BDS — a new name for an old tactic

Boycotts of Israeli goods do not cure injustice

On Apr. 1 1933, the Nazi regime implemented a nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses in Germany. Hitler’s Sturmabteilung storm troopers stood outside Jewish shops to prevent customers from entering, and vandals painted Jewish stars across doorways with slogans like “Germans! Defend yourselves! Do not buy from Jews” and “Go to Palestine!” This phenomenon quickly spread to other countries, with boycotts against Jews occurring in Poland and Hungary in 1935 and 1938, respectively.

Unfortunately boycotts targeting Jews, are not a unique product of the Nazi regime. On Aug. 22 1922, the 5th Arab Congress met in Nabulus and passed the following resolutions: no land sales to Jews, no Jewish immigration, and the boycott of Jewish goods to oppose a national Jewish homeland.

In 1945 the Arab League, an organization comprised of 23 Middle Eastern and African countries, also began a boycott of Jewish goods in the British Mandate territory of Palestine. After Israel’s independence in 1948, the Arab League boycott was formalized against Israel and widened to include three levels, which are still in effect today. The first prohibits the importation of Israeli goods and services, the second prohibits individuals from engaging in business with any entity that does business with Israel, and the third prohibits doing business with a company that has dealings with countries on the Arab League blacklist for their good relations with Israel, such as the United States.

The Arab League boycott has religious backing from well-known clerics across the globe. For example, Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in addition to denying that Palestinian suicide bombings are acts of terrorism, supports the Arab League boycott by regularly issuing fatwas (religious decrees) calling for boycott of the Jewish state, demanding “a complete boycott of the enemies’ goods.”

Today, the calls for boycotts against the Jewish State continue on college campuses as part of the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)” movement. One may see fliers advertising “BDS” at MIT lining the infinite corridor. Sponsored by over two dozen Arab groups, the BDS movement calls for “boycott as a central form of civil resistance to Israeli occupation,” and targets “products and companies that profit from the violation of Palestinian rights, as well as Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions.”

Sound familiar? That’s because BDS boycotts are no different from those issued in 1922, 1945, and 1948. Although the leaders of the BDS movement put a new spin on the boycott by claiming to be concerned with Palestinian liberty, in reality their end goal is the same as that of the 5th Arab Congress: boycott in order to dismantle and ultimately erase the Jewish nation.

After all, if the BDS movement really stemmed from a newfound concern for Palestinians’ treatment in Israel, why were there widespread Arab boycotts of the Jewish State 26 years before Israel’s independence, and 45 years before Jews had any autonomy over the “occupied” West Bank or Jerusalem? We would have expected the boycotts to begin only after the Jewish State was founded. In reality, a huge portion of the world’s Arab population fundamentally opposes the existence of a Jewish state, and they are utilizing the age-old tactic of boycotts to weaken the Jewish State economically. The BDS movement simply relabeled discriminatory boycotts in the name of Palestinian civil rights.

No one should be fooled into supporting BDS on the premise of upholding human rights and curing injustice. College students should see that BDS is an unoriginal tactic used to stifle Zionist dreams of a Jewish homeland, and is not rooted in any lofty modern day human rights aspirations. It is said that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but when it comes to the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement, it is clear you certainly can give an old dog a new name.

Julie about 11 years ago

Let's see - whatever boycotts movements can we think of in history and today? Gandhi led boycotts in India. Cesar Chavez led boycotts on behalf of farm workers in the United States. The 1970s and 1980s saw boycotts against Nestle for trying to convince women in Africa to use baby formula instead of breast milk. I seem to remember something about a boycott against South Africa. And, last I checked, boycotts against Iran and Cuba were part of of US foreign policy.

Whether I agree or disagree w/the boycotts' ultimate goals, I believe that the boycott is a form of political expression that is infinitely preferable to violent alternatives. (And just because Nazis may have combined boycotts with violence does not make the boycott itself a violent act.)

In the case of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, I support its goals to "stifle" a 19th century-inspired nationalist "dream[]" of an ethnicity-based nation state. A national government should serve to protect the human rights of all who live within its jurisdiction, not to rearrange the ethnic or religious balance of a particular area of land. Opposing ethnicity-based rearranging of peoples and supporting equality for all, regardless of ethnicity or religion, are indeed central to "modern day human rights aspirations." I am sorry that Rachel Bandler does not supports these central human rights principles.

Arafat about 11 years ago

Are people who support Hamas akin to people who supported the Nazis?

Seems to me they are.

Nazis destroyed all the Jews of Europe. Hamas never stops talking about destroying Jews.

Nazis depicted Jews as beneath contempt just as Hamas does. Nazis blamed Jews for all their problems and so does Hamas.

Seems to me the only difference is Hamas does not have the military required to really kill off all the Jews of Israel. If they did have these weapons everyone knows they would use them as indiscriminately as the Nazis did.

I wonder what sort of person supports an organization that is todays Nazis. What moral and intellectual blindness do these Nazi worshippers suffer from?

Harvela about 11 years ago

' I support its goals to ' stifle ' a 19th century inspired nationalist dream of an ethnicity based nation state .

Interesting choice of word ' Stifle ' to smother , extinguish , suffocate .

Even more so when that suppression of nationalist aspirations is accompanied no doubt by its replacement with Palestinian rights to self determination and a nation state . Fifty seven Ethnicity based Muslim states , Catholic , Anglican , Hindu , but still no room for one Jewish nation state . Not even alongside Muslim state number 58 Palestine .

Fortunately your intent to ' stifle ' through BDS has some considerable way to go . From the UK alone , cross UK Israel trade for 2012 exceeded 4 billion and is projected to reach 5billion by 2014.

Once you have made the discovery that it will take more than a few apples and oranges criminally stripped from shelves , what will be the next phase to ' stifle ' ( suffocate extinguish ) the Jewish state .

Antisemites like you - and like it or not - your call to dismantle , extinguish , stifle the Jewish nation state is by definition antisemitic - will take your hatred to the grave . You will not prevail . The world will not let you , excepting of course the acts of the aforementioned Arab world . A world without a semblance of true democracy , a world which subjugated and suppresses its own people and in the case of Syria , Irak etc slaughter and torture .

You concern yourself with Israel alone . No humanitarian endeavours elsewhere . The two are not mutually exclusive but then you know that . You simply have no interest for in essence you are not a humanitarian . Your cause is to nation dismantle rather than nation build . Especially so when that nation is Israel . A Jewish nation state

Felipe about 11 years ago

Undoubtedly, the Jews have been targeted throughout its history, and the creation of a Jewish state was necessary step towards the protection of the Jewish people. But putting in the same level the atrocities committed against the Jewish people, with a form of non-violent civil protest against a country, as boycotting is, is basically a form of reductio ad Hitlerum.

Sadly Jews have been, and continue to be, victims of anti-Semitism, but that does not automatically rule out that Israel, as a state, could be a perpetrator against Palestinian rights.

I am neither pro nor con BDS, but I was negatively surprised to find such a flawed argumentation of a staff columnist in the Tech. Following her premise, Israel can get away with pretty much anything (and indeed they have), cause no one could rightfully actively protest against it, without being called an anti-Semite.

Arafat about 11 years ago

Looks like the Palestinians are following the lead of most every Islamic country. Amazing how organizations like SJP and their leftist backers throw their support behind this.


Feb 13, 2013

In another story the Western media apparently refuses to cover, any Palestinian who dares to criticize Hamas or the Palestinian Authority risks being arrested or summoned for interrogation.

Palestinian journalists are now hoping to bring this to the attention of President Barack Obama when he meets with President Mahmoud Abbas next month.

The journalists say they want United States and the rest of the world to know that the crackdown on freedom of expression in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip is designed to hide the fact that Palestinians are governed by two repressive regimes that have no respect for human rights and democracy.

Doug about 11 years ago

This article is brought to you by AIPAC. Such a one-sided look at Israel continuing aggression and terrorism. Go to Miko Peled's website, and get the real story from an Israeli insider turned peace activist. Here's a link: http://mikopeled.com/

Israel is a state founded in violence and collusion with Western military powers and wields extraordinary power in the U.S.. BDS may be the only way that people that champion human rights can attempt to bring attention to their aggression and apartheid government. I doubt it will work, because the U.S. provides Israel with approx. $8.5 million in aid a DAY, but we can hope.

Harvela about 11 years ago


Forming your opinions of a people and state based on one individuals website is hardly empirical evaluation . Undoubtedly Mr Peleds take on Israel most closely resonates with your own preconceived malign understanding of the country and the political and indeed existential circumstances Israel has faced since its inception in 1948 .

There is nothing like personal experience and I'm sure you have plenty of that . Just how many times have you visited Israel . The far left derive their irrational hatred of one small state less than the size of New Jersey from a combination of factors including their lost struggle against the West and capitalism of which Israel is a part .

As for this article brought to you by AIPAC , are you saying that it is only the Arabs / Palestinians who are to be allowed a voice and a very vocal one at that . Again you bring your own animus towards Israel to the table . As for Israel founded in violence , well yes there was violence . The violence initiated by 5 Arab armies who invaded the nascent state 24 hours after it declared independence with a singular objective to wipe it out , something they have been trying ever since through several more wars , intifada , and lately through the ill conceived strategy of BDS .

Ill conceived because those who have initiated and implemented it do so not out of nation building but nation dismantlement . BDS is not about two states for two people but one Islamic Palestinian state which in theory is meant to include what would be left of the few Jews who decided to remain as Dhimmim in such a theoretical state .

For the far left Islamo fascist alliance , it is indeed all about theory . That such a state could only come about through bloodshed on an unprecedented scale ( the alternative that Israelis hold a referendum and vote for such a state is too far fetched to consider ) is not the concern of the theorists . Only the eventual outcome is important .

Norman Finklestein , no friend of Israel , recently labelled BDS and its proponents a cult with no political traction in main stream political / national circles . That is why BDS fails . I suggest you yourself take a long hard look at your own underlying motives which helps towards this failure and indeed the failure of the Palestinians to form an independent nation state .

Anonymous about 11 years ago

What a deeply flawed and cheap tactic for the writer to accuse this (and perhaps ANY) form of civil, lawful and nonviolent resistance against state of Israel, as antisemitism, and to align the roots of BDS with Nazism. There is absolutely no parallel or concrete evidence to align the two except in the writer's head! The writer should re-examine the roots, leadership and motives behind the BDS, before she automatically charges it with antisemitism, especially when BDS is supported by many Jews and Israelis. BDS is essentially a nonviolent movement grounded in international law and inspired by the South African boycott. BDS is aimed at Israeli institutionsnot individuals, and not Jewishcomplicit in military occupation. Charges claimed by this article are indeed 'stifling' any form of dialogue or peaceful activism. How can there be any progress in the region, when Antisemitism charges are hurled at anyone who dares to criticize or oppose however peacefully and lawfully the state of Israel's policies!

Anonymous about 11 years ago

I was under the understanding that this article intended to present an argument against the use of BDS as a protest against Israeli occupation of the West Bank (I'm not sure why the author used the term in quotes; they have been widely declared illegal under international law, including by the Israeli Supreme Court: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_settlement#Illegality_arguments), but all I found were a bunch of logical fallacies:

ad hominem - basically the entire first three paragraphs (even invoking Reductio ad Hitlerum)

false dilemma - "Although the leaders of the BDS movement put a new spin on the boycott by claiming to be concerned with Palestinian liberty, in reality their end goal is the same as that of the 5th Arab Congress: boycott in order to dismantle and ultimately erase the Jewish nation." Why must supporting Palestinian rights and supporting the right of Israel to exist an either/or premise? There are plenty in Israel who do the same.

strawman - the same passage, as well as subsequent paragraphs. If you are not able to take on your opponent's argument at its word, then I fail to see how you can claim to have a strong argument yourself.

appeal to emotion/fear/pity - basically the entire piece.

And this: "The BDS movement simply relabeled discriminatory boycotts in the name of Palestinian civil rights." You showed that different generations of people employ the same tactic for different stated purposes; just because this is so, you did not provide a solid connection of how one is equivalent to the other.

I do not, from this, mean to say that I do in fact support the BDS proposal. In fact, if anything, I am sympathetic to the notion of BDS with companies or organizations that are based in the occupied West Bank or other occupied territories, but not with Israel as a whole. But at the very least, if you mean to make a cogent argument against BDS of Israel, please do not regurgitate a bunch of logical fallacies. Beginning an article by calling your opponents Nazis isn't exactly arguing in good faith.

Arafat about 11 years ago

There is no "Palestine". There might have been, but they chose war instead- time and again:

The would-have-been Palestinians would have had a state IN PEACE in 1937 with the Peel Plan, but they violently rejected it.

They would have had a state IN PEACE in 1939 with the MacDonald White Paper, but they violently rejected it (and Jews would have even been restricted from BUYING land from Arabs).

They would have had a state IN PEACE in 1948 with UN 181, but they violently rejected it (and actually claimed that the UN had no such mandate!).

They could have had a state IN PEACE in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from 1948-1967 without any Jews- because the Arabs had ethnically cleansed every last one; but they violently rejected it. In fact, that's exactly when they established Fatah (1959) and the PLO (1964).

They could have had a state IN PEACE after 1967, but instead, the entire Arab world issued the Khartoum Resolutions:

A. No peace with Israel

B. No recognition of Israel

C. No negotiations with Israel

They would have had a state IN PEACE in 2000 with the Oslo Accords, but they violently rejected it- as always.

And as soon as Israel pulled every single Israeli out of Gaza, what did the would-have-been Palestinians do? They immediately started shooting thousands of missiles into Israeli population centers, they elected Hamas (whose official platform calls for jihad with no negotiations until Israel is destroyed) to rule them, and they have dug tunnels crossing into the Negev to kill and kidnap Israelis.

And even afterwards, Ehud Olmert made his subsequent generous offer that went far beyond even that of Barak. The would-have-been "Palestinians" rejected it.

They had many chances.

They threw them all away because destroying Israel was higher on their priority list. It still is.

Oh well. Thats their choice.

Anonymous about 11 years ago

So Roger Waters is also an anti-Semite?


SAS about 11 years ago

The world community should boycott Israel fully just like it did with apartheid era South Africa until it learns to respect Palestinian rights.

Anonymous about 11 years ago

People keep saying over and over "Israel Apartheid" hoping that just saying it again and again and again and again will get people to believe it, even if the facts are NOT there. That is why people like Rachel Bandler have to keep writing articles like this one in support of Israel to remind the world of the truth. ISRAEL IS NOT AN APARTHEID STATE and is in fact a flourishing democracy who upholds human rights and dignity while surrounded by hostile nations who continually wage war against her

Anonymous about 11 years ago

ok will try again...

to link BDS and Nazism and anti Semitic actions shows a desire to prevent any examination of the issues involved.

who are the Semites? the Jews are some of them but only one part...

who is behind the BDS movement and who is calling for it and to what ends?

if you actually did some research instead of just rehash the old rubbish then you would not have written this article.

it is strange that many of those leaders from South Africa who benefited from the BDS movement there support this movement and if you actually checked out what they are calling for to stop BDS that it is only what any human being should have a right to.

The only reason to be against BDS is if you believe that Jews are superior to all others and in particular to Arabs and Palestinians in particular and that they should not have to adhere to international law as it is only for lesser men and countries not them. That is racism and to put it into action is apartheid so either you support BDS or you believe that Israel should be able to operate outside of the rules and norms expected of all civilised society and countries as they are better and so you embrace racism and apartheid as good practices to keep Israel Jewish and keep non Jews in their place.

I cannot support racism and apartheid so I will support BDS until the oppression and injustice stops and all Citizens of Israel are treated equally for a start...

Anonymous about 11 years ago

You are standing on the wrong side of history Rachel. The terrorist state of Israel commits atrocious human rights violations against the Palestinians everyday (I wonder what's your position on the recent comments by the Health minister who forcefully injected African immigrants with birth control to prevent the growth of the black population?) Fortunately, it seems more and more of our youth is beginning to realize this and hopefully, support for Israel will fall, and perhaps, Israel will cease to be a state.

- NOT an Arab.