Menu Close

Background of BDS

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement aims to demonize, delegitimize, and destroy the Jewish nature of Israel, with the result of denying to Jews their right of national self-determination. Their goal is implemented by tactics on campuses across the country that seek universities’ divestment of funds from Israeli companies and American companies that do business with Israel, as well as the boycott of Israeli scholars and universities.

Early History of the BDS Movement

The BDS movement has a long history and is a direct continuation, begun before the creation of Israel, of the Arab League’s boycott announced December 2, 1945, of Zionist goods produced in the British mandate of Palestine. The Arab League, comprising 22 Middle East and African countries, broadened the boycott in 1948 to include not only trade between Arab countries and Israel, but all companies throughout the world that do business with Israel, as well as their business partners. The objective was to isolate the Jewish state from the international community, as well as to inflict economic harm.

In 1976 and 1977, the U.S. Congress made it illegal for any U.S. company to cooperate with the boycott.

The BDS Movement and the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban

In 2001, the movement clothed itself in a false veneer of moral credibility by adopting the language of human rights to falsely brand Israel as a “racist, apartheid state,” as declared by participants in the Non-Government Organization Forum of the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban.

The Palestinian Call to Boycott Israel

In 2005, the movement was energized and expanded by a declaration of a coalition of Palestinian organizations. Their call accused Israel of an “entrenched system of racial discrimination”, and “persistent violations of international law” and called upon “people of conscience” to implement a broad boycott and divestment campaign.

Ironically, the first signatory of the Palestinian BDS Call was the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, which, according to the Anti-Defamation League, was founded by Yasser Arafat at the start of the Second Intifada in 2000 for the purpose of “organizing a unified effort among major Palestinian factions to oppose Israel and coordinate terror attacks.” The Council includes among its constituent organizations Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and PFLP – General Command, all three of which are on the U.S. Department of State’s list of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations and are committed to the elimination of Jews and the Jewish state through terrorism and violent means.

The U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Boycotts of Israeli scholars have been proposed since early 2002, but gained momentum when the United States Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was formed in response to the 2005 Palestinian call. The American organization, endorsed by over 800 American faculty, promotes a boycott of all Israeli scholars and cultural and educational institutions. Academic boycotts in particular violate the most basic principle of academia, the free exchange of ideas. They also recall Nazi efforts to “purify” Germany by expelling thousands of Jewish professors from German universities. Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. State Department’s former Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, has unequivocally condemned academic boycotts of Israel, noting, “when academics from Israel are boycotted, this is not objecting to a policy—this is antisemitism.”

The BDS Movement is Antisemitic

  1. BDS is antisemitic in INTENT: Virtually all of the BDS campaigns on campuses today are a direct response to the 2005 Palestinian National Call for BDS, a call put out by a coalition of Palestinian organizations led by the P.L.O. and including Hamas and other terrorist organizations. The BDS movement was established with the intention of isolating the Jewish state in order to eliminate it. In addition, today’s BDS leaders, both in the US and abroad, have, almost to a one, publicly advocated for the elimination of the Jewish state, a goal considered antisemitic by world leaders such as the Pope, President Obama, the Prime Ministers of Canada, England and France, scholars of antisemitism, and the vast majority of the organized Jewish community.
  2. BDS is antisemitic in CONTENT: a) the movement’s demands for Israel’s withdrawal from “all Arab lands;” b) that it cease being first and foremost a Jewish state; and c) that it allow the full right of return of all Palestinian refugees and several million of their descendants, would require the geographic, political and demographic suicide of Israel
  3. BDS is antisemitic in EXPRESSION: Activities promoting BDS routinely employ hate-filled rhetoric and imagery intended to demonize and delegitimize Israel, expression which often attaches classic antisemitic tropes of Jewish evil, power and mendacity and which is consistent with the U.S. State Department definition of antisemitism, such as comparing Israelis to Nazis, accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid,” and “crimes against humanity,” denying Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and condoning terrorism against Israel and Jews.
  4. BDS is antisemitic in EFFECT: BDS campaigns are closely linked to antisemitic actions and a hostile environment for Jewish students. Several studies by AMCHA Initiative have shown a very strong correlation between BDS and campus antisemitism: schools with BDS activity are about 3 times more likely to show acts of anti-Jewish hostility such as assault, vandalism, harassment and suppression of speech, and schools with a BDS-promoting student group such as Students for Justice in Palestine or BDS-supporting faculty are 6 to 8 times more likely to exhibit such antisemitic acts.
Skip to content