FAQ

Is BDS calling for the boycott of Israeli products in general or only products made in the occupied Palestinian territories? Does it call for the boycott of all Israeli institutions, products and people ?

  • BDS calls for a boycott of all companies and products that are involved in the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Many people have said that Israel manufactures products that are useful worldwide, but that doesn’t mean it should escape accountability for its crimes against Palestinians.
  • BDS does not call for a boycott on all Israeli institutions, products, and people, rather it calls for a boycott on anything or anyone that is or who are complicit in the Israeli occupation.
  • Specifically as McGill BDS, we concentrate our efforts on putting an end to McGill’s investments in companies that profit from the occupation as well as ties with universities that are complicit in war crimes committed by Israel.

Why does BDS only target Israel when there are many other countries that violate human rights ?

  • BDS is a call by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, including those from the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories – The West Bank and Gaza), within Israel, and those in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. It is our moral obligation as privileged citizens of the world to answer that call. Boycotts only work as a tactic if many people join in – yes, you could boycott things from China, but would it make any difference ? Here, we are joining a worldwide movement that clearly does have an impact. Companies like Ahava, G4S, Orange, Veolia, and SodaStream have all either moved out of Israeli West Bank Settlements or out of Israel entirely, all within the previous year and a half. Also, more and more artists decline Israel’s invitations to perform in cultural events. Same thing when it comes to academic boycott. An increasing number of American and European academics are refusing to take part in academic activities inside Israel and refuse to deal with Israeli academic institutions.
  • Additionally, Israel is already singled out, and has been for decades. It has been exempt from criticism and has flouted of international law. The state of Israel has violated many international laws, including United Nations Resolutions, 28 resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and the Laws of War and Occupation as stated in the Fourth Geneva Convention. It has also received monetary and military aid that it could not survive or be as powerful without. For example, the U.S. – in 2016, it said it would provide Israel a record-high $38 billion in new military aid over the next ten years. Morally responsible investors have challenged corporations linked to human rights abuses in China, Burma, Sudan, Indonesia, and South Africa, but not in Israel. They have challenged corporate links with military and paramilitary forces in Colombia, Nigeria and Liberia, but not in Israel. The U.S. government has imposed sanctions on Iran, Cuba, and North Korea however Israel remains exempt from that.

Can the boycott of Israel be considered discriminatory ?

  • The boycott of Israel targets Israeli policies and systems that perpetuate the ongoing illegal occupation and settlement of Palestinian lands. The boycott does not target Israel as a whole for the sake of it, but is a tactic to  pressure the State of Israel to end its discriminatory policies towards Palestinians and Arabs living within Israel, and against Palestinians living in the occupied territories. The boycott will end once Israel meets the 3 demands of BDS. Furthermore, BDS is aimed at institutions complicit in the ongoing occupation, or an individual who is representing such institutions. It does not target individuals who have a particular national, religious, or racial background.

Why is the BDS movement subject to criminalization?

  • The BDS movement is subject to criminalization, as has been seen mostly in Canada, the U.S., and the UK, because it threatens the status quo of general Western support for Israel. Because it is dangerous to the oppressive status quo, those in power (often legislators, lobbyists, the rich) are trying to scare people and stop them from answering the BDS call. BDS is oftentimes falsely labelled as anti-Semitic, which is common Zionist rhetoric: conflating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism so that all who are critical of or oppose the State of Israel are labelled anti-Semitic. Some say that the BDS movement seeks to destroy Israel, but that is not true: the call is for Israel to end its oppressive policies and create a space safe enough for Palestinians to decide what their future will be.
  • The BDS movement opposes any form of racism and condemns  anti-Semitism. We reject the labelling of the BDS movement as anti-Semitic, as this is a smear tactic to distract people from what BDS is actually about: seeking an end to the occupation and to achieve justice for Palestinians.

Is academic boycott a violation of freedom of speech?

  • Freedom of speech is a selectively given freedom that is not available to everyone. Palestinians have been robbed of their freedom of speech time and again by Israel’s illegal occupation, which silences any form of Palestinian resistance. Moreover, Israel’s occupation makes it virtually impossible for students to get to school or university. Historically, Israel has also closed down many Palestinian universities, for months at a time, as a punitive measure against Palestinians during times of resistance, for example during the First Intifada. Israeli academia and academic institutions are also complicit in perpetuating the erasure of Palestinian culture, history, and resistance. The specific academic boycott call can be found here [http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1045].

Why do you call Israel an “apartheid state”?

  • The word apartheid has been used in reference to the state of Israel because it has different systems for different people: Palestinian/Arab citizens of Israel are tried under military law, whereas Jewish Israeli citizens are tried under civil Israeli law. There are different roads for Palestinians and Israelis: the ones Palestinians are forced to use are longer, take longer, and/or don’t go to certain places. Israeli apartheid fits the legal definition of apartheid, outlined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as a crime against humanity: “The ‘crime of apartheid’ means inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.
  • Israel’s architecture of occupation can also be related to the regime of apartheid in South Africa that ended in 1994. While we recognize that there are fundamental technical differences between Israel’s occupation and South Africa’s former apartheid system (such as the different situation depending on whether one is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, a Palestinian living in East Jerusalem, or a Palestinian living in the West Bank or Gaza; South African apartheid was also not the same kind of military occupation; Palestinian citizens of Israel are “officially” entitled to equal rights in Israel as citizens, as opposed to Palestinians living in the occupied territories. This official equality, makes the situation for Palestinian citizens of Israel very different from the legal discrimination in South Africa, where the laws of the state explicitly discriminated against blacks), Palestinians and South Africans have both been subject to apartheid and have had similar lived realities and experiences. Many South Africans who lived under apartheid visit Palestine and reaffirm that Israel’s occupation is even worse than the apartheid system. (In an article of The Guardian, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu argues that he’s “…been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.”).

Does the BDS movement at McGill include an academic boycott and why?

  • Yes. The academic boycott is an integral part of the call for BDS. McGill has ties with Israeli institutions, and the one we are currently working toward cutting ties with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, which is a key agent in Israel’s military-industrial complex. Through cooperative research programs with Israeli weapons corporations such as Elbit and Rafael, and programs with the Israeli military, Technion participates in the creation and development of technology funded by arms profiteers and the Israeli military. The arms technology/research that is developed at Technion has been used by the Israeli state and military in a variety of guises.

Why bring the BDS movement to a university campus?

  • Universities have always been locales of activism and dissent, as well as hubs of critical thinking. BDS is no different. University can often be a good place to get people engaged and thinking critically about Israel and its policies towards Palestinians. Universities have always been at the forefront of radical change on the national level, for example, in the fight against apartheid South Africa.

Why is BDS relevant to McGill? Why should McGill be involved in something as far away as Palestine/Israel?

  • There are many Palestinian students at McGill that are continuously affected by Israel’s discriminatory policies – whether they have family there or are in the diaspora and don’t have the right to return or sometimes even visit their country. These students are affected on a daily basis by Israel’s policies. McGill is also directly implicated and complicit in the Israeli occupation, as it is invested in multiple companies that profit from the occupation.