The BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) campaign targeting Israel is not a new phenomenon. Various Arab boycotts have been used for many decades as weapons against Israel. BDS is the main component of the “Durban strategy” – adopted by the virulent NGO Forum of the UN’s Durban Conference (2001), and based on the use of false claims of “war crimes,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “apartheid.” From this foundation, pro-Palestinian groups expanded their efforts to promote economic and cultural boycotts of Israel (2002), particularly the call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions (2003). In July 2005, a number of groups issued the “Palestinian United Call for BDS against Israel,” further expanding the radius of these activities and increasing the resources devoted to this form of political warfare. BDS supporters deny the Jewish people the right of national self-determination.
By singling out Israel and using double standards, BDS undermines and is the antithesis of universal human rights values. BDS collectively punishes Israelis and supporters and applies false comparisons to apartheid South Africa, attempting to transform a complex political dispute into a question of racial discrimination. BDS undermines liberal values, such as academic freedom and freedom of expression, through intolerance and by restricting debate.
Boycotts are the antithesis of dialogue, cooperation, and developing peaceful ties between Israelis and Palestinians. Ali Abunimah, major BDS speaker and head of “Electronic Intifada,” labels Palestinian leaders who negotiate with Israel “collaborators.” BDS activists promote “one-state” solutions, meaning the elimination of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jewish nation. BDS campaigns that single out Israel explicitly violate the EU Working Definition of Antisemitism. Many BDS activists: “Deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” Additionally, many supporters use “the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.” Comparisons between contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis are used frequently.
Boycotts of products, culture, and academics – BDS activists lobby stores not to carry Israeli products and encourage others not to purchase them. They send letters to artists, musicians, authors, and academics, imploring them not to perform and appear in Israel or cooperate with Israeli institutions. Boycotts undermine liberal values, such as academic freedom and freedom of expression, by restricting openness and tolerance. They represent the immoral collective punishment of Israelis and those who associate with them.
Divestment from companies that do business with Israel – Distorting the concept of ethical investing, NGOs accuse companies that conduct business in Israel of involvement in war crimes and violations of international law. The NGOs approach investors, primarily large banks and pension funds, and push for the exclusion of these companies. When Israeli corporations were removed from funds devoted to developing countries, due to Israel’s stable and advanced economy, divestment proponents falsely proclaimed victory.
Sanctions against self-defense measures – Anti-Israel activists demand that the international community enact comprehensive sanctions against Israel – treating Israel as a pariah state. The ultimate goal is legally enforced sanctions by the UN Security Council. Other forms of sanctions include arms embargoes, which are premised on baseless charges of war crimes. Similarly, legal proceedings are initiated against Israeli officials to punish Israel for defensive actions.
BDS campaigns would not exist without financial backing. Funding facilitates non-governmental organizations (NGO) staff, conferences, publications, speaking engagements, websites, advertisements, lawyers’ fees, airfare, t-shirts, video equipment, and more. Money sustains the BDS movement. (*See below for funding details).
Individual governments, primarily but not exclusively from Europe, transfer millions annually to pro-BDS groups. In many instances, this is in direct contradiction to the foreign policies of these countries, which explicitly oppose boycott efforts and support a two-state solution.
Private foundations contribute millions of dollars and euros to NGOs from across the globe for BDS campaigns. This funding is sometimes supplemented by government funds, occasionally unknowingly. As there are limited legal requirements for public reporting of private donations, in many cases, there is no information regarding the funding provided by foundations.
In distributing funding to NGOs, religious charities claim to fight poverty, distribute development aid, and operate in the spirit of good deeds and improving the world. Instead, by funding BDS, they are conducting divisive political campaigns that increase tension and do not promote peace and mutual understanding. This betrays the important and universal values they claim to embrace. Many times, these campaigns embrace antisemitic theological themes. (See BDS in the Pews website for more information).