Political Corner: What is BDS and what does it have to do with me?

The Palestinian movement is a non-violent response to colonization

Palestinians deserve to wave their flag without fear. PHOTO: Latrach Med Jamil / Unsplash

By Anonymous Jewish Student

BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions and was an international call made by the Palestinian Civil Society organization in 2005. 

BDS calls for non-violent pressure on the state of Israel to comply with international law by meeting three demands

  • the end of the illegal occupation and colonization of Palestinian land and the dismantling of the separation wall, 
  • recognizing fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to live equally, and 
  • the promotion to right of return for refugees who were forcefully expelled from their homes in 1948 by ethnic cleansing. 

BDS is not an isolated campaign. Rather, it needs to be understood as a non-violent tactic in the broader struggle for Palestinian freedom that has been ongoing since 1948. As a result, BDS is only one path to fight for the freedom of Palestinians from colonization. The call for BDS is a call to hold Israel and the international community accountable

for its human rights violations in Palestine. Israel has built a “separation” wall forcing Palestinians to go through hundreds of checkpoints. When Palestinians tried to resist, they were harassed and dehumanized. Israel controls the airspace, commerce, and water of both Gaza and the West Bank, among many other human rights violations. A common argument in the defense of Israel is that it is a victim of bullying by the surrounding countries — yet it has invaded and occupies the Golan Heights which belong to Syria, and has invaded Lebanon.

It is important to remember that BDS emerged as a form of resistance against colonization and ethnic cleansing only after previous so-called “negotiations” have repeatedly failed. As Palestine has constantly been under attack, asked to give up more land in return for less rights, saying this movement is too harsh stems from a flawed belief there is a level playing field between the oppressor and the oppressed.

But what does any of this have to do with us at SFU? For starters, the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) voted in support of BDS. The BDS call, as it might apply on campus, seedivestment from companies, institutions, and other organizations that work on or uphold the illegal occupation of Palestine and violate Palestinian human rights. For example, students should consider boycotting HP and Puma since the former “provides technology to the Israeli army” while the latter operates on “illegal Israeli settlements.”

The call for BDS on campus is not just about individual choice, but rather, a collective action to hold institutional bodies accountable for what we see as an attack on human rights. 

Life on campus will not drastically change for students on campus of any identity. BDS is not about the exclusion or abuse of Jewish students and neither is it about attacking Jewish institutions. In fact, there are many Jewish students, like myself, who are joining the call for BDS and demand that Israel stop its human rights atrocities

A few ways students can support this movement is by talking to your department student union or worker’s union to take up a motion for Palestine, bring this issue up at elections to see what your representatives are doing to support Palestine, put pressure on SFU to voice its support of Palestinian students, and continue to be active in various local and international actions of divestment and boycott. BDS is about including Palestinians in the conversation when discussing human rights and standing up in defence of Palestine for the injustice it endures.