Part I -- BDS at Twelve
As of July 2017, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli racism and apartheid is 12 years old. This means that over the last dozen years, a worldwide grassroots movement has grown up -- a movement of civil society -- that has organized active opposition to Zionist racism and Israeli oppression. While the vast majority of governments have either ignored or assisted Israel's violations of international law and the basic principles of human rights, millions of "civilians" have refused to follow their leaders on this issue.
The BDS movement is now far ranging. It presses for divestment from companies that support or do business with Israel, particularly those that operate in the Occupied Territories. It urges the boycott of all Israeli products, from foodstuffs to cosmetics. It protests the appearance of Israeli cultural organizations outside of Israel. It urges the boycott of Israeli academic institutions that lend support to the state (an effort that, in 2015, Israeli president Reuven Rivlin called a "strategic threat of the first order"). And, it discourages tourist and artist visits to Israel, particularly by well-known celebrities. For more information about specific BDS achievements over the last 12 years, go to website of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.
In all these efforts the movement has proved increasingly successful. Some surveys have suggested that as many as one-third of Americans and 80 percent of Canadians support BDS. The movement is also strong in Western Europe and growing in Australia and Latin America. Thus, no one should sell this ongoing campaign short. Certainly, the Israeli government does not. Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy devotes a lot of time and money to "push back" against the BDS movement. Israel's attempt to counter this growing popularity is grounded on a simplistic, libelous campaign that seeks to identify the BDS movement as a new form of anti-Semitism.
At least among the general population, there are two things that make this a very hard sell:
(1) a lot of BDS supporters are Jewish, underlining the fact that the Zionist state and Judaism are not the same thing, and...
(2) the State of Israel continues to reinforce the BDS characterization of it as a racist state by public acts of discrimination against Palestinians.
As more people come to support BDS, fewer people support Israel. A survey released in mid June 2017 by an organization known as The Brand Israel Group, "a coalition of volunteer advertising and marketing specialists" who consult for pro-Israel organizations, indicated that "approval of Israel among American college students dropped 27% between the group's 2010 and 2016 surveys" while "Israel's approval among all Americans dropped 14 points." Brand Israel's conclusion: "the future of America no longer believe that Israel shares their values." This is the case not because of any big increase in anti-Semitism, but due to ever-growing evidence of Israeli racism.
Part II -- Political Roadblocks
Unfortunately, Israel's inability to keep a favorable public image does not necessarily mean its near-term defeat. Here in the U.S. there are two reasons for this:
(1) as obnoxious as Israeli behavior is, and also as obscenely massive the U.S. aid package that helps to sustain that behavior, neither the behavior nor the aid package is yet a prime voting issue for most American citizens, and...
(2) due to the resulting lack of political pressure from the voters, American Zionists still have a clear field to use money and other forms of patronage to pressure both the U.S. Congress and the political parties to ignore the blatant racism and continue to strongly support the Zionist state.
That support can extend to becoming Israel's ally in the effort to defame and then try to destroy BDS. The argument that BDS is a modern form of anti-Semitism has become the backbone of an effort to make it illegal. As noted above, the BDS movement is not anti-Semitic. It is anti-Zionist, which in fact makes it anti-racist. There is plenty of evidence that the Zionists do indeed practice racism in Israel and its Occupied Territories, and therefore, in truth, the Zionist charge against BDS creates a paradox. It requires you to accept that a supporter of BDS can simultaneously be anti-Semitic and anti-racist. Alas, in the absence of voter pressure, this absurdity does not matter to most U.S. politicians. Nor does the fact that outlawing BDS constitutes an obvious violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Part III -- BDS, Human Rights and Jewish Morality