Why boycott, divest and sanction Israel? The Electronic Intifada provides some answers:
…Veterans of the South Africa anti-apartheid campaign who led a successful boycott have also stressed the need to stand with indigenous communities. Boycott is a move to heed the voice of an oppressed group and follow its lead. The idea is that there are no movements out of Tibet, in the case of Chinese oppression, or Iraq in the case of the American occupation, that are calling for boycott and for the international community to respond to that call. This is important! The BDS movement comes from within Palestinian society and it is this factor that makes it so powerful and effective. If there were calls for the boycott of places like the US, China or North Korea coming from those the governments oppress, then it would be worthwhile to listen to such calls.
Naomi Klein’s original comment that BDS is not dogmatic but tactical is crucial, in that the movement does not claim that BDS can successfully be used in fighting all oppression wherever it is, but that in certain cases of apartheid and colonial oppression, this tool is highly effective. The case of Israel proves very salient here because it receives an almost surreal amount of aid and foreign investment from around the world, most notably the US, with which it enjoys a special status. This makes the daily operations of the Israeli state and its institutions far more accountable to the international community than a place like Sudan, frequently brought up by boycott critics because of the violence in Darfur. It also means, in the case of economic boycott and divestment, that the international community is withdrawing its gifts and support, rather than allowing it to enjoy its special status — hardly a punishment. It is the high level of support that Israel enjoys that makes it susceptible to BDS, whereas in some of the other countries that are often promoted in debates for boycott, as Klein says, “there are [already] very clear state sanctions against these countries.”