In 2005, over 170 Palestinian groups initiated a movement to rally global support for the rights of the Palestinian people. Describing itself as an "inclusive, anti-racist human rights movement," the movement explicitly opposes all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Inspired by the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the BDS movement advocates for nonviolent pressure on Israel until it adheres to international law. It outlines three demands:
- Ending Israel's occupation and colonization of Arab lands, including dismantling the Wall.
- Acknowledging the full equality rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens in Israel.
- Upholding, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
The term "the Wall" refers to the barrier dividing Israeli and Palestinian territories in the West Bank. While Israel cites security reasons for its construction, Palestinians argue it enables further annexation of their lands. The International Court of Justice previously ruled that Israel must immediately halt construction of the wall, citing violations of international obligations.
UN Resolution 194, adopted in 1948 during the Israeli-Arab conflict after Israel's establishment, addressed the displacement of over 700,000 Palestinians, known as the naqba. It asserted the right of refugees willing to live peacefully with their neighbors to return to their homes as soon as feasible. The resolution also mandated compensation for those opting not to return, to be provided by the responsible governments or authorities.
3. BDS aiming goals
- The BDS movement advocates for boycotts as a means of disengaging from Israel's government, as well as from its affiliated sporting, cultural, and academic institutions, and from companies, both Israeli and international, involved in violating Palestinian human rights.
- For instance, it highlights Puma's sponsorship of the Israel Football Association, which includes teams situated in Israel's illegal settlements on Palestinian land, urging a boycott of the company. Additionally, divestment campaigns target banks, local councils, churches, pension funds, and universities, calling for the withdrawal of investments from Israel.
- Sanctions campaigns aim to compel governments to uphold their legal responsibilities in ending Israeli apartheid and advocate for the suspension of Israel's participation in international forums like UN bodies and FIFA.
- Strategically, the BDS movement concentrates on a limited selection of companies and products to maximize impact. It criticizes extensive lists circulating on social media, deeming them counterproductive and potentially ineffective, as they diverge from this focused and impactful approach.
- Previously, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has linked BDS to anti-semitism — the ideology that espouses hatred towards Jewish people and discriminates against them
- I think the eeriest thing, the most disgraceful thing is to have people on the soil of Europe talking about the boycott of Jews,” Netanyahu said in 2014. “In the past, antisemites boycotted Jewish businesses and today they call for the boycott of the Jewish state
- The founders of the BDS movement.. want to see the end of the Jewish state. They’re quite explicit about it. And I think it’s important that the boycotters must be exposed for what they are. They’re classical antisemites in modern garb. And I think we have to fight them
- BDS has responded to the allegations by saying that criticism of Israel’s “violations of international law” should not be confused with anti-Semitism. “Israel is a state, not a person. Everyone has the right to criticize the unjust actions of a state,”
- In 2015, Israeli Minister Gilad Erdan was given the charge of a unit against the economic boycott of Israel. He said in 2018 that the movement was not a threat. However, its constant invocation by the government led to some in Israel criticising the approach, saying officials were further highlighting the BDS. US government officials have also criticised BDS over the years, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
In recent years, a few brands and celebrities have refused to continue working in Israel or perform there as part of tours. These include the US ice cream brand Ben and Jerry’s and Pink Floyd member Roger Waters.
But many such boycotts also flow from a longstanding policy of Arab states to boycott Israel. Whether they were driven by this newer movement is difficult to assess. Therefore, measuring the impact of a somewhat scattered movement on an entire state’s economy is hard to say
BDS acknowledges this on its website, saying, “Of course, support for Israel remains deeply entrenched, but the BDS movement is showing that it can become a hugely powerful tool in ending western support for Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism.”