Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)
"BDS" refers to the general boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, an expressly non-violent human rights movement to pressure the Israeli government to end its denial of Palestinian rights and comply with international law. Through BDS activities, individuals can take action for Palestinian rights without waiting for governments. BDS tactics were used in the struggle against South Africa's apartheid regime and in the U.S. civil rights movement.
A formal call for BDS was made by a broad coalition of Palestinian civil society groups in 2005. They were joined by, among others, U.N. Special Rapporteur Richard Falk in October 2012. The formal BDS movement has three specific goals, all of which are consistent with international law. They are: 1) the end of the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories; 2) recognition of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and land; and 3) full equal rights for non-Jewish citizens of Israel.
For arguments supporting boycott, see article by orthodox Jewish studies professor Jeremiah Haber (2012) and BDS campaigner Omar Barghouti's op-ed in the New York Daily News (2013). See also The BDS Movement at 10: An Interview with Omar Barghouti (July 2015).
In May 2016 the Harvard Law Review published a helpful article on how anti-BDS legislation violates the First Amendment.
List of selected BDS successes in the U.S.: list updated November 2016
Economic boycotts and divestment, which focus on companies that directly profit from or help to maintain the occupation:
- afsc.org/investigate (company information)
- U.S. Campaign for Palestinians Rights bds campaigns
- justicewithpeace.org/node/2484 (Sabra and Tribe hummus)
- phillybds.org (Sabra and Tribe hummus)
- codepink.org/justice_for_Palestine (Re/max, Airbnb, Ahava, HP)
- vtjp.org/icecream/boycott.htm (Ben & Jerry's ice cream)
- act.stolenhomes.org (Airbnb)
- whoprofits.org. For a list of products made in illegal settlements, choose "settlements' products" in box "involvement category".
Church BDS Actions 2016 (also see list here under "Faith Based Actions"): The United Methodist Pension and Health Benefits Fund, one of the largest church pension funds in North America, voted in January 2016 to make Israel's five largest banks ineligible for its investment. (Unfortunately a divestment resolution at the United Methodist General Convention two months later did not pass.) The Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men voted in March 2016 to "join the boycott of settlement products and companies profiting from settlements." The Alliance of Baptists, a progressive Baptist denomination, voted in April 2016 to "divest from all companies profiting from the occupation of Palestinian lands." The Presbyterian Church (USA), which already boycotts settlement products, passed several further resolutions at its general conference in June 2016: it adopted a human rights approach to resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict rather than the standard two-state position; it condemned "the systematic pattern of ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children within the Israeli prison system"; it asked the real estate firm RE/MAX to end its sale and rental of properties in illegal Israeli settlements; it defeated language attempting to characterize BDS as anti-Semitic; and it defeated a resolution calling for the Presbyterians to withdraw from the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation. The only defeat was on a resolution calling for churches to boycott Hewlett-Packard products. The Unitarian Universalists in July 2016 considered their first BDS resolution. While it received a majority of 54%, it did not get the two-thirds needed to pass. In August 2016, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted overwhelmingly "to adopt a human rights-based screen for its social responsibility funds to ensure the church is not profiting from human rights abuses." They also voted "to end U.S. aid to Israel until the latter freezes the construction of settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of longstanding official U.S. policy and international law."
Church BDS Actions 2012-2015: Both the United Methodist Church (and here) and the Presbyterian Church (USA) (and here) voted at their general conferences in the summer of 2012 to boycott settlement products, and called on the U.S. “to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land”. The Presbyterian Church (USA) at its conference in 2014 approved a measure recommending divestment from three corporations whose products it believes contribute to the Israeli occupation of Palestine: Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions (p.4/7). The United Church of Christ voted by an overwhelming majority in June 2015 to divest from any company profiting "from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the state of Israel", and to boycott settlement products.
Sanctions: While sanctions must be applied by governments, individuals can urge the government to impose sanctions. See Congress: Make Military Aid Conditional.