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Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions

“Boycott, divestment and sanctions,” or “BDS,” is the label given to the campaign of economic and public-opinion attacks on Israel.  The movement is modeled after the successful efforts of the international community to delegitimize and demonize the apartheid regime in South Africa in the early 1990s.  It targets universities, churches, retailers, labor unions, artists, and local governments.  BDS supporters aim to persuade universities to boycott Israeli academics by not inviting them to conferences or to speak as visiting scholars; to pressure retailers not to carry Israeli-made products; and to convince artists, such as musicians, not to perform in Israel.  They also lobby governments, churches, and other organizations to divest from Israeli companies or companies doing business in Israel, often in specific industries such as aerospace and defense.

BDS activists often claim that their strategies constitute non-violent opposition to Israeli occupation or other government policies.  In response, critics point out that the rhetoric of the BDS movement includes calls for the end of the Jewish state itself — in any borders, with any policies — by advocating for a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to Israel.  Others — such as an ad campaign by the Anti Defamation League — focus on the double standard employed by those who demonize Israel while ignoring much worse human rights violations by Sudan, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other autocratic regimes.  There are also those who point out all the technological innovations that originated in Israel, suggesting that a “true” boycott would entail rejection of inventions like cell phones, Intel-based personal computers and heart defibrilators.  Ironically, many leading Palestinian academics and labor activists oppose the BDS strategy, saying that divestment hurts the Palestinian people and the prospects for peaceful coexistence.  The ties between the BDS movement and more extreme and violent organizations and strategies, aiming to destroy Israel by force, have also been explored and documented.