In 2005, Palestinian civil society organizations in Palestine, Israel, and the Palestinian diaspora initiated a global campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. This campaign uses nonviolent tactics to send a message to the Israeli government that its violations of international law and human rights must end.
Consistent with historical boycotts used by civil rights activists, the United Farm Workers, and activists working to end South African apartheid, BDS is a strategy that allows people of conscience around the world to nonviolently pressure an oppressive regime to change. The boycott focuses on supporting three groups of Palestinian people: refugees; those under military occupation in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; and Palestinians in Israel.
The BDS call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:
- Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the separation 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.
Individuals, organizations and governments from around the world have expressed support for the BDS call. Supporters include:
- Activists Angela Davis, Naomi Klein, Mairead Maguire, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu;
- Artists, writers, and athletes: Bjork, Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Arundhati Roy, Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, Jean-Luc Godard, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Alice Walker, Cat Powers, The Pixies, Ken Loach, Judith Butler, Tariq Ali, John Berger, and Eduardo Galeano;
- Physicist Stephen Hawking;
- Religious organizations including the Toronto Assembly of the United Church of Canada and the Church of England synod; and
- Labor organizations including the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Ireland’s largest public sector and services trade union Impact, and the Ontario section of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
Is BDS ethical? Is it legal?
BDS is a nonviolent way of engaging and communicating with Israel. This is not about rejecting Israel; it is about trying to send a message to Israel that the occupation is not acceptable or profitable—but that respecting human rights is both. BDS promotes a positive set of demands for democracy for Palestine/Israel.
Participation in BDS is legal under U.S. law.
Is BDS anti-Semitic?
BDS is not anti-Semitic. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – the Jewish religion, like this movement, supports social justice and rejects oppression. Unfortunately, many of the Israeli government’s actions violate basic tenets of Judaism.
Equating Judaism with the state of Israel is inaccurate and unfair. Many Jews involved in the BDS movement feel that it’s anti-Semitic to assume that, because of their religion, they must support a national project that violates their values.
If you’re wondering if BDS is an anti-Semitic movement, ask yourself: Was it anti-white for Americans to support the end of segregation?
Why not just boycott these products individually?
A boycott is a consumer-activist way of engaging with Israel. Joining the BDS movement says to Israel: “We ask you, as a community, to abide by international law and human rights, and to abide by your own professed democratic principles.” It is not possible to send this kind of message by individually, passively refusing to buy Israeli products.
The BDS movement is clearly having an impact. Israel has become threatened enough to ban advocacy or implementation of boycotts of Israel among its own citizenry. The successes of this tactic thus far have increased global awareness of Palestinians’ oppression and are helping to push for equality and justice in the region.