Proponents of anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns are exploiting debates about mass surveillance and facial recognition software to target Microsoft and an Israeli company, AnyVision. In June 2019, Microsoft invested in AnyVision, which develops “recognition platforms,” and in July, an article in Haaretz’s TheMarker claimed that AnyVision is part of a “confidential” project with the Israeli army where “Cameras deep inside the West Bank try to spot and monitor potential Palestinian assailants.”
Thereafter, a leading BDS organization in the United States, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) launched the “dropanyvision” website, meant to pressure Microsoft to “cut all Microsoft investment in AnyVision.” As of January 28, 2020, a JVP petition has over 21,000 signatories.
Tellingly, in making their cases against the company, these NGOs distort the facts and use standard BDS talking points. JVP emphasizes that AnyVision is “led by former Israeli military and intelligence personnel” – as if this is inherently problematic, and not common in many tech companies. Likewise, “The Palestinian BDS National Committee appeals to people of conscience to boycott and divest from AnyVision until it ends its violations of human rights worldwide.” An HRW official told Forbes, “It’s not just privacy risk but a privacy risk associated with a minority group that has suffered repression and persecution for a long time. There are special considerations of discrimination there.”
Notably, the “DROPANYVISION” hashtag, created by JVP, has been used on Twitter by numerous other BDS groups, including: Palestine Solidarity Committee, EAPPI, BDS South Africa, USACBI, Plateforme Palestine, BDS Slovenia, and CJPME.
The NGOs Behind the Microsoft/AnyVision Campaign
JVP is one of the leading BDS organizations in the US, seeking to “drive a wedge” in the American-Jewish community over support for Israel.
- JVP hosted convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh as a featured speaker at their 2017 National Membership Meeting. Odeh is responsible for the 1969 murder of American students Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe in a Jerusalem bombing.
- Employed antisemitic rhetoric in its “Deadly Exchange” campaign that links police violence in the US to American law enforcement training in anti-terror techniques in Israel.
- The initial “Deadly Exchange” video labeled AIPAC, ADL, Birthright and other Jewish organizations as being responsible for these exchanges, and urged viewers to “Hold accountable the Jewish institutions who run and fund the deadly exchange. (Video on file with NGO Monitor)
- JVP has been involved in BDS campaigns against AirBnb, TIAA-CREF, and others.
- JVP discourages Jewish students from participating in Birthright trips to Israel, explaining that “As young Jews, we recognize that Israel is not our birthright.”
BDS National Committee
The BDS National Committee (BNC) is the leading Palestinian BDS umbrella network. As its name suggests, it focuses on BDS and related campaigns against Israelis and companies that do business with Israel.
- According to the BNC’s website, one of the group’s members is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine. Members of this group reportedly include US designated terror organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and a splinter group (PFLP-GC).
- BNC has received tax-deductible donations in the US through an American BDS umbrella group, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR).
- HRW leads global BDS campaigns, targeting Israeli banks, the Israel Football Association (IFA), AirBnB, and others.
- Focuses disproportionally on Israel, employs faulty research methodologies, and has hired anti-Israel activists in key positions.
- On November 5, 2019, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that HRW’s local representative, Omar Shakir, has been a BDS activist for years, including in his role at HRW.