerusalem and hopes to build a better life for his family and his community, this is the kind of ‘pro-Palestinian activism’ we could well do without.”
Additionally, while the current BDS Movement is relatively new, anti-Israel boycotts are quite old. “Anti-Zionist” boycott began in the 1920s, promoted by Palestinian Arab leaders like Haj Amin al-Husseini, who later collaborated with the Nazis. Arab states imposed similar boycotts in 1945, and expanded them when Israel declared independence in 1948. Arab League official Mohamad Ali Allouba Pasha made the purpose of these boycotts clear in 1964:
“[Israel] is not an easy thing to destroy by military means. But there is a force which is not steel and fire, with the aid of which we can win, namely, the economic boycott.”
The Goal of BDS
Today, BDS uses hateful propaganda to advance the same unjust cause as prior boycotts – the elimination of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and the violation of collective Jewish rights to self-determination. As such, BDS is a form of antisemitism.
The extremism of BDS is reflected in the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), which coordinates the movement globally. Mahmoud Nawajaa, the General Coordinator of the BNC, has publicly supported Hamas’ armed wing – the Al Qassam Brigades – on social media. Additionally, one of the groups in the BNC is the Council of National and Islamic Forces (CNIF) - a coalition of Palestinian groups which includes the racist terrorist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The coordinator of the CNIF is Khaled al-Batsh, a senior Islamic Jihad official.
While the BDS Movement’s political platform sounds less extremist, it demands that a "right of return" for all Palestinian refugees to Israel, rather than to a future Palestinian state. The “right of return” has been used as a euphemism for the elimination of Israel for over 70 years. In 1949, former Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammad Salah al-Din Bey stated that:
"It is well-known and well understood that the Arabs, in demanding the return of the refugees to Palestine... mean the liquidation of the State of Israel."
Similarly, President Barack Obama has said:
"the Palestinians are going to have to recognize that the right of return... would extinguish Israel as a Jewish state, and that’s not an option."[vi]
And BDS Movement co-founder Omar Barghouti agrees:
“a return for refugees would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state”
In more concrete terms, if millions of Palestinians move to Israel, Israel will be replaced with a majority-Palestinian state. This would end Jewish self-determination – a right enshrined in international law – and turn Jews back into a stateless minority, in a region where other stateless minorities face brutal oppression and violence. Furthermore, Israeli Jews would almost certainly be forced to live under the rule of racist political parties if the “right of return” were enacted today. Fatah and Hamas are the forces that dominate Palestinian politics, and both promote violence and racism against Jews on a regular basis.
Even some of Israel’s harshest critics have recognized the malicious goals of BDS. Academic, pro-Palestinian activist and leading critic of Israel Norman Finkelstein has said BDS is “not really talking about rights. They’re talking about [how] they want to destroy Israel.” Similarly, Professor Noam Chomsky accused BDS of calling for “the destruction of Israel,” and said that “if you really hate the Palestinians, [BDS] is a good step because it’s going to harm them.”
Both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people have a right to self-determination. The only way to achieve justice and peace between them is through compromise and negotiations. Instead of bringing the two communities closer together, BDS tries to shut down all dialogue and cooperation unless the Israeli side agree to the political agenda of BDS in advance. This is a recipe for endless injustice and conflict.
It is important to remember that not all BDS supporters intend to engage antisemitism or efforts to harm Israelis as a people. Many are idealists who think they are simply protesting Israeli policies and truly believe they are part of a movement for justice. Unfortunately, they have been misled by those who make cynical use of progressive rhetoric to advance a malicious agenda. The resources below can help you educate them and others about this important issue.