10 Common Misconceptions About BDS

SJP reclaims the meaning of BDS as a movement meant to deliver justice to Palestine.

NYU Students for Justice in Palestine

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian human rights, otherwise known as BDS, refers to a movement launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005. Modeled after the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, BDS represents a nonviolent and lawful set of tactics that include implementing boycotts, divestments and sanctions on Israel to put pressure on the state to respect the human rights and dignity of Palestinians. The BDS movement is wildly popular all over the world and is gaining traction in the United States. It has been endorsed by the Black Lives Matter movement, the Democratic Socialists of America and the Green Party, along with countless student councils from universities across the nation.

Despite the fact that BDS represents a nonviolent human rights movement, the opposition tries to smear the campaign by questioning the morality and efficacy of BDS. As an interfaith and diverse coalition of activists in support of Palestinian autonomy, we want to address and dispel some of the most widespread misunderstandings about BDS.

BDS is anti-Semitic.
Our Response: BDS targets the nation-state of Israel, not any religious or ethnic group. Additionally, the assumption that all Jewish people support Israel is itself anti-Semitic. The Jewish people are not a monolithic group and, like all other groups of people, do not have unified policy positions based on their identity. There is a long history of Jewish anti-Zionist movements that were popular before the State of Israel even came into being, such as the Jewish Labor Bund. Furthermore, there is a growing movement of young Jewish people across the world who are rejecting the conflation between Zionism and Judaism. The claim that BDS is anti-Semitic is not only offensive but is also unfounded and ahistorical. BDS is committed to ending all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism.

BDS is too extreme.
Our Response: BDS is often categorized as an extremist movement because it actively works against the hegemonic support for Israel that prevails in the United States. We know too well that any movement that questions the oppressive status quo will be brushed off as fringe and extremist. The truth is that BDS is a nonviolent and lawful response to Israeli human rights abuses. Calling a nonviolent movement extremist is just a convenient way to shut down all avenues of resistance.

The way forward is through dialogue, not boycotts.
Our Response: This is not an issue of communication, but of violent occupation. Ending the human rights abuses requires us to take action now. The opposition has used dialogue as a tool to normalize the situation in Palestine and present it as a conflict between two equals in order to obscure the violent settler colonialism and military occupation that is actively taking place.

BDS puts the blame on Israeli civilians and not the state.
Our Response: BDS is a targeted movement against certain companies that perpetuate violence against Palestinians. We recognize that people should not be blamed for where they are born nor should general citizens be held responsible for actions of the state. For this reason, BDS only puts blames on entities and actors that actively take part in the violation of Palestinian human rights by funding, providing equipment for or otherwise aiding the occupation.

Supporting BDS is supporting Hamas.
Our Response: Supporting BDS is supporting the Palestinians who have called for it. In addition to the 170 Palestinian unions, political parties, refugee networks and other groups who initially called for BDS, the movement is supported by Palestinian society at large. Equating Hamas or any political party with all the people it governs is inaccurate. That line of thinking suggests that all Americans support Trump, which is clearly not the case.

The BDS campaign singles out Israel, and subjects it to a double standard not applied elsewhere.
Our Response: If you want to boycott other oppressive regimes in addition to Israel, by all means, go ahead. However, as stated, we are specifically focusing on Israel because the Palestinian civil society has asked us to do so. It is our job as people in solidarity with Palestinians to listen to their demands and answer their call for BDS.

BDS sounds good, but doesn’t work.

Our Response: BDS is inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, which contributed substantially to the end of Apartheid. Furthermore, BDS was a key factor behind a 46 percent drop in foreign direct investment into Israel in 2014 compared to 2013.

The BDS movement takes jobs away from Palestinian workers.
Our Response: Many Palestinian trade unions support the BDS movement. In 2011, the Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS was formed. Additionally, it is actually Israeli bosses who regularly mistreat and exploit their Palestinian workers because of the power imbalance that exists, which explains why Palestinian workers overwhelmingly support BDS.

The United States has its own issues which we should be focusing our energy on.
Our Response:  As people living in the United States, we have a direct responsibility to support the Palestinian people given the fact that our government provides $10 million each day to the State of Israel in military aid. The oppressive institutions in the U.S. actively work with the oppressive institutions in Israel. For example, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. police forces and border patrol agents regularly meet with the Israeli army and police in a close partnership. What we learn from this is that systems of oppression are global and that no one will be free until everyone is free. And it’s pressing — the United Nations states that Gaza, home to 1.8 million Palestinians, could be uninhabitable as early as 2020 due to isolation from resources in the region as a result of the Israeli occupation.

As an NYU student, there is nothing I can do about the Israeli occupation.

Our Response: But you can. For example, before you buy certain goods, check to make sure they are BDS-friendly. Here’s a tip to get started: download the “Buycott” app on your phone that scans barcodes to make sure they are BDS compliant, and instead of buying Sabra hummus, purchase other, more delicious brands that are also BDS-friendly. You can also join Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, which are two on-campus groups fighting for Palestinian rights.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 5 print edition.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

Email the NYU Students for Justice in Palestine at [email protected]

Advertisement

6 COMMENTS

  1. Allow me to educate your readers with the truth:

    “BDS targets the nation-state of Israel, not any religious or ethnic group.”

    That’s correct: BDS targets ONLY the Jewish nation-state of Israel on behalf of another nation-state: Palestine. BDS’ intentions toward the state of Israel is to annihilate it and deprive the Jews living there of their right of self-determination, as BDS leaders such as Omar Barghouti, Lara Kiswani and Ali Abunimah have stated many times. BDS is considered anti-Semitic because its goal is to deprive the Jewish people of their basic human rights such as life, liberty, freedom, and self-determination.

    “The truth is that BDS is a nonviolent and lawful response to Israeli human rights abuses. ”

    BDS activists have engaged in violence against Jewish people and pro-Israel people on many occasions, especially on college campuses. You can read some stories here: http://www.stopbds.com/?page_id=4 . Furthermore, BDS has been declared unlawful and discriminatory in Germany, Spain, and other places. Other Students for Just Us in Palestine groups in other universities have been suspended and banned for engaging in conduct contrary to university policy. So you can claim to be nonviolent and lawful, but the actions of your fellow BDSers disagree.

    “Ending the human rights abuses requires us to take action now.”

    Except BDS has no interest in ending human rights abuses when those human rights abuses are carried out by Palestinian forces. BDS is not against human rights abuses, it’s against Israel. When Palestinian terrorists started the ‘knife intifada’ and engaged in illegal violence against Israel’s civilian population, BDS broadcast a message in “solidarity.” And BDS’ actions will not end the human rights abuses, they will encourage them because they encourage Palestine to keep fighting a war it can’t win.

    “BDS is a targeted movement against certain companies that perpetuate violence against Palestinians.”

    But this is a lie. BDS very much targets individual Israelis, such as people who come to share their experiences on campuses. Just ask Bassem Eid or Ofir Dayan.

    “Supporting BDS is supporting the Palestinians who have called for it”

    Which includes Hamas, who have praised BDS many times. So it’s not inaccurate to say that BDS supporters and Hamas supporters are all part of the same team, a team you are asking NYU to join. Also your claim about Palestinian civil society was already debunked by Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein. Both said that the number of groups sounds impressive but are just one man operations who don’t represent much of anyone.

    “we are specifically focusing on Israel because the Palestinian civil society has asked us to do so.”

    Why should NYU listen to Palestinian civil society when Palestinian civil society elects governments far more oppressive and abusive to their own people than Israel on its worst day? And if BDS claims to be merely against human rights abuses, as you said above, then why aren’t you going after the worst abuser? Do you follow your consciences or the dictates of a foreign country?

    “BDS is inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement”

    “Inspired by” doesn’t make it the same thing. And citing yourselves as proof of success is ridiculous and absurd.

    “Many Palestinian trade unions support the BDS movement.”

    How many is “many?” This is a useless claim without facts to back it up. The fact of the matter is that Palestinian workers trip over each other to get jobs in Israel and BDS would prefer to see them unemployed. Doesn’t sound very pro-Palestinian to me.

    ” As people living in the United States, we have a direct responsibility to support the Palestinian people given the fact that our government provides $10 million each day to the State of Israel in military aid. ”

    Except we also provide aid to the Palestinian people, so why doesn’t this same logic apply in the opposite direction?

    “Here’s a tip to get started: download the “Buycott” app on your phone that scans barcodes to make sure they are BDS compliant, and instead of buying Sabra hummus,”

    I’ll be buying some Sabra hummus (which isn’t Israeli or created in Israel by the way) just to spite you and yours, and I’ll be sure to tell my friends to do the same. Cheers.

  2. Here’s my response to this
    Anyone that supports BDS is making the Palestinian situation worst. Israel is the ONLY country that actually providing jobs to Palestinians. By boycotting them, you are risking the Palestinians losing their jobs!! Where is Jordan giving the Palestinian Jobs, where is Egypt??

    Also, you claim Israel violates international law?? The Palestinians Authority condones their people commiting terrorism and murdering innocent Israeli’s, and then pay a stipend to the terrorists families after they are captured. And the stipend comes from money supplied to them by international aid!! You think Israel gives any damn about your complaint they are violating international law when their neighbors are involved in these activities?

    Any person that actually supports BDS is not pro-Palestinian and doesn’t give a damn about their rights, they simply hate jews and Israel so use the Palestinians as an excuse, because if you actually did care about their rights and well being, you would realize that boycotting Israel actually makes them WORST off, not better.

  3. When SJP and JVP hold events at Kimmel, when the Kimmels were known to be huge supporters of the Jewish state. These people only boycott what’s convenient for them. They can’t even follow their own deranged values.

  4. A MAJORITY of Jews on NYU’s campus don’t have representation on our student government!
    To whoever is reading, you heard correctly: the group that will be most affected and, yes, TARGETED based on this anti-semitic legislation is the Jewish community.
    Please don’t let non-Jews and a minority of Jews tell the larger community what is and isn’t anti-Semitic. There are Zionists in your classes, they are many of your Jewish friends–they are hurting and afraid. Do your own research, please.
    #oursga

    • ABSOLUTELY. On the student government, there exists a representative for “marginalized jewish students” which accounts for the 6 students at NYU in JVP. Yet, there isn’t a single representative for the jewish community. So many constituents on campus are going unacknowledged (commuters, veterans, women in STEM, JEWISH STUDENTS) but yet we have SIX representatives for LGBTQ constituents ??? How is this fair ? Where is our equal representation??

      And in December, all of these representatives will be voting on this BDS resolution WITHOUT the opinion of the constituent that it effects the most: the jewish people. So i’d say that there is a larger issue at hand here. If someone is going to sit here and tell me that there is not anti-semitism on campus, then they are so wrong. This system is singling out the jewish community and voting on a resolution without their opinion.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here