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Can the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement Help Resolve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?



PRO (yes)

Desmond Tutu, ThM, Archbishop Emeritus, in an Apr. 2, 2014 statement titled "Statement from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on US Anti-BDS Legislation," available from the Just Foreign Policy website, stated:

"I have supported this movement [BDS] because it exerts pressure without violence on the State of Israel to create lasting peace for the citizens of Israel and Palestine, peace which most citizens crave…

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime...

Whether used in South Africa, the US South, or India, boycotts have resulted in a transformative change that not only brought freedom and justice to the victims but also peace and reconciliation for the oppressors… I remain forever hopeful that, like the nonviolent efforts that have preceded it, the BDS movement will ultimately become a catalyst for honest peace and reconciliation for all our brothers and sisters, both Palestinian and Israeli, in the Holy Land."

Apr. 2, 2014 - Desmond Tutu, ThM 



Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), in the "Frequently Asked Questions" section of its website (accessed Sep. 29, 2015), wrote:

"JVP proudly endorses the Palestinian civil society call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) until Israel abides by international law. We reject the assertion that BDS is inherently anti-Semitic and defend activists who employ the full range of BDS tactics when they are demonized or wrongly accused of anti-Semitism. We believe BDS is a meaningful alternative to passivity engendered by two decades of failed peace talks, and is the most effective grassroots means for applying nonviolent pressure to change Israeli policies."

Sep. 29, 2015 - Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) 



Ilan Pappe, DPhil, Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter (UK), in a July 23, 2014 interview with Truthout, available from the Truthout website, stated:

"The BDS movement is an effective and moral way of combating the violation of human and civil rights in Palestine. It is based on the valid assumption that there is no hope for change from within Israel and about the futility of an armed struggle. It also has a successful historical precedent in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. There is no alternative."

July 23, 2014 - Ilan Pappé, DPhil 



Omar Barghouti, MA, Cofounder of the BDS Movement, in a July 9, 2015 interview with Mondoweiss titled "The BDS Movement at 10: An Interview with Omar Barghouti," stated:

"BDS has played a critical role in changing the discourse on the question of Palestine after more than two decades of a fraudulent 'peace process' that undermined Palestinian rights and served as a fig leaf for the expansion and entrenchment of Israel's regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.

Today, Israel recognizes BDS as a 'strategic threat' to its entire regime of oppression for several reasons. BDS is mainstreaming the quest for the UN-stipulated but long ignored rights of the entire Palestinian people and is gradually and methodically succeeding in isolating Israel academically, culturally and, to a lesser extent, economically as well…

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin has recently characterized the academic boycott of Israel as a 'first-rate strategic threat' to Israel's regime of occupation and apartheid.

The former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit is convinced that BDS has become a 'critical' challenge to Israel, while the former prime minister Ehud Barak admits it is reaching a 'tipping point'…

I strongly believe that BDS provides the kind of morally-consistent and effective struggle against Israel's system of oppression that can 'restore the humanity of both,' oppressors and oppressed, as the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire challenges us to do."

July 9, 2015 - Omar Barghouti, MA 



Rachel Giora, PhD, Professor of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University, in a July 1, 2010 article for the 5th anniversary commemorative magazine of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) titled "Israel Must Change or Collapse: On the Impact of BDS," available from the Boycott Israel website, wrote:

"Despite the recent atrocities inflicted by Israelis on Palestinians and internationals, despite the deteriorating status of human rights experienced by Israeli citizens both Palestinian and non-Palestinian, despite the mounting despair of any chance for a change on the part of Israeli governments, Israel can no longer NOT look in the mirror the world is pushing up to its face. Israel is on the brink of change or collapse.

This choice will not be enforced at gunpoint or rocket-point; nor will it be triggered by world governments. Rather, it is the growing BDS movement, led by grassroots civilians inspired by the Palestinian civil society's call for a comprehensive BDS against Israel (2005), that is enforcing this change-or-collapse choice on Israelis.

The BDS movement hit the bull's eye. It managed to undermine Israel's international status – a change of mind that finally pierced Israelis' bubble of indifference… 'Israel's feeling of isolation is becoming more pronounced' reads a headline in The Washington Post, which says it all. Indeed, it is the loss of legitimacy and positive self-image that will enforce Israel to reconsider its policies."

July 1, 2010 - Rachel Giora, PhD 



Neve Gordon, PhD, Senior Lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Israel) at the time of the quote, in an Aug. 21, 2009 article for the Guardian titled "Time to Boycott Israel," wrote:

"For the sake of our children, I am convinced that an international boycott is the only way to save Israel from itself.

I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel.

I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer…

The words and condemnations from the Obama administration and the European Union have yielded no results, not even a settlement freeze, let alone a decision to withdraw from the occupied territories.

I consequently have decided to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and has since garnered widespread support around the globe…

Nothing else has worked. Putting massive international pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians – my two boys included – does not grow up in an apartheid regime."

Aug. 21, 2009 - Neve Gordon, PhD 



Roger Waters, original member of the band Pink Floyd, in a Mar. 17, 2014 interview on the Salon website titled "Roger Waters: Why I Must Speak Out on Israel, Palestine and BDS," stated:

"In the furor that exists in the U.S. today about BDS and the right and wrong of a cultural boycott of Israel, a quote from one of my heroes, Mahatma Gandhi, has been on my mind. He prophetically said, 'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.' The BDS movement is fulfilling its promise and fits Gandhi's description. Once dismissed by many as a futile strategy that would 'never work,' BDS has gained much ground in recent weeks, bringing with it the expected backlash.

Divestment votes at major U.S. universities, European pension funds divesting from Israeli banks that do business with illegal Israeli settlements, and the recent high-profile parting of the ways between actor Scarlett Johansson and the global anti-poverty group Oxfam are symptoms of a growing resistance to the Israeli subjugation of the indigenous people of Palestine, and also, to the decades of occupation of land designated by the U.N. as a future state for the Palestinian people.

And with each new BDS headline, the ferocious reaction from the movement's critics, with Netanyahu and his AIPAC fulminations in the vanguard, has risen exponentially. I think it's safe to say BDS is in the 'then they fight you' stage."

Mar. 17, 2014 - Roger Waters 



Chris Hedges, MDiv, Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute, in a July 27, 2015 article for Common Dreams titled "Why I Support the BDS Movement Against Israel," available from the Common Dreams website, wrote:

"The Palestinians are poor. They are powerless. They have no voice or influence in the halls of power…

Justice for Palestine will never come from the traditional governmental institutions or political parties that administer power… the sole mechanism left to ensure justice for Palestine is the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Sanctions brought down the apartheid regime of South Africa. And they are what will bring down the apartheid regime of Israel. BDS is nonviolent. It appeals to conscience. And it works."

July 27, 2015 - Chris Hedges, MDiv 



CON (no)

Hillary Rodham Clinton, JD, former US Secretary of State, in a July 2, 2015 letter to Haim Saban, wrote:

"BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict. This is not the path to peace. I remain convinced that Israel's long-term security and future as a Jewish state depends on having two states for two people. But that outcome can only be received through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians – it cannot be imposed from the outside or by unilateral actions.

Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world – especially in Europe – we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people."

July 2, 2015 - Hillary Clinton, JD 
Hillary Rodham Clinton letter to Haim Saban (494KB)  



Benjamin Netanyahu, MS, Prime Minister of Israel, in a Mar. 2014 speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2014 Annual Policy Conference, the transcript of which is available at the Haaretz website under the title "Netanyahu's AIPAC Speech: The Full Transcript," stated:

"[O]ne movement that's definitely on the wrong side of the moral divide is the movement to boycott Israel, the so-called BDS. That movement will fail…

They should be opposed because they're bad for peace and because BDS is just plain wrong.

Most people in the BDS movement don't seek a solution of two states for two peoples. On the contrary, they openly admit that they seek the dissolution of the only state for the Jewish people. They're not seeking peace, they're not seeking reconciliation. But some of their gullible fellow travelers actually do believe that BDS advances peace.

Well, the opposite is true. BDS sets back peace because it hardens Palestinian positions and it makes mutual compromise less likely."

Mar. 2014 - Benjamin Netanyahu, MS 



Bassem Eid, Founder and Director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, in a June 25, 2015 article for the Washington Institute titled "The Palestinian Case Against BDS," available from the Washington Institute website, wrote:

"As a Palestinian dedicated to working for peace and reconciliation between my people and our Israeli neighbors, I do not believe that the BDS advocates are helping our cause. On the contrary, they are just creating more hatred, enmity, and polarization…

There is no connection between the tactics and objectives of the BDS movement and the on-the-ground realities of the Middle East. Israelis continue to come to the West Bank to do business, and most Palestinians continue to buy Israeli goods. Indeed, if you ask Palestinians what they want, they'll tell you they want jobs, secure education, and health. And the people who are failing them in this regard are their own leaders: Fatah in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza…

[T]he BDS movement in its determination to oppose Israel is prepared to fight to the last drop of Palestinian blood. As a Palestinian who actually lives in east Jerusalem and hopes to build a better life for his family and his community, this is the kind of 'pro-Palestinian activism' we could well do without. For our own sake, we need to reconcile with our Israeli neighbors, not reject and revile them."

June 25, 2015 - Bassem Eid 



M.J. Rosenberg, former Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network, in a July 10, 2014 article for The Nation titled "It's a Fringe Movement with Radical Goals and a Scattershot Approach," wrote:

"BDS will not end the occupation. Moreover, as the horrific events of the past week have demonstrated, we do not have the liberty of waiting for BDS, which, at its current glacial pace, won't succeed in changing anything on the ground anytime soon…

BDS, a fringe movement with radical goals and a scattershot approach, will never end the occupation. That can be done only through pressure brought by the US government, invoking our own national security and that $3.5 billion aid package we provide annually to keep Israel prosperous…

This is no time to give up on political action in favor of organizing boycotts by food co-ops, aging rock stars and college student councils.

The occupation is too deadly for playing games."

July 10, 2014 - M.J. Rosenberg 



The Anti-Defamation League, in the "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)" section of its website, www.adl.org (accessed Sep. 24, 2015), wrote:

"BDS campaigns represent a hostile tactic that rests on a fundamental rejection of Israel's right to exist or defend itself. BDS does nothing to promote peace. Indeed, the movement's efforts often target the very people, companies and institutions that can help bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to peace…

Israel is committed to making peace with the Palestinians. The harsh rhetoric of BDS proponents ignores the Israeli public's support for a two-state solution, as well as Israeli government willingness to engage in negotiations and support Palestinian efforts to create institutions and infrastructure to improve the on the ground situation for Palestinians...

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about land and security, and will be resolved at the negotiating table. There is no Israeli ideology, policy or predetermined plan to segregate, persecute or mistreat the Arab population. There is no valid comparison between Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, which are driven by security concerns, and apartheid South Africa."

Sep. 24, 2015 - Anti-Defamation League (ADL) 



Alan Dershowitz, LLB, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, in a Feb. 12, 2014 opinion piece for Haaretz titled "Ten Reasons Why BDS Is Immoral and Hinders Peace," wrote:

"The BDS movement is highly immoral, threatens the peace process and discourages the Palestinians from agreeing to any reasonable peace offer…

The current BDS movement, especially in Europe and on some American university campuses, emboldens the Palestinians to reject compromise solutions to the conflict.

Some within the Palestinian leadership have told me that the longer they hold out against making peace, the more powerful will be the BDS movement against Israel. Why not wait until BDS strengthens their bargaining position so that they won't have to compromise by giving up the right of return, by agreeing to a demilitarized state and by making other concessions that are necessary to peace but difficult for some Palestinians to accept? The BDS movement is making a peaceful resolution harder."

Feb. 12, 2014 - Alan M. Dershowitz, LLB 



Hillel Schenker, MA, Coeditor of the Palestine-Israel Journal, in a 2012 article for the Palestine-Israel Journal titled "What's Wrong with BDS?," available from www.pij.org, wrote:

"To my mind, the primary problem with BDS is that it won't work. It will not produce the desired result of ending the occupation…

There are a number of reasons why I believe BDS can't do it:

1) There is no chance that the international community, as represented by its governments and the United Nations, would support BDS. Without… [this support] BDS cannot be a decisive factor in determining the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations;

2) The 'silent majority' of the Israeli public, which, according to all public opinion polls supports a two-state solution, and whose backing is absolutely necessary to bring an end to the occupation, sees BDS as an attempt to de-legitimize the existence not of the occupation, but of the very right of the State of Israel — even within the 1967 borders Green Line — to exist. This is also true for the mainstream of Jewish communities around the world; and

3) In most European countries, given the background of European responsibility for the Holocaust and past persecutions of the Jews, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to mobilize the majority of civil society public opinion to support BDS."

2012 - Hillel Schenker, MA 



Elka Looks, Communications Manager at the Jewish Community Relations Council at the time of the quote, in a Jan. 15, 2014 opinion piece for Haaretz titled "BDS Bullying Is Not a Path to Peace," wrote:

"The BDS movement is not intended as an economic catalyst to incentivize good Israeli behavior, but rather an initiative created by a cadre of individuals and organizations that have no interest in Israel behaving as - or in fact being - a sovereign nation at all. The BDS movement's goal is clear: the elimination of a Jewish and democratic State of Israel…

There undoubtedly are some who believe that engaging in economic, academic and cultural boycotts will expedite an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and increase prospects for peace and the creation of two states for two people. However, this notion is sorely misguided; economic isolation and a pariah-state status will not motivate Israel to take bold, painful steps required for any long-term resolution. Bullying is not historically the pathway to peace."

Jan. 15, 2014 - Elka Looks