The Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel appears to have gained new followers in India amidst heightened tensions between Israel and Palestine. Sharjeel Usmani, known hatemonger, has jumped on the BDS bandwagon and has asked people to boycott brands such as Puma and HP.
As the name suggests, the BDS Movement is intended to pressure Israel into conceding to Palestinian demands through a consumer boycott of brands. BDS is based on the notion that Israel is a colonising force in the region which is denying Palestinians basic human rights.
According to the website promoted by Sharjeel Usmani, “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.”
“Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law,” it adds.
The BDS Movement was established in 2005 and has since then gained significant support from people from the Muslim community worldwide. The website further claims, “Thanks to strategic and creative campaigns taking place across the world, the BDS movement is having a real impact and inspiring many to act for justice. The best way to contribute to the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom, justice and equality is to get involved in a BDS campaign in your city or country.”
The BDS Movement maintains that Israel is a regime of “settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation”. It boasts of prominent supporters among its ranks, including US Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.
Israel reaction to BDS Movement
Israel has two specific laws related to countering BDS. One passed in 2011 criminalises calls for boycotting Israel and another passed in 2017 that bars foreigners who support such boycotts from entering Israeli territory. Israel had used the 2017 law to deny entry to the two US Congresswomen.
Israel maintains that the movement is motivated by antisemitism and bigotry towards all Jews. Critics of the movement claim that BDS links to terrorism sympathizers and Islamic terror networks. The specific calls to boycott HP is motivated by allegations that the brand supplies Israel with products that are used to restrict Palestinian rights related to freedom of movement.
The campaign against HP and Puma
The campaign was launched in 2016 for “their role in providing key services and technology infrastructure that enable the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands and suppression of Palestinian human rights. This includes specialized technology made by HP companies that is used to support Israel’s military checkpoints, segregated ID system, illegal settlements, prison system, and naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
The campaign against Puma is over the fact that the brand has a sponsorship deal with the Israel Football Association. Consequently, more than 200 Palestinian Sports Clubs had urged Puma to end the deal. The statement said, “There are six Israeli football clubs located in Israel’s settlements, on stolen Palestinian land, that Palestinians are not allowed to enter. Israel’s settlements contribute to serious human rights abuses and are a direct cause for restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement, access to natural resources and ability to build homes and conduct business.”
The BDS also has great support from leftists in western countries. Jacobin Mag, a popular American left-wing portal, published an article titled “Why You Should Support BDS Against Israel” during the ongoing crisis. The article argued, “At its core, the movement calling to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel is about defunding apartheid and military occupation. It’s a movement that’s worth supporting.”
While Palestinians have sympathies from progressive circles in the USA, politicians across the board are critical of the BDS Movement, as are most progressives themselves.
Why BDS Movement lacks popular support
Andrew Yang, Mayoral candidate for New York City, had said in March, “BDS specifically as an organization, as a movement has refused to disavow extremist elements that have essentially said Israel does not have a right to exist,” Yang had said during an interview. “So that’s quite extreme.” “I do not see criticism of Israel as fundamentally anti-Semitic,” he said. “I think BDS is a very different thing than, let’s say, criticism of the Netanyahu administration or even some of Israel’s policies.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calls the movement anti-Semitic. It says, “Many of the founding goals of the BDS movement, including denying the Jewish people the universal right of self-determination – along with many of the strategies employed in BDS campaigns are anti-Semitic. Many individuals involved in BDS campaigns are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state.”
It adds, “Often time, BDS campaigns give rise to tensions in communities – particularly on college campuses – that can result in harassment or intimidation of Jews and Israel supporters, including overt anti-Semitic expression and acts. This dynamic can create an environment in which antisemitism can be expressed more freely.”
The enduring criticism of the BDS Movement is that its proponents often justify violence by Hamas, an Islamist organisation that rules Gaza, as a form of “self defense” against Israeli “terror”. Its advocates openly support the Intifada, that is, violent “uprising” against Israel which included widespread riots but was not limited to it.
The antics of Sharjeel Usmani and his comrades
Sharjeel Usmani, for instance, said, “The world has no moral right to question Hamas or any Palestinian outfit over its means of resistance if we have failed, again collectively, to establish any concrete measures to stop Israel’s occupation & terror. Whether to support or oppose Hamas is for Palestinians to decide!”
Only day ago, he was celebrating the death of Rohit Sardana. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organisation by Canada, Japan, United States, Israel and the European Union.
His comrade, Afreen Fatima, said on Sunday, “Palastine (sic) will be free! Their intifada shall crumble down the Israeli state and all it’s allies and accomplices. Their Intifada shall make the world shake. Sending prayers of strength. Intifada Inquilab!”
Coincidentally, Usmani claims to have grave humanitarian concerns about Israel but he had called Kashmiri Pandits the ‘most pampered minority group’ in India. This is after Islamic separatists in Kashmir committed a genocide of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley.
It is for such reasons and its association with extremely problematic elements that the BDS Movement attracts very little support from mainstream circles. Politically, the BDS Movement is rejected by all western countries. However, in recent times, with the rise of ‘socialists’ such as Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the movement has gained much popularity in the USA.