Related Quarterly Updates

Two major organizations lent their support to the BDS movement this quarter. On 8/1, the Black Lives Matter movement, a coalition of over 50 antiracism activist groups across the U.S., published its 1st-ever platform of policy positions, including several on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The platform described Israel as an “apartheid state” and endorsed BDS. The following week, Canada’s Green Party endorsed (8/8) BDS at its convention in Ottawa. In a related development, Dutch FM Bert Koenders asserted (5/26) that the Dutch people had a right to deploy BDS in line with their rights to freedom of speech and assembly.


The push for an academic boycott of Israel suffered a significant setback this quarter when the largest academic organization yet to propose boycotting Israeli academic institutions failed to garner enough votes to do so. In 11/2015, at their annual business meeting in Denver, mbrs. of the American Anthropological Association decided to hold an organization-wide referendum on a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. At the business meeting, those in favor of the referendum had outnumbered those against (1040–136). The results of the vote came in this quarter: with an unprecedented participation rate of almost 51%, the AAA rejected (6/7) the proposed boycott by a 39-vote margin—2,423 votes against and 2,384 in favor.


The campaign to divest from companies deemed complicit in the Israeli occupation advanced among North American Christian communities. The Mennonite Church Canada Assembly, representing more than 225 congregations across Canada, overwhelmingly approved (7/9–10) a res. calling on the church’s general board, regional churches, and 31,000 mbrs. to avoid investing in companies that “do business with Israeli settlements and the IDF.” Later, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America approved (8/13–14) resolutions calling on the U.S. govt. to end all financial and military aid to Israel until Israel “compl[ies] with internationally recognized human rights standards” and freezes settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land. The res. further requested that the church adopt an investment screen to avoid profiting from Israel’s occupation.

Two mos. after New York University’s graduate student union approved (4/22) a res. calling on the school and its United Automobile Workers (UAW) affiliate to divest from all Israeli state institutions (see JPS 45 [4]), the UAW parent union repealed the decision during the week of 6/20. Reportedly, some mbrs. of the graduate student union had appealed the initial res. on the grounds that it violated their bylaws, specifically the pledge “to maintain free relations with other organizations,” and they had allies in the national office (Jerusalem Post, 6/23).


Although there were advances in the BDS campaign in the U.S. this quarter, the lion’s share of developments took place in the rest of the world. The student federation at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile passed a motion backing the BDS movement in a 37–2 vote on 9/26. The motion, which was then sent to the university’s president for approval, called for the school to end its cooperation agreements with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Technion–Israel Institute of Technology because of what was described as their complicity in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Meanwhile in France, CGT-INRA, the trade union of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, endorsed (10/13) BDS at its annual convention in Lyon and called for the govt. to end its persecution of Palestinian solidarity activists. A week later, the town council of Ivry-sur-Seine, a commune in the suburbs of Paris, called (10/20) on the French govt. to end its criminalization of BDS and to pressure Israel until it “complies with international law.” Another Paris suburb, Bondy, adopted a similar res. in 6/2016.

The BDS movement in Europe received another boost this quarter from an unlikely source, the EU’s foreign policy chief. In response to a query from an Irish mbr. of the European Parliament about BDS on 9/15, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini reiterated the EU’s rejection of the “BDS campaign’s attempts to isolate Israel” and its opposition to “any boycott of Israel.” However, Mogherini also reaffirmed EU citizens’ rights to “freedom of expression and freedom of association . . . , including with regard to BDS actions carried out on this territory.” While the EU’s repeated rejection of BDS seemed to signal a setback for the movement, Riya Hassan, the Europe campaigns officer for the Palestinian BDS National Comm., said (10/28), “We welcome the EU’s belated defense of the right of European and other citizens to stand in solidarity with Palestinian rights, including through BDS tactics.”

Meanwhile, in the U.S., more than 70 academics and intellectuals signed an open letter calling for a “targeted boycott” of all Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The letter, published in the 10/2016 issue of the New York Review of Books, was backed primarily by liberal Zionists and ignored by most BDS activists because of the proposed boycott’s exclusive targeting of settlements rather than the occupation as a whole.

While it was a relatively quiet quarter on the BDS front, activists across the world were preparing for a major action in late 11/2016 and early 12/2016. According to a report in Electronic Intifada on 10/17, numerous BDS groups were organizing a week of actions targeting Hewlett-Packard, specifically its massive presence in Israel and its deal to supply the Israeli military with information technology (see Documents and Source Material, “Recommended Reports,” in JPS 44 [4]). Scheduled to run from 11/25 to 12/3, the campaign was set to coincide with the UN’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 11/29.


In the 1 significant divestment-related development this quarter, on 10/24 Portland State University’s Student Senate passed a res., 22–2, calling on the school to divest from companies that “profit from human rights violations” against Palestinians. The res. specifically mentioned traditional BDS targets Caterpillar, G4S, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions.


In the biggest BDS-related development of the quarter, the UK security company G4S announced (12/2) that it had sold off most of its business in Israel, 9 mos. after announcing plans to do so and several years after BDS activists began targeting the company (see JPS 45 [4]). Although G4S never admitted to pulling out in response to the BDS campaign, BDS activist Rafeef Ziadeh said (12/2) that the announcement represented a major victory. “We have succeeded [in pushing] one of the world’s largest corporations into selling its key business in Israel,” she said. “Our globally coordinated campaign has had a real impact.” Activists kept up the pressure on G4S in the wake of the announcement. The UN World Food Programme in Jordan (12/6) and Lebanon’s UN International Children’s Emergency Fund branch (UNICEF, 12/24) both stated that they would no longer work with the company, joining a handful of other UN agencies dropping G4S (see JPS 46 [1, 2]).

U.S. sports stars got in on the BDS action this quarter, too. Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, one of professional football’s politically active players, was set to participate in a National Football League delegation to Israel in mid-2/2016. But a week before the trip, he posted a statement to Twitter explaining his decision to stay home. He said that after reading an article about the Israeli govt.’s efforts to undermine the BDS movement, he decided to follow in the path of his idol Muhammad Ali and be a “voice for the voiceless.” He expanded on the statement as follows: “Like 1968 Olympian John Carlos always says, ‘There is no partial commitment to justice. You are either in or you’re out.’ Well, I’m in.” Bennett’s stance caused a minor media sensation in the U.S., and 5 of his colleagues ultimately joined the protest, leaving only 5 of the 11 originally invited participants to go ahead with the trip.

Various municipalities around the world threw their weight behind BDS as well. On 11/17, the City Council of Trondheim, Norway’s 3d-largest city, voted to boycott goods and services from Israel’s settlements, amplifying the citizen-led BDS movement in Norway. The city council of Portland, Oregon, voted (12/21) unanimously to suspend investments in all corporate securities, including Caterpillar and Wells Fargo, in response to demands from BDS activists, environmentalist groups, and prison divestment groups. Finally, the Provincial Council of Valencia, representing a region of 2.5 m. people in Spain, adopted (12/29) a general policy to boycott Israel. A rep. of the left-wing party València en Comú, which submitted the motion, said (12/29) that the vote was “a grand success for the Palestinian cause.” Despite BDS’s gathering strength in Spain, the Spanish courts pushed back, striking down at least 10 BDS res. in municipalities across the country in late 2016 and early 2017 (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 2/24).

Boycott campaigns in the U.S. and UK academies were also active this quarter. On 12/8, the University of Manchester’s student union senate approved a res. backing BDS and demanding divestment from companies deemed complicit in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. The res. was explicitly designed in response to the university’s 2013 partnership with Israel’s Technion. Later, the student govt. at the University of California at Riverside approved (2/1) a ban on Sabra hummus, citing the Sabra parent company’s financial sponsorship of the IDF’s Golani Brigade. However, university administrators said (2/2) they had no plans to comply with the students’ wishes.

Meanwhile, the movement for BDS suffered 3 major setbacks in U.S. academia. On 1/7, the Modern Language Association (MLA) voted against endorsing an academic boycott of Israel at its annual meeting in Philadelphia. The MLA’s delegate council instead approved a res. calling on the MLA to “refrain from endorsing the boycott” on the grounds that it undermined the group’s mission to promote scholarly exchange, teaching, and research. At the American Historical Association’s annual meeting in Denver, the association’s governing council rejected a petition calling for an investigation into “the charges that academic freedom is widely violated in Israel and the oPt.” In late 12/2016, Fordham University’s dean, Keith Eldredge, informed students who had applied to form a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in 12/2015 that he was denying their request. “[I] cannot support an organization whose sole purpose is advocating political goals of a specific group and against a specific country,” Eldredge wrote. SJP is one of the main campus groups responsible for the wave of BDS support across the U.S. in recent years.

In the religious realm, the Peace United Church of Christ in Santa Cruz, California, voted (12/6) to stop purchasing Hewlett-Packard products, making it the 1st U.S. church to heed the call for BDS action against companies deemed complicit in Israel’s occupation. (For more on BDS, see Palestine Unbound.)


One major organization threw its weight behind the movement to boycott Israel this quarter. Representing almost 1 m. workers, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge, LO) endorsed a full economic, cultural, and academic boycott of Israel on 5/12. The Palestinian BDS National Comm. welcomed (5/13) the move and called on the LO to “apply pressure on the Norwegian govt. to end all its military ties with Israel’s regime of oppression and to divest its sovereign fund from all companies that are complicit in Israel’s occupation and illegal settlement enterprise.” The LO’s endorsement was not the only indication of rising support for the BDS movement in Europe. On 4/19, Barcelona’s city council passed a declaration upholding the rights of citizens to boycott Israel, condemning Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, and calling for an end to the blockade of Gaza. In doing so, Barcelona joined the more than 50 Spanish municipalities that have backed BDS since 2014 (Electronic Intifada, 4/20). Elsewhere, the Belgian municipality of Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, 1 of 19 in the Brussels area, adopted (4/26) a motion to boycott companies and other institutions complicit in the Israeli occupation. In Italy, the Univ. of Turin’s student council passed (3/1) a motion calling for the annulment of agreements between the university and Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, due to Technion’s collaboration with the IDF.

Also of note: the U.S. literary organization PEN America stopped accepting donor support from the Israeli govt., according to the U.S. activist group Adalah-NY on 2/23. The move came mos. after more than 240 writers and publishers called on PEN to end its relationship with the Israeli govt. surrounding the nonprofit’s annual World Voices Festival in 2016. The Israeli govt. provided funding for the festival in 4 of the previous 5 years.


U.S. universities remained a hotbed of divestment-related activity this quarter. On 3/15, the student senate at De Anza College, a community college in Cupertino, CA, passed a res. calling on the school’s board of trustees to pull investments from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar, and G4S due to their complicit roles in Israeli abuses of Palestinian human rights. With their successful resolution, the student activists at De Anza added to similar accomplishments by their peers at 7 of the 9 Univ. of California campuses, nearby San Jose State Univ., Stanford Univ., and the Univ. of Chicago. Later, the undergraduate student senate at Tufts Univ. passed (4/9) a similar res., targeting HPE, G4S, Elbit Systems, and Northrop Grumman.


“Those who struggle against oppression and for equality will always have our support,” Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) dep. national director David Duhalde said in a press release announcing the DSA’s nr.-unanimous 8/5 vote endorsing the BDS movement at its annual conference in Chicago. “Just as we answered the call to boycott South Africa during Apartheid, we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people,” he added. The DSA experienced explosive growth in 2016–17, partly on the strength of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) presidential campaign, with membership quadrupling to more than 25,000.

In Spain, where pro-Israel activists were fighting several municipalities’ endorsements of BDS in the courts, the lower house of Spain’s parliament unanimously adopted (6/27) a resolution calling on the govt. to “recognize and defend the right of human rights activists from Palestine, Israel, and other countries, to engage in legal and peaceful activities, protected by the right to freedom of speech and assembly, such as the right to promote BDS campaigns.” The leftwing party Podemos spearheaded the effort.

In Chile, Palestinian solidarity activists and students campaigned against planned events cosponsored by the Israeli Embassy and featuring a speaker from the Israel Antiquities Authority at Alberto Hurtado University and the University of Chile. Both universities ultimately canceled (6/5 and 6/7) the events.

In a blow to the academic boycott of Israel, the Modern Language Association (MLA) approved (6/1) a resolution calling on the professional association’s 24,000-some mbrs. to refrain from boycott activities. The resolution stated that a boycott would contradict “the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature.”


In a major win for the BDS movement in the UK, Judge Ross Cranston of the High Court in London ruled (7/20) that a Conservative minister acted improperly when he attempted to use aspects of pension law to prevent local councils from divesting from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. According to one of the claimants’ lawyers, Jamie Potter, Cranston reminded “the govt. that it cannot improperly interfere in the exercise of freedom of conscience and protest in order to pursue its own agenda” (Electronic Intifada, 7/22).

The movement to divest was bolstered in the U.S. Christian community as well. With 98% approval, the delegates at the Mennonite Church USA’s annual convention voted (7/6) to divest church holdings in companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. The church had failed to pass a similar resolution in 2015. Separately, the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) urged (7/7) its 225 mbr.-churches around the world to examine their investment relationships with respect to “human rights and the protections of international law” as they pertain to the Palestinian-Israeli relationship.



Canada was a hotbed of boycott-related activity this quarter. Unifor National, the country’s largest private-sector trade union, endorsed BDS at its annual convention in Winnipeg on 8/18–20. The organization specifically called for BDS actions with regard to “sectors of Israel’s economy and society [that] profit from the ongoing occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories.” Then, on 11/5, the Canadian BDS Coalition announced that Air Canada’s “five-year, multi-million-dollar contract with Israel Aerospace Industries Bedek Aviation Group for heavy maintenance on Air Canada Boeing 767 jets was terminated in ‘early 2017,’ with 2 years remaining.” According to a report at the Electronic Intifada, the contract was worth tens of millions of dollars, and the #AirCanadaComplicity campaign won the support of trade unions and Palestinian solidarity groups across Canada. Air Canada, the country’s largest airline, reportedly told the activists that the work was being transferred to another contractor, but didn’t offer an explanation.

There were a handful of boycott-related developments elsewhere in the world as well. On World Photography Day (8/19), a group of more than 40 Portuguese photographers as well as photography teachers and students took a pledge not to accept professional invitations or financing from Israel and to refuse partnerships with Israeli cultural institutions complicit in the occupation. On 9/25, the Palestine Support Network Australia (PSNA) announced that the Royal Flying Doctor Service South Eastern Section, which delivers health care in the Australian outback, canceled a planned partnership with Elbit Systems, an Israeli arms maker, following an 18-mo. PSNA-led boycott campaign. Leading up to the Round Tables culinary festival (11/ 5–10), which features internationally renowned chefs cooking in Tel Aviv restaurants, Irish chef JP McMahon and Peruvian chef Mitsuharu Tsumura withdrew from the event following appeals from BDS activists not to participate in “culinary propaganda.” Finally, Jordan BDS reported (10/3) that the local branch of UN Women was dropping its contracts with G4S, making it the 5th UN agency based in Jordan to cut ties with the UK security contractor.


The University of Michigan’s (UM) central student govt. passed (11/15) a resolution calling on the Board of Regents to assemble a comm. to investigate the university’s investments in 3 companies complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands—Boeing, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and United Technologies. BDS activists at UM have been pushing for a divestment resolution since at least 2014. Each previous attempt failed, in part, because of intervention from pro-Israel groups outside the school.


Following in the footsteps of Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Thurston Moore, Lauryn Hill, and others, New Zealand pop star Lorde joined the cultural boycott of Israel this quarter. An open letter published at The Spinoff initially called (12/20) on the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter to consider canceling the Tel Aviv stop on her 2018 world tour. Boycott activists all over the world echoed the letter’s sentiments, and a few days later, Lorde made her announcement. “I’ve received an overwhelming number of messages and letters and have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show,” she wrote, without specifically mentioning the BDS movement. “I pride myself on being an informed young citizen, and I had done a lot of reading and sought a lot of opinions before deciding to book a show in Tel Aviv, but I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one.”

Apart from high-profile moves like Lorde’s, there was evidence that the cultural boycott was growing in quiet ways. On 1/21, Haaretz reported that Israeli theaters had been struggling in recent years to secure rights to perform plays by international playwrights. “Only in a few cases are hints offered as to the reason for the refusal,” the report stated. “But the Israeli recipients have no doubts: It’s not only touring musicians who decide to skip Israel after receiving a polite request from Roger Waters, or academics who choose to avoid mingling with Israeli colleagues at professional conferences.”

This quarter also saw the BDS debate resume within the ranks of the UK Labour Party. Following comments opposing BDS by shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry in 11/2017, shadow international development secretary Kate Osamor quote-tweeted (12/9) an explanation of the BDS movement from the Institute for Middle East Understanding using the hashtags “#freedom,” “#justice,” and “#equality.” Boycott activists in the United Kingdom lauded her comments, prompting the press to ask Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to reconcile the divide within his shadow cabinet. “Jeremy is not in favor of a comprehensive or blanket boycott. He doesn’t support BDS,” a spokesperson told The Guardian on 12/13. “He does support targeted action aimed at illegal settlements and occupied territories.”

Also of note: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven), a research university in Flanders, Belgium, announced (12/6) that it would not be renewing its participation in a project, dubbed LAW-TRAIN, which involved researchers from Bar-Ilan University and Israel’s Public Security Ministry. According to a report in the Electronic Intifada, LAW-TRAIN began in 5/2015 with the goal of “harmonizing and sharing interrogation techniques between the countries involved, in order to face the new challenges in transnational criminality.” Explaining the decision not to renew KU Leuven’s participation, university rector Luc Sels wrote, “The participation of the Israeli Public Security Ministry indeed poses an ethical problem taking into account the role which the strong arm of the Israeli government plays in enforcing an unlawful occupation of the Palestinian territories and the associated repression of the Palestinian population.” In a similar move, the Tshwane University of Technology’s governing council decided (11/24) that the South African university would not be entering into any scientific partnerships with any Israeli organization until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian territory (Electronic Intifada, 12/13).


In an unusual development, the New Orleans City Council unanimously approved (1/11) a nonbinding resolution “encouraging the creation of a process” to help the city divest from contractors that profit from human rights abuses. Palestinian solidarity activists, some of whom helped draft the resolution, celebrated the vote as a victory for the BDS movement. Following pressure from pro-Israel groups, however, City Council president Jason Williams said (1/17) he was not aware of the resolution’s connection to the BDS movement and that the council would be reconsidering the measure. “Let me be very clear to citizens of New Orleans and citizens of the world—this City Council is not anti-Israel,” he said. On 1/25, the council unanimously voted to rescind the measure.


As has increasingly been the case in recent years, Hollywood produced the highest profile boycott-related development of the quarter. The Genesis Prize Foundation, which annually awards individuals “who inspire others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and/or the State of Israel,” cancelled (4/19) its annual award ceremony when this year’s recipient, Academy Award-winning actor Natalie Portman, decided she would not be traveling to Israel to accept the $2 million prize in 6/2018. Portman, an avowed Zionist and dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, said she did “not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” due to “recent events” that were “extremely distressing to her,” according to her representatives. Coming amid reports of a mounting death toll in Gaza, the announcement made international news, with Palestinian solidarity activists pleasantly surprised by her apparent reversal on Israel and defenders of Israel shocked at her apparent betrayal. Less than twenty-four hours later, Portman clarified, on Instagram, that her decision was not meant to signal support for BDS. “My decision [. . .] has been mischaracterized by others,” she wrote. “I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing [Israeli prime minister] Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony. [. . .] Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.”

Meanwhile, boycott activists launched two major new campaigns this quarter. On 3/28, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) published an open letter calling on the online television and movie screening service Netflix to remove the Israeli drama Fauda from its offerings. They argued that the show, which depicts the actions of an undercover Israeli soldier in the West Bank, served as “racist propaganda for the Israeli occupying army.” PACBI also threatened legal action should Netflix ignore their campaign. Second, BDS Argentina launched a campaign in 4/2018 calling on the country’s national soccer team to cancel a friendly match scheduled for 6/9 in Tel Aviv. With the hashtag #ArgentinaNoVayas, the campaign gained momentum through the end of the quarter.

Ireland was a hotbed of boycott-related activity. On 3/22, nearly two-thirds of the student body at Trinity College Dublin voted for a measure calling on their student union to adopt a long-term policy in support of BDS. The following month, the Irish National Teachers’ Organization (INTO), the country’s largest teachers’ union, unanimously approved (4/4) a motion calling on INTO to address Israel’s abuses of Palestinian children and mandating INTO leaders raise the issue with “the relevant government departments.” The following day, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), representing approximately 374,000 students at universities and colleges across the country, approved (4/5) a similar measure. “The students of Ireland have today made the historic decision to support the people of Palestine,” USI president Michael Kerrigan said (4/5). Finally, the Dublin City Council unanimously approved (4/9) a motion endorsing BDS and committing the city to ending contracts with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and its subsidiary DXC, both accused of supporting the Israeli occupation.

In the United States, the Durham City Council in North Carolina unanimously voted (4/9) to block the city’s police department from participating in any “military-style” training programs abroad, including those in Israel. Likewise, in Italy, the University of Pisa’s student government adopted (3/24) a motion calling for the university’s administrators to “condemn [the Israeli] regime” and “reject any contracts with Israeli universities committed to supporting the state of apartheid imposed on the Palestinian territories.”


The U.S. academy was the primary arena for divestment-related action this quarter, and BDS proponents achieved a string of victories. In a referendum at the University of Minnesota, the student body called (3/11) on the university’s administrators to divest from companies deemed complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. Second, Barnard College students approved a similar divestment measure on 4/18, with 64 percent of the votes in favor. However, Barnard’s president Sian Beilock rejected the call on 4/23, informing the students that she would not consider divestment action until a clear consensus formed across the Barnard community (fewer than half of all enrolled students voted in the referendum). Finally, George Washington University’s student senate passed (4/23) a resolution calling on their administrators to divest from nine companies that were contributing to abuses of Palestinian human rights: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Elbit Systems, Caterpillar, CEMEX, General Electric, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Motorola Solutions.

                On 20 November, Human Rights Watch released a 65-page report titled “Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land: Tourist Rental Listings in West Bank Settlements”, detailing how the travel companies Airbnb and facilitate short-term rentals by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The report had been sent out to Airbnb and prior to its release and Airbnb responded by issuing a press release on 19 November stating that the company will pull approximately 200 of its listings that are located in the West Bank. Airbnb further stated that it would continue to offer listings in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and that the company does not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Despite these caveats, Airbnb was accused of being anti-Semitic and discriminatory, and the Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin instructed his ministry to restrict Airbnb’s operations throughout Israel. Prominent Jewish groups in the U.S. similarly responded with criticism of Airbnb, illustrating the ideological conflation of the West Bank settlements with the State of Israel. Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, for example, penned an open letter stating that Airbnb’s decision would help the BDS movement “isolate and delegitimize the State of Israel.” Palestine Liberation Organization secretary-general Saeb Erakat responded to Airbnb’s move saying, “while we believe that this is an initial positive step, it would have been crucial for Airbnb to follow the position of international law that Israel is the occupying power and that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute war crimes.” Among the backlash to Airbnb’s decision was a lawsuit filed against the company in a U.S. federal court in Delaware on 23 November where 18 Americans sued Airbnb for discriminating based on religious grounds. 11 of the plaintiffs own settlement property in the West Bank and have previously rented out their property via Airbnb, 7 of the plaintiffs were people wanting to rent in West Bank settlements in the future. On 11 December, Mondoweiss reported that Airbnb’s implementation of its new policy towards the West Bank also barred Palestinians from renting out their property through Airbnb. Later on 17 December, Tourism Minister Levin wrote on Facebook that Airbnb had suspended the implementation of its West Bank settlements policy after a meeting with him, however this claim was debunked by Airbnb the following day.

                The head of Vermont State Police and the police chief of Northampton Massachusetts cancelled their training trip to Israel scheduled for 2–11 December after a group of local residents, including members of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) confronted them about the trip. The week-long seminar and training with Israeli police were organized and funded by the ADL. The ADL have held their Leadership, Resilience and Counter-Terrorism Seminar across the U.S. since 2002 and the two New England police officials’ withdrawal is the first in the program’s history. The withdrawals from the program comes a month after the Researching the American-Israeli Alliance and JVP published their joint report “Deadly Exchange – The Dangerous Consequences of American Law Enforcement Trainings in Israel,” which exposes the real-life deadly consequences of the training trips mentioned above.

                The BDS movement also witnessed big victories in resolutions made by student organizations in North America. In Canada the largest student organization, Canadian Federation of Students, voted to support the BDS movement on 19 November. The vote came after Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau condemned the BDS movement on 7 November, connecting it to anti-Semitism. At New York University, the Student Government Assembly passed a resolution to divest from companies associated with human rights violations by Israel. Furthermore, the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom (UK) divested from 3 companies target by Palestine solidarity activists: Airbus, United Technologies, and Keyence Corporation, all of which trade military equipment with Israel. The University of Leeds sold off their shares on 15 October and later released a press statement suggesting that the divestment was part of a “climate active strategy” and that the university does not have a BDS policy. However, as University of Leeds Palestine Solidary Group pointed out, the university still owns shares in Shell and BP, suggesting that the divestment in fact was a result of Palestine solidarity activists’ campaign.   

                On 19 November, the Quakers in Britain announced that they would not invest their funds in companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine. The decision made the church the first to do so in the UK. In its announcement, the church drew parallels to similar policies held by the church during Apartheid South Africa.   

                The Irish Senate passed the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill on 5 December, banning the import and sale of goods originating in West Bank settlements. The bill will have to pass the lower house to be implemented. A lower house vote is expected in early 2019. The Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nashon called the bill the “most extreme anti-Israel piece of boycott legislation in Europe.” In Chile, the country’s congress approved on 29 November a resolution banning products made in West Bank settlements and forcing the government to reexamine all agreements with Israel to ensure that they do not violate the new resolution. In the UK, the Labour Party voted on 25 September at its annual conference to call for an immediate freeze on UK arms sales to Israel. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn also said at the conference that he would recognize a Palestinian state if his party wins the majority in the next British parliamentary elections.     

                The 7th largest bank in the world, HSBC, confirmed on 23 December that it had decided to divest from the Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems after a large-scale campaign including 24.000 emails and picketing in front of 40 branches of HSBC throughout the UK. The campaign started after War on Want released the report “Deadly Investment” in July 2017 and sent a letter in September 2018 to HSBC detailing Elbit’s complicity in deadly violence against Palestinian civilians.

                The American singer Lana Del Ray announced on 31 August via tweet that she would not perform at the Meteor Festival from 6 to 8 September in Israel. In her tweet she wrote that she was postponing her appearance “until a time when I can schedule visits for both my Israeli and Palestinian fans.” Del Ray’s decision came after pressure from a joint campaign by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and JVP which gathered 15,000 signatures. Del Ray was the 8th artist to cancel her performance at the Meteor Festival.    


                The European song contest Eurovision which will be held in Tel Aviv in May, after the Israeli contestant won the competition last year, received calls in January to boycott. A campaign to move the contest to a different country was launched immediately after the Israeli contestant won in 2018 and Eurovision declined to have the competition held in Jerusalem, which is why it is slated to be held in Tel Aviv. On January 29, the British newspaper The Guardian published an open letter signed by 50 British artists to BBC, urging them to join the call to have Eurovision relocated to a different country. BBC declined the call, arguing that it would be “inappropriate to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons.” 60 international NGOs also joined the campaign to move Eurovision to a different country. On 4 March, members of the Icelandic band Hatari declared that they would protest Israeli policies while in Israel for the contest.


Amnesty Report

                Amnesty International released a 96-page report on 30 January titled “Destination: Occupation” detailing how Airbnb,, Expedia, and TripAdvisor profits from Israeli settlements in the West Bank by advertising hotels, B&Bs, attractions, and tours in Israeli settlements. In the report, Amnesty called on the 4 companies to stop doing business in and with Israeli settlements. “In doing business with settlements, all four companies are contributing to, and profiting from, the maintenance, development and expansion of illegal settlements, which amount to war crimes under international criminal law. . . . Their promotion of Israeli settlements in the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories] as a tourist destination also has the effect of “normalizing,” and legitimizing to the public what is recognized under international law as an illegal situation.” In November, Human Rights Watch released a report titled “Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land: Tourist Rental Listings in West Bank Settlements,” making a similar conclusion but limited their findings to Airbnb and That report prompted Airbnb to reevaluate its policy toward listings in the West Bank (see Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions 16 August- 31 December 2018). After a storm of criticism from Israeli and American officials and organizations, Airbnb clarified its framework for evaluating listings in “disputed areas” and added South Ossetia and Abkhazia to the list of places that they will be removing their rental listings from. Airbnb still has listings in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. On 1 March, Texas placed Airbnb on its blacklist for companies that boycott Israel, which after 90 days will require the state to “sell, redeem, divest, or withdraw all publicly traded securities of the company.” Similar legislation was passed in Florida and Mississippi (see United States).



                The Dutch GroenLinks (GreenLeft) party voted on 16 February to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement at a general congress meeting of the party. GroenLinks has 14 out of 150 seats in the lower house of the Dutch parliament. The motion passed by the GroenLinks party stated, “BDS is a legitimate means to help Palestinians in their fight for justice.”

                The governing council of California-based Pitzer College voted to suspend its partnership with University of Haifa on 14 March. It was vetoed 3 hours later by Pitzer College president Melvin Oliver. Also in March, students at Brown University and Swarthmore College passed non-binding resolutions to have their universities divest from Israeli companies.

                A U.S. federal judge in Washington D.C. dismissed a lawsuit against the American Studies Association (ASA) over the association’s decision to support academic boycotts of Israeli institutions. The ASA’s resolution to support academic boycotts of Israel was passed in 2013 and the lawsuit against the ASA was brought forward in 2016.

                After announcing in November 2018 that Airbnb was removing its listings in the occupied West Bank, the company released a statement saying it had reversed its decision as part of a legal settlement with hosts and potential hosts in the West Bank. Airbnb said in the statement that it will not profit from the listings and the profits generated would go non-profit organizations “that serve people in different parts of the world.” Finally, Airbnb stated that it “has always opposed the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement.” The lawsuit, which was settled on 8 April, was organized by the pro-Israel law organization Shurat Hadin-Israel law Center. The Palestine Liberation Organization secretary general Saeb Erakat said in a statement that Airbnb’s decision “signals the complicity of the company with the systematic denial of our inalienable right to self-determination,” and said of the donation of its profit from the West Bank was “a shameful attempt at whitewashing their complicity.”

                Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, passed a motion condemning the BDS movement as anti-Semitic. The motion urges the German government not to support projects cooperating with or actively calling for boycotts of Israel. A long list of Jewish scholars called on the German parliament not to equate BDS with anti-Semitism prior to the vote.

                The co-founder of the BDS movement Omar Barghouti was denied entry to the U.S. for a speaking tour (see United States).

                The University of Maryland student government voted down a resolution to divest from companies doing business in Israel that “are contributing to and/or exacerbating egregious human rights violations in occupied Palestine.”

                The faculty of the New York University’s (NYU) Department of Social and Cultural Analysis voted in favor of a resolution of non-cooperation with NYU’s Tel Aviv campus. The resolution means that the department will not sponsor faculty and student exchanges with the Tel Aviv campus, but does not prevent students and faculty from conducting research in Tel Aviv.

                The British Society for Middle Eastern Studies endorsed BDS after a vote at its annual general meeting.

                According to the Electronic Intifada, the Canadian engineering company Bombardier pulled back its bid to expand and operate an Israeli tramway linking Israeli settlements in the West Bank with Jerusalem.         

                Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter issued a statement opposing anti-BDS legislation. “U.S. courts have protected the right of individuals to participate in boycotts as a form of political protest. The same protection applies to the right to advocate or oppose BDS. The House of Representatives should reject this [BDS Act of 2019] unconstitutional bill.”

                A federal judge in Texas ruled on 25 April that it was against the 1st Amendment that a Texan speech pathologist lost her job for refusing to sign a pro-Israel oath. The judge found that Texas could not prohibit its employees from boycotting Israel.

               There were some big wins for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement this quarter, including the labeling of settlement products in Canada. A court in Canada ruled that wine made in Israeli settlements must be labelled as such rather than “Products of Israel,” calling the mislabeling “inaccurate and misleading.”

               The supreme court of New York annulled Fordham University’s 2016 decision not to allow students to open a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on campus. The university decided to veto the student government’s decision to approve SJP, leading to students suing the university. The University of Illinois in Rockford tried to prevent a group called Truth Squad of Rockford from renting space available for off-campus groups because the Israeli-American pro-Palestine activist Miko Peled would be speaking. After Palestine Legal intervened, the university allowed the event to take place as Palestine Legal pointed out that it would be unconstitutional for a public entity to engage “in viewpoint or content-based discrimination.”

               The German city Aachen withdrew the Aachen Art Prize of $10,900 given to artist Walid Raad. The city’s mayor cited Raad’s support of the BDS movement. Similarly, the German city of Dortmund withdrew the Nelly Sachs award worth $17,600, given to the author Kamila Shamsie, over her support for the BDS movement. Subsequently, more than 250 writers signed an open letter criticizing the city from stripping Shamsie of the award, “punishing an author for her human rights advocacy.”

               The council of the British town Tower Hamlets refused to host a charity named the Big Ride for Palestine. According to documents obtained by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign via a freedom of information request, the council was worried that the language on the Big Ride for Palestine’s website violated the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism. (For more about the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism, see the IPS publication Zionism, Israel, and Anti-Semitism: Dangerous Conflation.)

               For anti-BDS legislation, see United States.

Quarterly Updates for (1 Jan 1970 — 1 Jan 1970)

Two major organizations lent their support to the BDS movement this quarter. On 8/1, the Black Lives Matter movement, a coalition of over 50 antiracism activist groups across the U.S., published its 1st-ever platform of policy positions, including several on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The platform described Israel as an “apartheid state” and endorsed BDS. The following week, Canada’s Green Party endorsed (8/8) BDS at its convention in Ottawa.