Breaking Down BDS

Graphic by Madi Reyes/Graphics Center

It’s important for anyone invested in social justice to be informed about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. In a time when social media spreads conflicting information, clarity is needed about what the organization actually targets.

Founded by Palestinian civil society representatives, the objective of the BDS movement is to put economic pressure on Israel until it complies with international law and recognizes Palestinians’ inalienable right to self-determination. 

BDS advocates for boycotting a select number of companies, rather than a laundry list of no-no’s. 

The targets are divided into four categories. The first is consumer boycott targets, which are products that BDS calls for the everyday consumer not to buy. Examples of companies under this category include HP, Chevron, and Puma. The second group is divestment and exclusion targets. These are targets that activists on the ground aren’t directly involved with, but institutions — like universities — may invest in. BDS asks activists to call for these institutions to cut financial ties. For example, BDS calls for divestment from Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms manufacturer. 

Next, pressure targets like Google are companies that BDS calls for supporters to use more than economic forms of influence to end their complicity in war crimes

Organic boycott targets were not on original BDS lists, but have been integrated into the movement. Corporations like McDonald’s faced highly publicized backlash for public support of Israel, and were later added to the list.

However, some popular targets for boycotts aren’t actually endorsed by the movement. For instance, Starbucks sued its union over a pro-Palestine post on X, sparking intense social media backlash and calls for boycotts. Despite this, Starbucks is not a BDS target.

BDS is a strategic movement. The digital delusion surrounding its campaigns may be undermining BDS’s precise, peaceful aspiration to promote a permanent cease-fire. 

Though misinformation surrounds the movement, general awareness of BDS is incredibly high. The Foghorn polled undergraduates through Fizz, asking, “Are you aware of/participating in Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel?” The poll received 1,402 votes, with a margin of error of +/-2%. The results revealed that 64% (898 votes) of students are aware of BDS and boycotting. 26% (361 votes) are aware but not boycotting, and 10% (143 votes) are unaware of BDS. It is important to note that Fizz demographics skew young, with the majority of users being freshmen and sophomores. However, these findings show that 90% of USF students are aware of BDS, a majority of which claim active participation in boycott efforts. 

Providing clarity on the BDS movement is essential to understand the context of the current political climate.

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer, Opinion Editor: Chisom Okorafor

One thought on “Breaking Down BDS

  1. Given such a complex and contentious issue, Elizabeth did a fantastic job bringing awareness to the issue while highlighting misinformation surrounding the movement. Great article!

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