Slacker’s Syllabus: The BDS Movement

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The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement is a Palestinian-led effort to end Israeli occupation.

It started in 2005 after a call for action from 170 Palestinian organizations.

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Why target Israel for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions?

Because Israel is an apartheid state, so economic support of the country translates to continued violence against Palestinians, like enforced segregation and surveillance.

In 1973, the United Nations International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defined apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”


The BDS Movement’s three demands are:

1) Remove the Gaza-Israel barrier, which was constructed on the Israeli side of the Gaza Strip (a Palestinian territory) to control the movement of people and goods between Israel and Gaza.

2) Israel’s government must recognize the rights of Palestinians who remain within Israel.

3) Allow the over 7 million Palestinian refugees displaced by Israel to return home.

In 2020, Israel demolished 729 Palestinian buildings, including 273 homes. Over 1,000 people became homeless as a result.


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BDS takes inspiration from the organizing efforts of anti-apartheid activists in South Africa.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement began as a 1959 boycott of apartheid goods — those exported by an apartheid state. Activists used these tactics to economically isolate South Africa.


We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.”

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Although Israel’s colonization is ongoing, the BDS movement has made quite an impact.

For example, in 2018, Chile’s congress voted to ban products from illegal settlements in Israel. Ireland did the same in 2019.

So ... Who are we boycotting?

BDS is ever-evolving, so the companies and institutions targeted may change. Luckily, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) has compiled information about multiple ongoing campaigns and consumer boycotts.

For example, you can read about boycotting Puma, the main sponsor of the Israel Football Association (IFA). It has teams that play in Israel’s illegal settlements.

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But it’s not just about retail. The BNC also calls for:

  1. Cultural boycotts by artists, writers, and organizations of events and projects involving Israel
  2. Economic boycotts of banks and funds that invest in Israeli companies
  3. Academic boycotts of Israeli universities and international schools they partner with
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