Over the past few years, a network of anti-Israel, pro-BDS non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been promoting artificial definitions of apartheid in their ongoing efforts to delegitimize and demonize Israel. By deploying emotionally-charged rhetoric related to one of the worst manifestations of racism in modern history, NGOs seek to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish State, and advance BDS and lawfare against Israel. 

In order to gauge the salience of the NGO apartheid campaign, NGO Monitor examined 28 divestment resolutions by student groups, trade unions, churches, and other institutions since September 2020 (see table below). We found that, in order to support their demands for BDS, 25 of the 28 resolutions mention apartheid. Eighteen explicitly quote or cite politicized NGOs and their manufactured claims of apartheid. 

The “apartheid” rhetoric was accompanied by accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing, as well as fundamental opposition to Zionism. Some call for the end of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. A number also referenced the UN BDS “blacklist” of businesses operating across the 1949 Armistice line, another initiative resulting from NGO lobbying. 

(See NGO Monitor’s reports “False Knowledge as Power: Deconstructing Definitions of Apartheid that Delegitimise the Jewish State and Neo-Orientalism: Deconstructing Claims of Apartheid in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict for more information on the NGO apartheid campaign.)

Apartheid Rhetoric

As noted, the vast majority of the examined BDS resolutions invoked a variety of terms and phrases associated with the NGO network’s apartheid campaign. Many resolutions made direct reference to NGO apartheid reports, including those by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and Israeli NGO B’Tselem.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

For instance, in July 2022, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to declare Israel an apartheid state and establish a Nakba Remembrance Day. According to the resolution, “we must recognize what we witness in Israel/Palestine, which is that Israel’s laws, practices, and polices constitute apartheid against the Palestinian people.” The resolution references the January 2021 report written by B’Tselem and the April 2021 report by Human Rights Watch.

The resolution also draws comparisons between Israel’s actions and the Holocaust, claiming that “After World War II when the horror of the Nazi Holocaust was revealed, Jews around the world said ‘never again.’… Christians too vowed that never again would they be silent if a government passed laws establishing and maintaining the domination by one ethnic group over another ethnic group through systematic separation, oppression, and denial of basic human rights. Silence in the face of evil was wrong then, and it is wrong now.”

Student’s Society of McGill University

In March 2022, the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) passed a referendum to make “a statement on Nakba Day, reaffirming the SSMU’s solidarity with Palestinian students and with Palestinian liberation from settler-colonial apartheid,” and boycott any entity “complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians.” The referendum cited Amnesty’s February 2022 apartheid report, referring to what Amnesty termed a “system of settler-colonial apartheid.” Following the passage of the resolution, McGill deputy provost argued that it violated SSMU’s constitution. SSMU’s board ultimately declared the referendum unconstitutional and overturned its passage.

OrganizationDateMention of ApartheidNGOs Cited
Law Students for Justice in Palestine (LSJP) at Berkeley Law SchoolAugust 21, 2022Yes
University of Melbourne Student Union’s (UMSU)August 15, 2022Yes
United Methodists for Kairos Response to be used at United Methodist Annual ConferencesJuly 2022YesYesh Din, B’Tselem. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, Defense for Children International - Palestine
37 French Members of ParliamentJuly 22, 2022YesAl-Haq, Addameer, B’Tselem, Yesh Din, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty
Presbyterian Church USAJuly 1, 2022YesB'tselem, Human Rights Watch
North Carolina Democratic PartyJune 28, 2022YesAmnesty, B'tselem, Human Rights Watch, Yesh Din
Regional Parliament of CataloniaJune 16, 2022YesAmnesty, Human Rights Watch
Louisiana State UniversityMay 16, 2022YesB'Tselem, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch
Associated Students of UC RiversideMay 4, 2022YesB'Tselem, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch
Marquette University Student GovernmentApril 25, 2022Yes
Simon Fraser Student SocietyApril 21, 2022YesHuman Rights Watch, B'Tselem, Amnesty International
Alma Mater Society of UBC VancouverMarch 25, 2022YesHuman Rights Watch, Amnesty
Concordia Student UnionMarch 17, 2022YesHuman Rights Watch, Amnesty
Student's Society of McGill UniversityMarch 2, 2022YesAmnesty, Human Rights Watch
Merseyside Pension FundFebruary 23, 2022No
University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU)February 16, 2022YesAmnesty
CUNY Law Student Government AssociationDecember 2, 2021Yes
Centre International De Solidarité Ouvrière (Canada)October 19, 2021YesHuman Rights Watch, B'Tselem
Lancaster City CouncilJune 23, 2021YesHuman Rights Watch
Santa Clara UniversityMay 20, 2021Yes
Associated Students of the University of California, Davis (ASUCD)May 27, 2021YesB’Tselem, Human Rights Watch, Yesh Din
Associated Student Government Northwestern UniversityMay 26, 2021YesHuman Rights Watch
United Educators of San FranciscoMay 19, 2021Yes
Associated Students of Pomona CollegeApril 22, 2021No
Arizona State UniversityApril 13, 2021Yes
Associated Students of the University of California in IrvineFebruary 9, 2021YesB’Tselem
Associated Students San Francisco State UniversityNovember 18, 2020NoHuman Rights Watch
Columbia UniversitySeptember 29, 2020Yes