Opposing BDS Divestment: Talking Points

• The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement does not seek to provide substantive help to the Palestinian people or reach a just and sustainable solution for Israelis and Palestinians. The movement’s larger goals are the delegitimization and eradication of the State of Israel.

• The BDS movement’s explicit anti-normalization orientation drives its push for divestment by opposing people, institutions, or actions that express positive views about Israel or support peaceful coexistence and reconciliation. This inflexible approach leads to diatribes rather than dialogue; it bifurcates the campus conversation, offering fewer opportunities for community members to engage, reflect, share views, and grow.

• Campus divestment campaigns are symbolic gestures rather than actions with practical value. They generate media attention but do not have practical or positive effect on resolving the conflict or on university governance. No public or private university in America has divested funds from Israel or companies doing business with Israel.

• Divestment campaigns are often spearheaded by a committed and vocal minority of student and faculty activists, diverting time, attention, and funds from issues more relevant to the needs of the student body, faculty, staff, and campus community.

• A growing number of university presidents, chancellors and senior administrators have spoken publicly against BDS divestment, noting such campaigns are divisive and damaging to the campus community because they corrode the tenets of civil discourse by pitting students against each other on a politicized and ideologically-motivated subject.

• Universities should be incubators for robust debate on complex issues. BDS divestment campaigns, by contrast, tend to narrow and simplify the debate. Israel is portrayed in absolutist terms as a racist, evil state, while the Palestinian people are agentless victims suffering at the hands of Israeli brutality. Complex issues are reduced to slogans and false simplifications.

• Equating Israel with apartheid South Africa is a false analogy. Conflating the two does nothing to advance true understanding about either situation.

• Attempting to force any analysis of the conflict to conform to a rigid paradigm, such as settler colonial analysis, is specious because it denies the complexity of the conflict.

• The attempt to link divestment from Israel with other action items, like divestment from private prisons or fossil fuels, suggests that the way for students to engage with diverse issues of social justice is to support obedience to a party line. This encourages an emotional and facile approach to the issues rather than the deep and specific analysis that each deserves.