top of page

Three Things You Need to Know about BDS

Dexter Van Zile

During Thanksgiving, Christian leaders will sit around the table with their friends and relatives and talk about the issues of the day.


If you have college-age students in your household, they might talk about BDS activism taking place on their campuses, and they might ask you to introduce the movement into the church.


If that happens, there are three things you need to know about the campaign to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel.

One: The BDS movement got its start in Iran, not the West Bank.

The official story is that BDS was started in 2005 when a group of so-called “civil society” institutions in the West Bank issued a statement calling for an academic and economic boycott of Israel. Wrong.

As documented by the website, Legal Insurrection, BDS got its start at a meeting held by so-called human rights activists who gathered in Iran in February, 2001. They met seven months before the UN Conference against Racism took place in Durban, South Africa. At a planning session in Tehran, anti-Israel activists prepared a resolution declaring Israel to be an “Apartheid” state – a state that, in their opinion, should to be isolated from the international community and world economy, just as South Africa was in the 1980s.


The unveiling of this resolution in Durban initiated a cauldron of Jew-hatred that bedevils the world nearly 20 years later. The words put down on paper in Tehran and distributed in Durban cast an evil spell at the conference. Emboldened by the text of the resolution, Israel-haters handed out leaflets that lamented that Hitler did not “finish the job” during the Holocaust.

Arab lawyers handed out propaganda that equated the Star of David with the Nazi Swastika. The message was clear: Jews are the new Nazis. The atmosphere at the conference became so hostile that organizers told Jews in attendance they could not vouch for their safety.

Indeed, while the event was in session, a Jewish doctor was beat up in Cape Town by two men wearing checkered keffiyehs – the symbol of the Palestinian cause. The attackers said Jews were the cause of all the problems in the Middle East. Local Jewish leaders attributed the attack to the atmosphere at the UN Conference.

The hostile atmosphere in Durban revealed what BDS is really all about: the ostracizing, intimidating and endangering of Jews. At its core, the BDS movement demonizes Israel and seeks to isolate Jews from the rest of humanity.

This should come as no surprise. BDS got its start in Iran, where its leaders regularly call for Israel’s destruction.

Two: Currently, the leadership of the BDS campaign is controlled by Palestinian extremists who live in Israel and the West Bank and actively seek Israel’s destruction.

Omar Barghouti, one of the leading lights of the BDS movement in the Holy Land has declared, “No Palestinian . . . will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine."

To make matters worse, many Palestinian BDS activists are affiliated with terrorist organizations that have murdered Israeli and American Jews. As documented by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the membership of the Palestinian BDS National Committee includes an umbrella group called Palestinian National and Islamic Forces.

Members of this group include Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). These are all organizations whose members have murdered Israeli civilians. These groups do not support BDS because it’s a method of peaceful protest, but because it broadcasts a story that justifies their violence.


The third thing you need to know about BDS is that it’s not about peace. In reality, the movement is all about demonizing Israel and ostracizing Jews in American society.

If you look at the divestment resolutions put before the national assemblies of mainline Protestant churches in the U.S., you’ll see the problem. Invariably, these resolutions condemn Israeli efforts to defend its citizens, but offer little, if any condemnation of Palestinian misdeeds.

In the narrative used to justify BDS, everything is always Israel’s fault. Nothing the Palestinians do is worthy of condemnation.  No mention is made of the incitement against Jews on Palestinian television, and nothing is said about the peace offers from Israel that Palestinian leaders routinely turn down.

Nothing is said about the money the Palestinian Authority gives to the families of terrorists who have murdered Israeli children.

And no mention is made about how Hamas has been launching rockets into Israel ever since 8,000 Jews were removed from their homes in the Gaza Strip in 2005.

The bottom line is – divestment resolutions have nothing to do with peacemaking, but have everything to do with demonizing Israel.

Christians who support the biased, disingenuous BDS movement are more interested in promoting hatred of Israel than they are interested in promoting the love of Jesus.

And it shows.

The churches that support BDS are shrinking. They are dying.

The reason is simple: People don’t go to church to learn how to hate or demonize. They go to church to get the help they need to raise their families and to teach their children about Jesus.

If you allow your church to be hijacked by BDS activists, your church’s ability to evangelize and minister to those in need will be crippled.

Keep BDS out of your churches and have a good Thanksgiving!

bottom of page