What is BDS?


During my first year at the University of Otago in 2002 a friend invited me along to a campus club meeting where some students were discussing strategies for opposing Israel. It was here that I first encountered something called “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” or BDS.
The ideas that underpin BDS are nothing new. Jews were banned from participating in many industries under Medieval Christian and Islamic rule.

Ever wonder why the diamond industry is dominated by Jewish businesspeople? The selling and processing of diamonds were not subject to the same discriminatory policies and so the family business was passed down and today Jewish diamond artisans enjoy a good reputation internationally.

It wasn’t only in the middle ages that Jews were shunned from some industry – under the Third Reich, Jewish businesses were boycotted and even before the Nazis came to power, Jews were forbidden from attending university and the 1933 laws excluded Jews from serving as teachers, professors, judges, or in other government positions.

The exclusion of Jews from certain professions was also commonplace in Arab lands with the additional tax imposed on non-Muslims for the ability to practice their religion. And, when Israel was reborn in 1948, Arab countries conditioned their trade with companies and nations on them not doing business with Israel, not doing business with any other company that trades with Israel, and on not hiring or promoting Jews within the company.

While Arab nations have slowly opened up to trade and diplomatic relations with Israel, there is still a hardcore group of extremists that believe a boycott of the Jewish state, like the Nazi boycott of Jews, will bring about its destruction. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign was founded by Omar Bargouti and he has said “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”

This inability to accept a Jewish state in indigenous Jewish lands is exactly the same rejectionist position that Arab nations took when they imposed their boycotts and the same mentality the Nazis took when they imposed their boycotts.

However, BDS activists claim that their boycott is more similar to the pressure applied to apartheid South Africa or the sanctions against theocratic Iran. This is seductive for those who don’t know better. However, the truth is that Israel is more like New Zealand or Canada or Australia in terms of its treatment of citizens of all ethnicities and religions than South Africa or Iran.

BDS activists say they support freedom of expression for those people who refuse to perform in or deal with Israel yet eschew that same freedom when the ideologies are not aligned. BDS activists have harassed and intimidated artists, sportspeople, business owners, and scholars who do not share their ideology. This is bullying in the name of anti-bullying.

Similar hypocrisy is seen as BDS campaigners assert to be peaceful and to favour “nonviolent measures,” while refusing to denounce anti-Israel, anti-Jewish violence. There is no mention of Palestinian Authority incitement and reward for terror, no condemnation of corruption or lack of democracy for the Palestinians, or of their human rights abuses. And BDS does not mention the Palestinian leadership’s failure to counter the Israeli peace offers of 2000 and 2008 (the latter included East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state)..

But one of the saddest inversions of reality is the case that BDS activists make that they care for Palestinians.

BDS has hurt Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria (or the West Bank). For example, one of the so-called “wins” that BDS claimed was the closure of a SodaStream factory in Mishor Adumim. Palestinians who had been employed by the Israeli company were laid off when the factory closed, losing their good-paying jobs and the opportunity to work alongside Jews and Israeli Arabs. The financial burden of losing a job has devastated families but BDS celebrates.

And BDS seems completely oblivious to the Arab Palestinians who have been left in refugee camps in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, or anywhere else for 70 years.

The intent of BDS is to completely delegitimize the Jewish state through misinformation and meeting its demands would mean the destruction of Israel. BDS opposes the “two-state solution”, in which both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs would have self-determination and a secure society.

Don’t allow the haters to con you into yet another attempt to bring Jews down rather than uplift anyone. BDS is not for peace – it doesn’t allow dialogue and is opposed to any expression of Jewish nationhood.