Behind the Mask

The Antisemitic Nature of BDS Exposed

Hiding behind the mask of advancing Palestinian human and civil rights, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, led by the Ramallah-based BDS National Committee, is engaged in an ongoing campaign of delegitimization against Israel, which includes the use of antisemitic rhetoric and images.

The BDS movement is a global campaign that aims to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel through a relentless attack on it within Western civic society. It is not engaged in legitimate criticism to promote political change or advance peace, rather its ultimate goal is to bring about the dissolution of the State of Israel. For its part, the State of Israel values and guarantees freedom of expression and assembly and is home to a diverse and robust political discourse.

This report is the product of a comprehensive review of open-source content of leading BDS activists and organizations that highlights their use of antisemitic tropes and motifs. The report was prepared by The Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which is responsible for coordinating the Government of Israel's response to delegitimization and the boycott campaign. The report is part of an ongoing effort by the Ministry to better understand and expose the strategy and methods of the BDS movement and the leading activists who run it. Earlier this year, the Ministry has revealed the deep links between designated terrorist organizations, in particular Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and key activists in BDS-promoting organizations.

This report documents some 80 examples in which leading BDS activists or organizations disseminated content that qualifies as antisemitic based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. This internationally accepted definition was formulated and unanimously approved in 2016 and has since been formally adopted by 15 countries and the European Union. The examples cited in this report are divided into three main sections: expressions of classic antisemitism; Holocaust inversion; and denial of the Jewish people's right to self-determination – all forms of antisemitism under the IHRA Working Definition.

The report also cites statements by Western leaders and officials, noting the connection between the BDS movement and antisemitism and highlights the watershed resolution passed in the German parliament, branding the argumentation patterns and methods of the BDS movement as antisemitic.

The report’s main findings point to the following relation between the BDS movement and antisemitic discourse:
• the relentless delegitimization and demonization of the State of Israel by the BDS movement invariably results in the stigmatizing of Jews worldwide and in Israel;
• some members of the BDS movement leadership spread content or make statements which are antisemitic, including key members of the BDS National Committee (BNC), that sets the worldwide agenda and tone of the boycott campaign against Israel;
• the argumentation patterns and methods of the BDS movement are antisemitic, such as denying the right of Jews to self-determination in their ancestral homeland and singling out the Jewish State for boycott.
• the BDS leadership’s adamant and unequivocal denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in Israel, within any borders, is an expression of antisemitism. Omar Barghouti, BDS co-founder and leader, has repeatedly declared “definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”

The report further shows how, under the guise of legitimate political criticism, the BDS movement has been able to use antisemitic tropes and motifs relating to Israel with impunity, and that, as a result, the West has become desensitized to antisemitic discourse when it appears in an anti-Israel context. This report aims to show that, through its campaign to delegitimize Israel, which, as documented here, includes Israel-focused antisemitic rhetoric, the BDS movement is an important contributor to contemporary antisemitism. Furthermore, the extremist worldview of the BDS movement leadership trickles down to rank and file activists who adopt antisemitic discourse.

This, at a time when antisemitism, in all its forms, is rising dangerously, and when there is growing concern over evidence which shows that, if left unchecked over time, hate speech and stigmatization can be a catalyst to physical violence.