BDS Q&A

What is BDS?

BDS stands for the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel.

The movement takes much of its inspiration and rhetoric from the successful boycotts of the 1980’s and early 1990’s that forced the South African government to abandon its system of racial apartheid. This is why the BDS movement tries so hard – despite so many facts to the contrary – to draw a parallel between Israel and South Africa.

BDS leaders also try very hard to portray themselves as peace activists who are using non-violent means to force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and make way for a Palestinian State.

But a visit to the BDS website (www.BDSmovement.net) quickly reveals that BDS has far a more radical goal: eliminating Israel as a Jewish state. This is not an exaggeration. This is something BDS leaders readily admit.1

Israel’s conflict with her Arab neighbors is complex. The Israeli people themselves are deeply divided on the best path forward. There is room for disagreement and debate on many of the issues at the core of this conflict.

The problem with the BDS movement is not that it criticizes Israel. The problem with the BDS movement is that it criticizes only Israel. BDS insists on blaming the entire conflict on only one side – Israel. Such simplistic scapegoating won’t bring peace; it will only fuel extremism.

1 See Ali Mustafa, “Boycotts work: An interview with Omar Barghouti,” The Electronic Intifada, May 31, 2009.

Media Resources
Video by Alan Dershowitz on BDS Divest from Terror handouts

Who Founded BDS?

The leading force behind the BDS movement is a Palestinian activist named Omar Barghouti. Barghouti was born in Qatar but moved to Israel in 1994. He has lived there as a permanent resident ever since.

Barghouti’s life in Israel would probably surprise most BDSers. Although he demands that the rest of the world boycott Israeli universities, he actually attends one. Barghouti is currently working on his PhD at Tel Aviv University, the same school from which he earned his master’s degree.

But Barghouti is far more than a hypocrite – he’s an extremist: Barghouti doesn’t deny that he supports the destruction of Israel. He acknowledges it.

He’s stated that:

  • Barghouti opposes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 2
  • Barghouti demands a one-state solution that would include the return to Israel of all of the descendants of all of the Palestinian refugees. 3 Everyone understands that this Palestinian “right of return” would open Israel’s borders to a massive immigration that would quickly overwhelm its Jewish majority and transform it from the one-and-only Jewish state into the twenty-second Arab state.
  • “I know that you cannot reconcile the right of return for refugees with a two-state solution. This is the big white elephant in the room and people are ignoring it – a return of refugees would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.” 4
  • When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recognized that Jews also have rights to the land of Israel, Barghouti joined others in accusing him of a “grave betrayal” of the “collective rights of the Palestinian people."5
  • He’s also called for the “dismantling” of the Palestinian Authority since its leaders are far too moderate for his taste. 6

The only way there will be peace between Israel and the Palestinians is if moderates on both sides are empowered to recognize the rights of the other side and make painful compromises. Barghouti seeks neither recognition of Israel nor peace with Israel. Barghouti – like the BDS movement he founded – demands nothing less than the destruction of Israel.

2 See Ali Mustafa, “Boycotts work: An interview with Omar Barghouti,” The Electronic Intifada, May 31, 2009 and Maurice Ostroff, “BDS opposes the two state solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” The Jerusalem Post, May 12, 2013.
3 See Ali Mustafa, “Boycotts work: An interview with Omar Barghouti,” The Electronic Intifada, May 31, 2009 and Maurice Ostroff, “BDS opposes the two state solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” The Jerusalem Post, May 12, 2013.
4 See Ali Mustafa, “Boycotts work: An interview with Omar Barghouti,” The Electronic Intifada, May 31, 2009.
5 Don’t deny our rights: an open letter to Mahmoud Abbas,” July 29, 2010 as printed at The Electronic Intifada.
6 Omar Barghouti, “Dissolve the Palestinian Authority,” Counterpunch, October 5, 2009.

Media Resources
Prominent BDS activist bios

Who Funds BDS?

We have no clear answers to this question. Many of the groups supporting BDS lack the transparency typically associated with American non-profit organizations.

But research by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) shines light on a troubling financial connection. In recent Congressional testimony, FDD Vice President Jonathan Schanzer highlighted an organization called AMP – American Muslims for Palestine – that is one of the leading supporters of the BDS campaign in America. Schanzer noted the following:

At least seven individuals who work for or on behalf of AMP have worked for or on behalf of organizations previously shut down or held civilly liable in the United States for providing financial support to Hamas. 7

Hamas is a terrorist organization8 that is openly dedicated to Israel’s destruction.9 Hamas has proudly claimed credit for suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of innocent Israeli Jews and Arabs. Hamas has also claimed credit for firing thousands of rockets and missiles into Israel cities and towns.

These connections between Hamas and BDS should be a flashing red light for anyone truly interested in peace.

7 Jonathan Schanzer, “Israel Imperiled: Threat to the Jewish State,” testimony at a joint hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, April 19, 2016.
8 See U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm)
9 See the Hamas Covenant (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp), “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it…”

Media Resources
Schanzer Transcript Webcast of Schanzer speech

What does BDS want?

The BDS movement is quite clear about its goals. The official BDS website bdsmovement.net includes a list of four demands. The BDSers state that they will continue their efforts against Israel until Israel agrees to the following:

  • “Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
  • “Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  • “Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”10

These demands may sound benign to those unfamiliar with this conflict. But together they form a dark agenda demanding nothing less than the destruction of Israel. Let’s take them one by one:

“Demand #1: Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands.”

Many of Israel’s critics – including BDS founder Omar Barghouti – refer to all of Israel as “occupied” and “colonized” Arab land. When they call for an end to Israel’s “occupation of Arab lands,” what they’re really calling for is the destruction of Israel. 11

But even if the BDS movement limited its demand to an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, this demand remains deeply flawed because it blames only one side – Israel – for the failure to achieve peace. In so doing, BDS ignores the following key facts:

  • Israel has repeatedly offered to withdraw from almost all of the West Bank to create a Palestinian state – most recently in 2000, 2001 and 2008. The Palestinians have rejected each of these offers.
  • When Israel began a phased withdrawal from the West Bank in the mid-1990’s, Palestinian terrorists – many of them backed by the Palestinian Authority -- responded with a wave of violent suicide bombings that killed over 1,000 Israeli civilians. These withdrawals did not produce peace, but more violence.
  • When Israel withdrew all of its soldiers and civilians from Gaza in 2005, rocket fire from Gaza into Israel dramatically increased. Again, withdrawal was not met with peace but with more terror.

If Israel’s critics wanted to be fair, they would recognize that the Palestinian leadership has played a significant role in fueling this conflict. But BDS has no interest in being fair or objective. BDS prefers to blame Israel and only Israel.

“Demand #2: Dismantling the Wall.”

Israel built the security fence – what the BDSers call “the wall” -- in order to stop a bloody wave of suicide bombings that killed over 1,000 Israelis – Israeli Jews, Israeli Christian and Israeli Muslims.

Before this wave of terror, the border between Israel and the West Bank was wide open. People from either side could walk or drive across the border at will. Yet there was no debate in Israel about closing this border until West Bank Palestinians began crossing it to blow up Israeli civilians. Then Israel needed to do what any other country would do: protect her citizens.

The security fence has worked. Between 2000 and 2006, there were 4,000 terrorist attacks in Israel, resulting in the deaths of 1,639 Israelis. From 2007 through 2015 (after the major portions of the fence were completed) there were only 32 suicide-bomb attacks in which only 20 Israelis died. 12

If the security fence is saving Israeli lives, why are the BDSers so intent on tearing it down? And while they’re condemning Israel’s response to terror, why is it that they can’t bring themselves to condemn the terror that necessitated this fence in the first place?

“Demand #3: Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.”

Good news BDSers! Your demand has been met! Israel already does this!

Israel’s Arab citizens are full citizens in every sense of the word. They vote. They attend every major Israeli university. They are treated in every major Israel hospital. They serve in the Israeli Parliament and on Israel’s judiciary. And when Israeli Arabs choose to criticize their government they’re not arrested; they’re often celebrated.

The fact that Israeli Arabs are full citizens of Israel means that they are the freest Arabs in the entire Middle East. This is no exaggeration. In what Arab country are Arabs as free to vote and to participate in their government? More importantly, in what Arab country are Arabs as free to criticize their government?

If the BDSers were truly interested in Arab human and civil rights, then they might devote at least some of their time to criticizing the many Arab countries that deny their citizens these fundamental rights. But BDS doesn’t seem to have much interest in Arab human and civil rights unless they can somehow blame Israel for the absence of these rights.

“Demand #4: Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.”

By demanding the return of the Palestinian refugees, BDS is calling for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. BDS founder Omar Barghouti was honest enough to admit this fact when he stated that:

“I know that you cannot reconcile the right of return for refugees with a two-state solution. This is the big white elephant in the room and people are ignoring it – a return of refugees would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.”13

The BDSers define “Palestinian refugees” to include not only those people who fled the 1948 Arab invasion of Israel, but all of their descendants as well. No other refugee population in history has ever been defined so broadly. By this definition, the Palestinian refugee population is actually growing from year to year instead of shrinking. And by this definition, there are currently over 5 million Palestinian refugees.

The return of over 5 million Palestinian “refugees” to Israel would quickly transform Israel’s Jewish majority into a minority. This would effectively turn the one and only Jewish state into the 22nd Arab state.

No other refugee population in modern history has ever demanded such a right of return for themselves, let alone for their descendants.

The case of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands provides an illustrative contrast. Israel’s 1948 victory outraged Muslims throughout the Middle East. In the months and years that followed, some Arab governments expelled their Jewish populations. In other countries, mob violence drove the Jews from their ancient communities. Eventually over 800,000 Jews fled their homes in the Arab world and Iran. Most of them left behind significant land, property and wealth for which they were never compensated.

These Jewish refugees are no longer called refugees. They are called citizens. They are citizens of Israel, France, the United States, etc. Instead of clinging to the past, they moved on and built new lives.

In fact, the same can be said for every other major refugee population of the post-World War II era. All of these refugees have resettled in new countries. None of them claim a right of return to their old homes for them or their grandchildren. To cite just a few examples:

  • After World War II, approximately 14 million ethnic Germans were forced from their communities in Poland, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere. They did not return to their old countries. They built new lives in Germany.
  • After the 1947 partition of India, approximately 7 million Muslims fled or were forced from their homes in India. They did not return to India. They built new lives in Pakistan.
  • After the 1947 partition of India, approximately 7 million Hindus fled or were forced from their homes in Pakistan. They did not return to Pakistan. They built new lives in India.
  • The BDSers never talk about the Jewish refugees from Arab lands. They rarely if ever speak about the over four million Arab refugees from the ongoing Syrian civil war. But that’s not surprising. BDS is only interested in Arab suffering to the extent that this suffering can be blamed on Israel.

    Media Resources
    Occupation & Colonization MythsCAMERA on Campus: Security Fence Jewish Virtual Library: Security FenceIsrael voting rights Hasbara Fellowships: Human RightsWhy are there still Palestinian Refugees? Jewish Virtual Library: Refugee Histroy


    10. https://bdsmovement.net/call


    11. Elsewhere on the same website, the BDSers repeat this demand but limit it to ending the occupation of “all Arab lands occupied in June 1967,” i.e. the West Bank and Gaza. The fact that the BDSers can and have used this critical qualifier -- “occupied in June 1967” -- in one place creates the very strong impression that they are intentionally refusing to use it elsewhere.


    12. Danny Tirza quoted in Ken Klukowski, “Israel’s Security Fence Saves Lives, Builder Tells America,” Breitbart, October 20, 2015.


    13. See Ali Mustafa, “Boycotts work: An interview with Omar Barghouti,” The Electronic Intifada, May 31, 2009.

Is BDS Racist?

Yes, it is. And since racism against the Jewish people is also known as anti-Semitism, the BDS movement is also anti-Semitic.

Let’s be clear. It is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel. Most Israelis do it daily.

But it is anti-Semitic to criticize only Israel and never any other country or entity.

The BDS movement criticizes one nation and one nation only – Israel.

BDS blames Israel and only Israel for the Arab-Israeli conflict. The BDS movement simply refuses to acknowledge any Arab aggression, misdeed or blame.

BDS also blames Israel and only Israel for Arab suffering. BDS ignores the fact that Israeli Arabs enjoy a much higher standard of living than most other Arabs in the region. BDS also ignores the fact that Israeli Arabs enjoy far greater human and civil rights than almost all other Arabs in the region. Yet you will search in vain for the last time BDS recommended sanctions against – or even criticized -- an Arab regime.

Simply put, the BDS movement has no interest in Arab suffering – or human suffering – that can’t be blamed on Israel

A political movement that blamed Hispanics and only Hispanics for America’s ills would rightly be called racist. A human rights movement that blamed black African countries and only black African countries for the world’s troubles would rightly be called racist as well.

Blaming Jews is no different. When you blame only the Jewish state for a complex conflict and region-wide Arab suffering, you’re not just wrong. You’re racist.

Media Resources
BDS and anti-Jewish hostility on campus