Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) refers to an international economic campaign against Israel. The campaign was initiated by the July 9, 2005, call of 171 Palestinian non-governmental organizations "... for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights." [ Palestine BDS Campaign] , accessed 22 May 2007.] The three stated goals of the campaign are:
#An end to Israel's "occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;"
#Israeli recognition of the "fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;" and,
#Israeli respect, protection, and promotion of "the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194."


In January 2005 the Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI) presented a call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel to the 5th World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil (26 January and 31 January). [ Al Majdal] , Issue No. 28 (Winter 2005).]

The launch of the campaign coincided with the first anniversary of the International Court of Justice ruling on the Israeli West Bank barrier.

In one of the first boycott campaigns the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) worked closely with the British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) which lobbied the Association of University Teachers (AUT) to adopt an academic boycott of Israeli universities.


United Kingdom

On April 22, 2005, the AUT Council voted to boycott two Israeli universities: Haifa University and Bar-Ilan University. The motions [cite web| |url= |title=Report to members from the AUT national council |accessdate=2005-05-22] to AUT Council were prompted by the call for a boycott from Palestinian academics and others. [cite web|date=2004-07-07 |url= |title=Palestinian academics call for international academic boycott of Israel |publisher= [ Birzeit University] |accessdate=2005-05-22] The AUT Council voted to boycott Bar-Ilan because it runs courses at colleges in the occupied West Bank (referring to Ariel College) and "is thus directly involved with the occupation of Palestinian territories contrary to United Nations resolutions". It boycotted Haifa because it was alleged that the university had wrongly disciplined a lecturer. The action against the lecturer was supposedly for supporting a student who wrote about attacks on Palestinians during the founding of the state of Israel (despite the fact that the student's research had been proved false in court and the University denied having disciplined the lecturer [ cite web|date=2008-05-15 |url= |title=The University of Haifa Response to the AUT Decision |publisher= [ University of Haifa] |accessdate=2008-05-15] ). The boycott, which was not compulsory, was set to last until Haifa "ceases its victimisation of academic staff and students who seek to research and discuss the history of the founding of the state of Israel,".

The AUT's decision was immediately condemned by Jewish groups and members of the AUT. Critics of the boycott within and outside the AUT noted that at the council at which the boycott motion was passed the leadership had cut short debate citing a lack of time. The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Union of Jewish Students accused the AUT of purposely holding the vote during Passover, when many Jewish members could not be present [cite web|date=2005-05-24 |url=,,1490444,00.html | title=Second Opinion | publisher=The Guardian | accessdate=2008-05-16] . Israel's embassy in London issued a statement criticizing the AUT's vote as a "distorted decision that ignores the British public's opinion", and condemning the resolutions for being "as perverse in their content as in the way they were debated and adopted."cite news | author=BBC News | title=Academics back Israeli boycotts | url= | date=2005-04-22] Zvi Ravner, Israel’s deputy ambassador in London, also noted that " [t] he last time that Jews were boycotted in universities was in 1930s Germany."cite news | author=Rick Kelly | title=Britain: lecturers’ union boycotts two Israeli universities | url= | publisher=World Socialist Website | date= 2005-05-02] Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement condemning the "misguided and ill-timed decision to boycott academics from the only country in the Middle East where universities enjoy political independence". [cite web|date=2005-05-22 |url= | title=Decision of British Academics to Boycott Israeli Universities 'Misguided and Ill-Timed' | publisher=Anti-Defamation League | accessdate=2007-02-07]

The AUT said that members had voted for the boycott in response to a plea for action by a group of Palestinian academics. It was condemned by the Israeli Embassy, the British Ambessador in Israel, by Jewish Human Rights groups, by al-Quds University [cite web |url= |title=Joint Hebrew university--al-quds university statement on academic cooperation signed in London |publisher= [ Hebrew University] |accessdate=2008-05-15] in Jerusalem, by the National Postgraduate Committee of the UK, [ cite web|last=Ewing |first=Jim|date=2005-04-06 |url= |title=NPC Says: Don't take Academia Hostage |publisher=National Postgraduate Committee |accessdate=2007-08-12] and by Universities UK.

After the great backlash and condemnation - both internal and external - members of the AUT, headed by Open University lecturer Jon Pike - gathered enough signatures to call a special meeting on the subject. The meeting was held on May 26, 2005, at Friends Meeting House in London. At the meeting the AUT decided to cancel the boycott of both Israeli universities. Reasons cited for the decision were: the damage to academic freedom, the hampering of dialogue and peace effort between Israelis and Palestinian, and that boycotting Israel alone could not be justified. [cite web|date=2005-05-26 |url=,9959,1493084,00.html |title=Academics vote against Israeli boycott |publisher=The Guardian |accessdate=2005-05-22]

At the 2006 annual conference of the United Kingdom lecturers' union, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NAFTHE), members were asked to support a motion calling for a boycott of Israeli academics and universities which failed to distance themselves from "apartheid policies". [ Lecturers call for Israel boycott] , "BBC News Online", 30 May 2006.] Although the motion was passed it ceased to be official policy just two days later when the union merged with the Association of University Teachers.

Prior to the NAFTHE debate the Federation of Unions of Palestinian University Professors and Employees and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel described the campaign in a letter to the "Times Higher Education Supplement" as "the only non-violent forms of action available to people of conscience the world over" adding, "We salute those who recognise that, since justice for Palestinians cannot be expected from the international centres of world power, they must organise to further the cause of justice and genuine peace."Steven Weinberg and Palestinian academics, 'A Nobel laureate and Palestinian academics on Natfhe's proposed boycott of Israel', "Times Higher Education Supplement", May 26, 2006, Pg. 16 No. 1744.] In contrast, Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg argued that "it is never a good idea for academics to boycott colleagues in other countries on political grounds. During the Cold War, American and Soviet scientists were careful to keep intellectual communication open; this not only served the cause of science, but promoted personal relationships that led to initiatives in arms control. In a similar spirit, when I ran the Jerusalem Winter School of Theoretical Physics we did what we could to recruit Arab students from Muslim countries whose governments discriminated against Jews. We never dreamt of boycotting them."

ee also

*Disinvestment from Israel
*Economic and political boycotts of Israel
*Israeli Apartheid Week


External links

* [ Palestine BDS Campaign]

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