What is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) Movement?

As a leader in the BDS movement, Ibraheem Samirah has founded chapters, organized campaigns and acted as a spokesman for the primary Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) organizations in America. He founded a chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace at American University; he organized a Boston campaign against Hewlett Packard as part of an international BDS boycott; he organized protests and served as spokesman for Students for Justice in Palestine; and as recently as November 2018, he was a speaker at the American Muslims for Palestine annual conference.

The BDS movement is a global campaign to isolate, demonize and delegitimize Israel. BDS campaigns describe the complicated disputes over territory and nationality as a one-sided conflict, and blame Israel’s very existence as the source of the problem. The BDS movement opposes the founding of Israel as a Jewish nation, and is discriminatory and anti-semitic.

Early History of Boycotts Against Israel

Discriminatory and anti-semitic boycotts against Jews predate Israel’s founding in 1948:

“The call by the BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] campaign to boycott products from the parts designated ‘occupied territories’ of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Golan Heights stands clearly in the tradition of the national socialist [Nazi] Jewish boycott and the slogan ‘Don’t buy from Jews!”’

A detailed history of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, and earlier boycotts against Israel, is here. Of particular note:

“In truth, the boycott campaign actually predates the establishment of Israel. The Arab boycott was formally declared by the newly formed Arab League Council on December 2, 1945:

“Jewish products and manufactured goods shall be considered undesirable to the Arab countries.” All Arab “institutions, organizations, merchants, commission agents and individuals” were called upon “to refuse to deal in, distribute, or consume Zionist products or manufactured goods.”

As is evident in this [1945] declaration, the terms “Jewish” and “Zionist” were used synonymously. The objective of the boycott has been to isolate Israel from its neighbors and the international community, as well as to deny it trade that might be used to augment its military and economic strength.”

The BDS National Committee

In November 2007, the first Palestinian BDS conference convened in Ramallah and established the BDS National Committee (BNC) as the Palestinian coordinating body for the international campaign. The BDS National Committee was co-founded by Omar Barghouti, who sets its platform:

Barghouti has expressed support for terrorism, promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and regularly demonizes Israel. He opposes the Jewish right to self-determination and Israel’s existence, openly calling for its destruction as a Jewish state.

BDS initiatives in the U.S. have been linked to an increase in incidents of anti-semitism, as reported in the Times of Israel (detailed report here):

“One recent report found that on 64 campuses with a large presence of BDS activists, 287 anti-Semitic incidents occurred, compared to 198 occurrences that took place during the same time last year, reflecting a 45 percent increase.”

More Resources on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement

Simon Wiesenthal Center: See the Report “Boycott Divestment Sanctions Against Israel: An Anti-Semitic, Anti-Peace Poison Pill.”

American Jewish Committee: “AJC’s mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.”  AJC initiatives against BDS include the resolution signed by the governors of all 50 states.

The AMCHA Initiative: “AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit organization
dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America.” See the December 2018 letter signed by 101 organizations condemning academic BDS.

The Jewish Virtual Library of the American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE): “To manage and expand the Jewish Virtual Library, the most comprehensive online resource on Jewish history, politics and culture, to provide a one-stop shop for users from around the world seeking answers to questions on subjects ranging from anti-semitism to Zionism…To educate the public about the dangers of the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign.” Recommended:  “BDS: In Their Own Words.”

Academic Engagement Network: “The Academic Engagement Network is an active organization of American college and university faculty opposing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, standing for academic freedom and freedom of expression, supporting education and robust conversation about Israel on campuses, and responding to antisemitism where it occurs.”

Democratic Majority for Israel: “We are proud Americans who believe the Democratic Party’s vision and values represent what’s best for the United States. A vital component of that vision has been Democrats’ commitment to a strong U.S.-Israel relationship—a vision and a relationship grounded in shared values and shared interests.” Recommended: “Pro-Israel is not just for Republicans”

Republican Jewish Coalition: ” On every level, the Republican Jewish Coalition is committed to building a strong, effective, and respected Jewish Republican voice in Washington and across the country.” See press release on “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019” (S.1).

Anti-Defamation League : “To stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”  Recommended:  “BDS – The Global Campaign to Delegitimize Israel.”

Stop BDS: “The BDS Cookbook is put together by a group of academics and students concerned about the misrepresentations made by the BDS movement. In our small way we want to give people the tools to understand and respond to the coordinated attack on truth, democracy and fairness that is being waged by the global BDS movement.”

AIPAC: “AIPAC’s work to oppose BDS is two-fold: Counter threats to Israel
posed by foreign governments and international organizations; Equip pro-Israel students to proactively address the challenges presented on U.S. college campuses.”

Canary Mission: “Canary Mission documents people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses. Canary Mission investigates hatred across the entire political spectrum, including the far right, far left and anti-Israel activists.”