The Trump administration is cracking down against a global movement to boycott Israel. Here’s what you need to know about BDS.

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From left, Pompeo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani arrive for a press conference after their trilateral meeting in Jerusalem, Nov. 18.  (photo: Menahem Kahana—Pool / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock)
When Pompeo conflates Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) with anti-Semitism, Palestinians, as well as national and international civil rights advocates object.

By Sanya Mansoor  | Time  |  Dec 4, 2020

‘Every other form of Palestinian resistance has been criminalized and made unavailable…It’s not that BDS is integral. What do we have besides it?’
— Noura Erakat, a human rights attorney and assistant professor at Rutgers University

On the same day that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the first high-ranking American diplomat to visit an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, he also doubled down on the Trump administration’s opposition to a global pro-Palestinian movement to boycott Israel.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement relies on putting political and economic pressure on Israel. The goal is to push Israel to recognize the rights of Palestinian citizens currently living in Israel; allow Palestinian refugees, who were driven out of the country as early as 1948 when Israel was created, to return to their homes; and withdraw from all land that it seized after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, including the the occupied West Bank—which is claimed by the Palestinians.

BDS was formally launched in 2005 by a coalition of about 170 Palestinian grassroots and civil society groups. Fifteen years later, it’s grown in prominence. While it has chalked up only a few economic victories, it has garnered substantial visibility, supporters and also critics internationally, including on the U.S. college campuses, and in state legislatures and Congress.

On Nov. 19, Pompeo promised to cut federal funding for organizations supporting the BDS campaign. “We will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct, and withdraw U.S. government support for such groups,” Pompeo said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was standing nearby, replied, “It sounds simply wonderful to me.”

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