What the letters B, D & S actually stand for

  • BDS Bug Out
BDS tries to have its agenda adopted by universities, churches, unions, rights organisations & community groups. It co-opt minority affinity groups, & others, also well-meaning people who are frustrated with the lack of progress in the peace process, angered by some of the actions of the Israeli government, or just want to take action to impact the political deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians. But, writes ALLAN GALE in this op-ed: “The movement’s approach impedes a just outcome and offers a distorted, intolerant and one-sided picture of a complex situation.”
by ALLAN GALE | Jan 04, 2016

The approach of spring 2016 in a few months here in the US Midwest (autumn in South Africa) brings to mind the anti-Israel BDS activities of recent years on local college campuses and in other venues. As the snow begins to melt, we are likely to encounter "Apartheid Wall" displays, anti-Israel church resolutions, and attempts to pressure city councils, food co-ops or student governments to boycott or divest from Israel. These efforts are often advanced by some of Israel’s most ardent detractors and are central to the BDS movement.

As many Europeans and South Africans are more than aware, BDS refers to anti-Israel boycotts, divestments and sanctions that are intended to place economic and political pressure on the Jewish State in an attempt to influence its behaviour. These tactics are being utilised by the “BDS Movement”, an international, radical network of individuals and organisations that propagates an extreme, inflammatory and biased political agenda designed to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

Gale AllanIt identifies Israel as the one and only guilty party in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and seeks to punish only Israel.  The movement’s actual aim is to isolate and weaken Israel politically, economically and culturally and its overall objective is to challenge Israel’s right to exist as a Western democracy, delegitimising the only sovereign homeland of the Jewish people.

RIGHT: Allan Gale
The BDS Movement endeavours to have its agenda adopted by colleges and universities, churches, labour unions, civil and human rights organisations, community groups, co-ops, minority affinity groups, and others. Often the movement co-opts well-meaning people who are frustrated with the lack of progress in the peace process, angered by some of the actions of the Israeli government, or just want to take action to impact the political deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians. While some BDS supporters claim that they are interested in an equitable and peaceful solution to the conflict, the movement’s approach impedes a just outcome and offers a distorted, intolerant and one-sided picture of a complex situation.

Despite claiming to seek “peace”, the BDS Movement works unambiguously to undermine the “two states for two peoples” solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict - the commonly accepted goal of the United States, the European Union and the United Nations. For example, the movement calls for the return of Palestinian refugees to modern-day Israel, not to a Palestinian state, a result which would create an Arab majority state in all of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, eliminating the State of Israel as we know it and replacing it with an Arab majority state in all of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the BDS Movement stated: “Good riddance! The two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is finally dead. But someone has to issue an official death certificate before the rotting corpse is given a proper burial and we can all move on...”

Even Norman Finkelstein, a prominent and harsh critic of Israel, denounced the BDS Movement because it aims for “the end of Israel”. Clearly the strategy of the BDS Movement is to delegitimise Israel’s very existence in order to secure a one-state solution to the conflict through Israel’s dissolution as a Jewish and democratic, multicultural state.

To achieve a peaceful political solution, Israelis and Palestinians need to negotiate directly, and with international support, towards the goal of a two-state solution. Rather than improve the situation, BDS advocates undermine the internationally-backed peace process that is premised on the development of mutual understanding and respect. Economic boycotts and divestment actions will not help the Palestinian people. The true path to the two-state solution depends on creating an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation combined with economic development and political achievement.

Rather than tearing down Israel, those seeking to foster peace should support programmes and efforts that promote reconciliation and co-existence, a re-start to the peace process, and improvements to the Palestinian economy. Many Americans don’t realise that the US State Department spends millions of dollars each year to promote conciliation efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. We need to support efforts that help the parties move toward a “two states for two peoples” solution that would realise a Jewish and democratic state of Israel living in peace alongside an independent state of Palestine.

The BDS Movement is simply using these unfair and anti-Israel tactics to tell a story which is counterproductive, disingenuous and wrong. BDS demonises one side of what is a complicated conflict. We should instead be building bridges between different peoples, not burning them. The Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr said: “Don’t use cures that don’t cure, blessings that don’t bless, solutions that don’t solve.” BDS tactics won’t solve the conflict. Encouraging investment, engagement and a negotiated solution will.

What do the letters BDS stand for?

**The B of BDS - 
boycotts, promotes academic and/or cultural boycotts of Israel, contradicts the principles of academic freedom and the open spirit of international co-operation between scientists, artists and others. It is particularly counterproductive to target Israel’s academic community, which promotes honest debate, criticism and self-examination within Israeli society. Israel’s universities enrol significant numbers of Arab students and are important forums for interaction and cooperation between Jews and Arabs.

It is for that reason that the American Association of University Professors has rejected any academic boycott of Israel. For similar reasons, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which represents 312 affiliated organisations in 156 countries and territories representing 176 million workers, rejected calls to support the BDS Movement and, instead, called for a two-state solution to allow both peoples to live in peace and security. Recently, the United Auto Workers International headquartered here in Detroit reversed a California UAW branch which had endorsed BDS.

**The D of BDS, divestment, calls for the selling of stock in Israeli companies or companies which do business with Israel. These efforts have been widely rejected by a variety of American organisations as being counterproductive to the goal of reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict. All American university and college presidents, and most churches and investment funds, have rejected BDS initiatives brought before them. The BDS efforts often damage the civility and open debate at our universities, pit student against student, sometimes result in anti-Semitism and test the limits of political correctness. Recently retired Michigan State University Professor Kenneth Waltzer is now heading the newly-formed Academic Engagement Network, an effort to combat divestment and other BDS initiatives on US college campuses.

**The S in BDS, sanctions, typically refers to attempts by national governments, multilateral organisations and other international bodies to limit or ban trade and other relations with Israeli institutions or individuals. I’ve learned that the past year has seen some political forces in South Africa call for the arrests of certain Israelis when they arrive. Those who understand that economics trumps politics can point to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which voted unanimously for Israel to join its ranks, praising its scientific and technological progress as having “produced outstanding outcomes on a world scale”.

  • Allan Gale is the associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit, an education and advocacy organisation of Detroit’s Jewish community. He visited Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria during a 2013 trip to South Africa when he addressed the SA Zionist Federation


  1. 3 nat cheiman 04 Jan
    BDS and its allies are dwarfs in the scheme of things. Naftali Bennet has suggested that the west bank belongs to Israel and that narrative should be manifested. Netanyahu is against the 2 state solution even though he has proposed preconditions for such a solution.
    So, let Israel annex from the Mediterranean sea to the Jordan River.
    Problem solved and BDS can continue their campaigns 
  2. 2 Choni 04 Jan
    Nat is 100% right.
  3. 1 Arnie Weinstein 18 Jan
    Lets be honest with ourselves: the writings on the wall for Israel & its heading the way SA was headed: democracy


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