Tell me about BDS (boycott, divest, sanction)

Okay, this has become an extremely controversial thing at the college where I do some adjunct teaching. I understand that this is a movement intended to (without trying to be too political here) push Israel into treating Palestinians better, but I’m a little confused about some of the details.

The background, where I am concerned anyway: There was recently an email to the entire college “community” (me included) from the college president. Many people on campus, the letter read, had strong feelings about BDS, and that was wonderful because debate was always a good thing, but maybe people needed to dial it back a little because the rhetoric was getting awfully heated.

Well, “heated” was right. AIUI, the student government was asked to consider a motion to express support (on behalf of all the students) for the BDS movement. Which it did. It was then asked to consider a motion that would require student organizations that received funding via student government to spend none of that money with Israel or corporations that do business with Israel. (I think that’s right. I’m a little fuzzy about some of the details.)

The president and the dean of students then got into the act. They said that this was against state law (NY state), and said that if the resolution was passed they would strip the student government of the right to fund student organizations. At this point thirty-odd faculty members signed a petition urging that student government be allowed to do what it wants and needs to do. I believe that the cutting-off-funding measure was defeated by the student government, but only because a supermajority was needed.

And this, I believe, is where we stand right now.

So, what is this movement all about? How similar is it to the divest-from-South-Africa movement I remember from my own college days (late seventies/early eighties)? I’ve done some googling but am having trouble wading through the high emotions that seem to surround this issue. Can anyone explain what the issues are in clear and simple terms, or direct me to a site that does so? --No need to try to parse the political issues specific to this college, but a good overview of what the supporters of the movement are trying to achieve, and how, would be very helpful. Thanks in advance.

So are you asking about BDS movements in general, Israel v. Palestine BDS in particular, or BDS movements in the context of (publicly-owned) universities?

I can’t tell what you’re actually asking about.

As far as I am concerned (this is IMHO), BDS is just a socially acceptable way of expressing anti-semitism.

I am very unhappy with what is going on in Israel, but more unhappy with what goes on in many countries no one has suggested boycotting: China, Pakistan, Turkey, …, the list could go on and on. Why single out Israel? See my first sentence.

Because Israel is seen as ‘doable’, somewhere where the movement may be able to make a difference, just as it thinks it made a difference to South Africa.

It’s not against state law at the moment, but it’s probably going to be fairly soon. Previous thread on that legislation.

I am taking no position on the merits of the BDS movement.

Thanks for the responses this far.

I had never heard of this movement before, one way or the other, though as I mentioned the whole divest-from-S-Africa thing was very big when I was a student. Since what’s going on at this college (a private college btw, not state run) is very specifically Israel/Palestine, that’s what I’m most interested in learning more about; but if the broader movement is of interest as well I’d like to hear about that too.

Intrigued to hear that the restrictions might actually not (yet) be against the law. I’ll go back and check the specifics if I can. I don’t know the president of the college at all but I do know the dean of students, and I’d be surprised if he’s peddling something that’s not accurate.

I should clarify: if it’s a private university, it won’t be against the law, but in theory the state would have to withdraw any funding or contracts.