About BDS

1. What are the goals of BDS? What do you hope to achieve?

The tripartite goal of the BDS movement was articulated by the vast majority of Palestinian civil society organizations in their 2005  “call” for BDS:

1) an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory,
2) full equality for Arab citizens of Israel, and
3) respect for the rights of refugees who were forcibly expelled or fled their homes under the duress of the 1948 war.

It is a conditional call that will end when conditions of oppression end.

2. How do you respond to the criticism that BDS and its advocates apply a “double standard” to Israel?

The purpose of BDS is to employ non-violent strategies for promoting Palestinian human rights. We will do not give any credence to the views of individuals who seek to promote or justify, whether actively or passively, the continued denial of civil and political rights to the 4 million Palestinian non-citizens living under Israel’s effective military rule. The goal of the BDS movement, about which we are unabashed, is to give voice to the grievances of Palestinians and support their peaceful struggle for freedom and human dignity.

Speaking to the question of “double standards,” notorious Israel apologist Alan Dershowitz said to Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent that “People who support BDS ought to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves, ‘Why Israel?’ Why not against Hamas for murdering gays or against Syria for murdering dissidents or against Cuba for imprisoning dissidents?”

The implication that BDS activists don’t also devote their time to combating human rights abuses elsewhere in the world is simply false. PennBDS members, and most of our allies around the country, have throughout our activist careers taken part in numerous solidarity actions and protests against tyranny and violent oppression in Egypt, Syria, Iran, and other countries. BDS supporters wear many hats.

However, we should also point out that Israel is a unique case. No other systematic human rights abuser in the international system receives $3 billion a year in U.S. military aid or the unqualified moral approbation of almost every elected U.S. official. If there is a “double standard” in the treatment of Israel, it is the standard applied by Israel’s supporters in the U.S. Congress, not by BDS activists. Furthermore, it is often forgotten by the likes of Mr. Dershowitz that Syria, Hamas and Cuba already face comprehensive U.S. (and in the case of Hamas, Israeli) sanctions regimes. It is only Israel whose systematic denial of rights to an entire population is applauded by our elected leaders and presidential candidates.

3. Does BDS attempt to “delegitimize” the State of Israel?

The legitimacy of a state is granted by the consent of the governed, not by members of global civil society. Today, Israel effectively rules over 4 million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to whom it denies voting rights and other political and civil liberties due to their non-Jewish ethnicity. Within Israel proper, more than 30 laws discriminate against Arab citizens on the basis of ethnicity (or what in official parlance is called their “nationality”). While Israel boasts strong anti-discrimination statutes protecting women and the disabled, there is currently no basic law or constitutional provision prohibiting discrimination along ethnic lines. Indeed, such a law would undermine the state’s goal of maintaining a Jewish demographic majority by favoring Jews—whether they are born in Israel or West Philadelphia—in the fields of immigration, land ownership, family unification, education, and vital state services like water, electricity and sanitation. For Israel’s supporters, these discriminatory measures are necessary to maintain the state’s “Jewish character.” But for its 1.2 million Arab citizens—referred to in Israeli public discourse as a “demographic threat”—they mean exclusion, segregation, alienation and hardship.

It is this type of discrimination and outright denial of rights that makes the State of Israel appear an illegitimate sovereign in the eyes of many people, including many of its Arab citizens. The goal of BDS is to bring those inequalities to an end. Should BDS achieve this goal, Israel would be more, not less, legitimate in the eyes of both the people it rules and of third party actors. Indeed, complete equality and human rights for Palestinians is the one and only key to Israel’s permanent legitimacy and security in the region.

4.  Do you consider the movement to be anti-Semetic, as many of its critics have claimed?

No. BDS activists are careful to distinguish between Jews and Judaism on the one hand, and Israel and Zionism on the other hand. Not to mention that a significant number of BDS advocates are themselves Jewish. Labeling the movement anti-Semitic is simply a tactic to discredit legitimate criticism of Israel. BDS targets state policies, not the Jewish people. BDS is based on standards of universal human rights and international law that are specifically non-reliant on any religion.

PennBDS rejects and abhors anti-Semitism and any other form of bigotry or racism.

We appreciate the opportunity to clear up these misconceptions. Any student of conscience interested in getting involved with PennBDS should email us at pennbds@gmail.com. We know the opposition is powerful and the accusations of “divisiveness” can seem daunting, but as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”

Copyright © 2021 PennBDS.