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.

Other major pro-BDS groups are involved in the campaign, including JVP “allies” Palestinian BDS National Committee and American Friends Service Committee, as well as Human Rights Watch (HRW).

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

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)

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.

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.

Human Rights Watch (HRW)