The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel has gained a lot of notoriety in recent years. BDS seeks to delegitimise Israel, and advocates censoring anyone connected with Israel. Its tactics extend beyond economic boycotts to attempts to prevent Israeli academics, artists and athletes from engaging with the West. Criticism of Israel’s policies is not anti-Semitic, but BDS does more than simply criticise: in blaming all Israelis for the actions of the state of Israel, which it singles out as uniquely wicked, BDS promotes an anti-Semitic outlook in society.
BDS has not had great success in North America, but it has become influential on many US university campuses. Student governments at six University of California campuses have passed resolutions calling for divestment from Israel. At one, UCLA, animosity towards Israel has spilled over into instances of hostility towards Jews. For example, UCLA’s student council voted against the nomination of Jewish student Rachel Beyda to its judicial board on the grounds that her faith meant she was inherently biased. Such is the atmosphere BDS has fostered.
In response to all this, opposition to BDS in North America is growing. In the past week or so, legislatures in the US and Canada have responded with bills designed to curtail BDS’s influence.
Last week, Illinois’s house of representatives joined the state senate in passing a so-called ‘anti-BDS’ bill, which prohibits the state’s pension fund from investing in companies that boycott Israel. Illinois is the first US state to adopt such legislation, but others are said to be considering it.
There are similar anti-BDS moves in process at the federal level. Bipartisan amendments to the US congressional bills for the Trade Promotion Authority include a call to discourage boycotts as one of the US’s goals in trade negotiations. Another proposed national bill is the ‘Boycott Our Enemies, Not Israel Act’, which requires government contractors to confirm they are not boycotting Israel.