As Omar Barghouti, one of the Palestinian leaders of the BDS movement, told the Forward, “Our South Africa moment has finally arrived.”
Some major Jewish groups acknowledge BDS as a possible threat. “There are clearly a number of episodes building up here that would allow advocates of a boycott to say that slowly, slowly we are achieving what we want, which is the South Africanization of Israel,” said American Jewish Committee spokesman Ben Cohen. “I’m not sure that the increase in activity is quite as dramatic as some people would believe, but it’s clear to me that this discourse of boycott is being increasingly legitimized, and it would appear that some companies are responsive to it.”
The BDS movement is highly decentralized, with each group in the coalition allowed to choose its own targets as it sees fit. It has no articulated political vision. such as a one- or two-state solution to the conflict. The principles that guide the movement — as set out in a call for boycott, divestment and sanctions issued in June 2005 by a wide group of Palestinian civil society organizations — demand instead that Israel adhere to international and human rights law. The amorphous structure and broad goals appear to be responsible for many of the group’s appeal. But some who watch this movement closely contend that, in the end, even a “targetted” boycott is ultimately aimed at all of Israel.
The actual monetary impact of the movement is often unclear. But for activists seeking as much to affect Israel’s image in the public’s mind, money is not always the bottom line.