Boycotts, divestment, and sanctions are tactics of political warfare used against Israel, intended to isolate it economically, culturally, and politically.
NGOs falsely portray the Arab-Israeli conflict as a dispute motivated by alleged Jewish race-hatred of Arabs, rather than one based on competing national and territorial claims. Referring to Israel as an apartheid state is the latest manifestation of the 1975 UN “Zionism is racism” resolution. The goal is to generate international boycotts that were implemented against apartheid South Africa and condemn Israel as a pariah state.
College campus BDS campaigns, in particular calls for divestment and academic boycotts, create a hostile and divisive atmosphere. In the case of divestment, this primarily takes the form of non-binding resolutions by student groups and lobbying to remove Israeli companies from university investment portfolios. Support for BDS is also expressed during Israel Apartheid Week programming, at rallies, and surrounding “guerilla theater” events such as mock checkpoints that ignore terror attacks. BDS on campus is often masked by a façade of respectability and intellectual rigor, for instance in pseudo-academic conferences that advance an anti-Israel agenda.
Announcements in Europe and the United States concerning labeling of products exported from Israeli communities built over the 1967 ceasefire line (the “Green Line”) are the result of increased pressure from highly-politicized NGOs, which been advocating for these moves for several years as part of their BDS campaigns. The language used in the EU’s product labeling guidelines closely follows that of the NGO publication “Trading Away Peace,” which calls for intense boycotts and sanctions of Israel. Similarly, anti-Israel NGOs including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Codepink, and U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation lobbied for the enforcement of U.S. customs regulations. The rhetoric of “consumer choice” and “consistent policy” regarding settlement products serves to divert the debate from the real objective of BDS groups, which seek to dismantle Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people
Activists present BDS as support for Palestinian workers and attempt to mobilize BDS campaigns through international union networks. Yet, they are more zealous about boycotting Israel than their Palestinian counterparts, who are directly harmed by economic attacks against Israel. The anti-Israel agenda of some unions includes false claims against the Israeli workers union (Histadrut) and attempts to exclude Israelis from workers solidarity.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
CSR comprises policies, norms, and standards that combine finance and business with environmental, human rights, and ethical standards. NGOs and CSR companies are active in promoting BDS campaigns in Europe, by lobbying institutions and corporations to divest from Israel. In order to advance their BDS agenda, these groups assert false factual claims and distort legal narratives to accuse Israel of human rights violations and erroneously argue that conducting business with Israel amounts to furthering these alleged violations.
Activists engage in “direct actions” targeting businesses with connections to Israel. A common tactic is protests and flash mobs, sometimes involving awkward and cringe-worthy song-and-dance routines. The negative message of these activities have proven counterproductive: the stores and Israeli goods receive free PR, and videos and news accounts show extreme activists harassing employees and shoppers, turning off neutral observers. Pro-Israel groups and individuals have also effectively countered this tactic with “buy-cotts,” specifically purchasing the targeted Israeli goods.
BDS activists reject Jewish sovereignty and self-determination rights. According to this hateful ideology, the existence of Israel is inherently racist and illegitimate. Therefore, they oppose “two-state” solutions to the conflict, such as the “Roadmap” and the Arab Peace Initiative, and support a single Palestinian state throughout Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
Some NGOs receive special access to UN frameworks, such as the Human Rights Council. They submit written reports and make oral statements to the UN forums, accusing Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and calling for economic and other sanctions. In this regard, the NGOs cooperate with the anti-Israel agendas of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People is another UN body that is used for demonizing attacks against Israel.