Boycott movement undermines American support of Israel

Dozens of states have passed legislation against it because of discrimination based on ethnicity, religion and nationality.

A man walks into a McDonald's restaurant in central Jerusalem on April 13, 2016. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.
A man walks into a McDonald's restaurant in central Jerusalem on April 13, 2016. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

A decades-long history of boycotts against Israel is intended to block all support for Israel, destroy the Jewish state and intimidate Jews. Two important studies reveal an “extraordinarily high correlation” between BDS activities on university campuses and anti-Jewish hatred, and that faculty support for BDS fuels anti-Jewish hostility. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) presents itself as an advocacy organization to help Palestinians. In reality, the movement calls for the economic isolation of Israel and spreads evil lies that spark an increase in attacks even against American Jews.

Objective of BDS: Poison support for Israel

One of the most damaging outcomes of the BDS movement is spawning global opposition to Israel. BDS activists raise awareness for the Palestinian cause by spreading malicious, anti-Israel lies. They intend to paralyze Israel’s economy and make it impossible for Americans to support the Jewish state by repeating heinous terms: racism, apartheid and genocide. BDS activists think this will help them in their ultimate goal to destroy Israel.

The BDS movement was launched at a 2001 U.N. conference in Durban, South Africa. The United States and Israel refused to participate because of a draft document reviving the malicious lie that “Zionism is racism.” Then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell denounced the “hateful language that singles out only one country in the world.” International organizations unleashed false charges that fraudulently labeled Israel as a “racist, apartheid state” engaged in “genocide and ethnic cleansing.”

McDonald’s surrenders to Arab boycott

Some Arab consumers in the region boycotted the restaurant chain because the franchise owner in Israel provided free meals to Israeli soldiers immediately after the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas. It is common in Israel for soldiers to receive reduced prices on products. The boycott pressured McDonald’s to take action against its Israeli franchise as sales for its restaurants in several Arab countries reportedly plunged between 50% and 90% following the boycott. The company’s recent announcement to buy all 225 restaurants from its Israel franchisee will give it more control of its brand.

Starbucks also is a target for boycotts—“Starbucks, you can’t hide! You make drinks for genocide!”—even though the coffee chain doesn’t have any stores in Israel. It provoked boycott calls after filing a lawsuit against its employee union for misusing the company’s name and logo in social-media posts. The Starbucks Workers Union thinks it is being targeted for tweeting its support for the Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel and peddling the same anti-Israel BDS lies.

An Arab League boycott began in 1946—two years before the establishment of the modern-day State of Israel: “Jewish products and manufactured goods shall be considered undesirable to the Arab countries.” In 1955, the Arab League distributed questionnaires to potential trading partners, including: “Do you have any Jewish employees in your company” If yes, how many, and what are the positions held by them?” and “What is the number of Jewish laborers in your factories and offices?”

The BDS movement calls for investors to withdraw from Israeli companies and American corporations that have businesses in Israel. U.S. pension funds and investment firms that run 401(k)s also are targeted if they invest in Israeli companies.

Anti-normalization efforts against Israel continue today. Many Arab and Islamic nations do not have formal ties and even prevent their athletes from competing against Israelis. However, the 2020 Abraham Accords prove that peaceful relations are possible. Saudi Arabia, a leader of past Arab boycotts, is increasing its diplomatic contacts with Israel.

‘BDS goal: Eliminate Israel’

Another part of the BDS campaign against Israel includes financial services companies that use environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores to assess a company’s sustainability and ethical performance. The Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director, who doubles as a BDS activist, admitted that the movement wants ESG to be manipulated for “human-rights advocacy.”

A coalition of 18 state attorneys general is investigating the MSCI investment firm to determine if it is “embracing the BDS movement.” Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody: “Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East and we unequivocally support their right to exist. The BDS movement has one goal, the complete elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.” A similar investigation into Morningstar’s financial ratings led to the firm announcing steps to address its anti-Israel bias.

Dozens of states have passed legislation against BDS because of discrimination based on ethnicity, religion and nationality. Most of the 38 state bills passed with broad bipartisan support.

Universities are the hub for anti-Israel BDS action

BDS activists were emboldened by Oct. 7 and are intensifying their efforts across America. Activities that begin on campus usually spread to other areas as students graduate. BDS campaigns on campus are common and are linked to anti-Israel resolutions at local city councils and boycotts by labor unions. Even two museums in San Francisco were targeted with a call to remove “Zionist funders.”

There has been a flurry of recent BDS campaigns on campus. Vanderbilt University canceled a planned student government vote in support of BDS because it might violate a Tennessee law preventing anti-Israel discrimination. About two dozen students responded by illegally occupying the university’s main administrative building. Three students were arrested for assault and bodily injury to another, and 16 were suspended.

According to Jewish student Ryan Bauman, “Jewish students say they don’t feel comfortable wearing their Jewish star necklaces, they don’t feel comfortable walking on campus to Jewish organizations, and that’s awful and that has nothing to do with their stance on Israel.” The University of California at San Diego passed a divestment resolution. Professor Thomas Levy said “they are trying to make it uncomfortable for Jewish faculty and students.”

Students at Binghamton University (a State University of New York) are demanding “an end to SUNY’s relationship with the State of Israel.” The university forcefully responded: “We will not tolerate racism, hatred or bigotry, nor will we tolerate attacks of any kind on individuals or groups, nor incitement to violence.” Regardless, a student government vote on BDS is planned for April 16.

A few months ago, California’s Hayward City Council voted to divest the city’s investments from four BDS “top priority boycott targets,” including Intel and Hyundai. A local Jewish teacher responded: “My students ask me, ‘Why do they hate us so much’ and ‘When will it be over?’ These kids aren’t even 10 years old yet. They know what they see and feel. And they feel terrified.”

BDS Support at Hayward City Council Meeting in California
A BDS supporter wearing an Anti-Zionist Social Club shirt addresses a meeting of the Hayward City Council in California on Jan. 23, 2024. Source: Screenshot.

Points to consider:

  1. Leaders of the BDS movement intentionally target Jewish students.

Advocating for Palestinians loses its legitimacy when it spills over into harassment, intimidation and discrimination against Jews. Leaders of the BDS movement not only seek to isolate Israel, but often create a hostile environment for the American Jewish community. This is most prevalent on university campuses. No student should feel targeted or marginalized based on their ethnicity or religious affiliation. Criticism of Qatar’s billions of dollars in university donations and China’s Confucius Institutes on American campuses did not lead to an explosion of attacks against Arab or Chinese students. Jews are solely targeted for harassment under the guise of political activism.

  1. The ultimate goal of the BDS movement is to destroy Israel.

BDS claims to be a pro-Palestinian initiative. It is a misconception to believe that BDS seeks to improve the lives of Palestinians. At its core, it does not foster peace or advocate for Palestinian rights, but fuels division and conflict. Its purpose is to delegitimize and ultimately dismantle the Jewish state. BDS demonizes Israel while turning a blind eye to the responsibility of Palestinian leaders to promote peace, coexistence and prosperity for both Palestinians and Israelis.

  1. Boycotts do not help Palestinians or support peace.

The BDS movement actually harms Palestinians. BDS attacks against SodaStream caused the company to relocate its main factory out of the West Bank, resulting in the loss of jobs for hundreds of Palestinians. The BDS movement claimed victory, but in reality, it left Palestinian workers unemployed and deprived them of stable incomes that supported their families. The closure of the factory not only undermined the economic livelihoods of Palestinians, but also eroded meaningful cooperation and coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis in a shared workplace.

  1. BDS seeks to erase the connection of Jews to Israel.

The BDS movement represents a dangerous attempt to erase the deep-rooted historical, cultural and spiritual connection between Jews and Israel. Recently, a student BDS resolution at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte sought to end the university’s 16-year Jerusalem archeological project that proves these connections. Throughout millennia, Israel has been the focal point of Jewish identity. The Land of Israel serves as a homeland and a symbol of resilience in the face of adversity. BDS supporters deliberately ignore these ties and delegitimize the Jewish people’s rightful claim to their ancestral homeland. This distortion of reality perpetuates harmful stereotypes and antisemitic conspiracy theories.

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