For many years, Israel has become the target of anti-semitic activists and others that believe in Hamas propaganda, aligning themselves with the Palestinian-led Boycott-Divest-Sanction (BDS) movement. While some believe that the BDS movement advocates for human rights, it has transformed into an unwieldy policy tool that is primarily mischaracterized and misunderstood. Indeed, its actions and initiatives undermine efforts towards peace, prolonging tensions in the region. 

According to the BDS website, the movement aims to achieve two goals: End international support for Israel’s ongoing “oppression” of the Palestinian enclave and pressure the Jewish state to follow international law. The movement seeks to do this by boycotting Israeli sporting, cultural, and academic institutions as well as companies working with the Jewish state. Over the past decade, the BDS movement has garnered the support of public figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Angela Davis, and Naomi Klein. 

Many proponents of the BDS movement argue that it has successfully pushed governments, companies, and other stakeholders to reconsider their support of Israel. However, the group’s advocacy fails to understand the reality on the ground, simply targeting companies that work with Israel rather than condemning Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. Under this lens, companies like Apple, Universal Studios, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola would be blacklisted through this lens, even though they play no direct role in the conflict. 

This misguided interpretation of the BDS movement was visible in October when Irish author, Salley Rooney, cut ties with Modan Publishing House, an Israeli publisher that wanted to translate her recent novel Beautiful World, Where Are You, into Hebrew. Rooney stated that her decision to cut ties with the publishing house reflected her support of the BDS movement and her desire to engage in a “cultural boycott” of the Israeli state. Rooney’s decision was a symbolic win for the BDS movement. Still, it demonstrated how supporters of the movement are adopting anti-Israel policies rather than condemning Hamas and advocating for peace on both sides. 

Similarly, ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, announced it would end sales of its ice cream in the West Bank. Through this decision, the company aims to end sales of its products not just in east Jerusalem and the West Bank but across Israel, reflecting how the BDS’ beliefs translate differently between policy and practice. 

The BDS movement has made a name for itself by encouraging anti-Israel rhetoric worldwide under the guise of human rights preservation. The promotion of this rhetoric is dangerous. Earlier this year, such rhetoric contributed to numerous attacks and hate crimes against Jewish individuals in the United Kingdom and other countries. Additionally, by amplifying anti-Israel rhetoric,  the BDS movement also elevates propagandistic values promoted by Hamas, the anti-Israel militant Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip. In this way, the BDS movement generates increased tension between Israeli and Palestinian communities and Jewish communities abroad, undermining ongoing efforts to promote peace in the Arab world.

Some U.S. lawmakers have taken note of BDS’ muddy intentions. Thus far, 35 states have adopted legislation or executive orders which prohibit the BDS movement from influencing how business decisions and government policies are implemented. U.S. federal law also bans certain types of boycotts against Israel, not just for government contractors but in all aspects of society. Going forward, global leaders must reconsider their alignment with the BDS movement and reflect on whether the movement’s damaging efforts to promote anti-semitism, the destruction of Israel, and Hamas propaganda.

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