They Say, We Say: "What about boycotts and divestment efforts targeting the occupation?"

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

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BDS & Criticism of Israel

They Say:

What about boycotts and divestment efforts targeting the occupation? Isn't this just another pretext to delegitimize and attack Israel?

We Say:

There is a growing movement seeking to focus boycott and divestment efforts on settlements and the occupation, supported by activists who are neither anti-Israel nor anti-Semitic. This effort is gaining traction as a direct consequence of Israeli policies that are deepening the occupation to the point of potential irreversibility in the near term, in tandem with the apparent inability or unwillingness of governments around the world to in any meaningful way challenge these policies.

We believe that activists who seek to focus boycott and divestment efforts squarely on the occupation and settlements deserve credit. Indeed, APN long ago suggested that activists focus on opportunities for people to "invest for peace" - supporting companies and projects whose work is consistent with peace, coexistence, and the two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict - and on raising awareness about companies based in or operating in settlements, to permit people to make informed choices about their investment options. We recognize, too, that some companies play a role in enabling the occupation and supporting settlements. Some do so directly, for example by investing in settlements; others do so indirectly and perhaps unknowingly - for example through the sale of equipment used both in Israel and in settlements.

We believe it is legitimate for activists to press companies to adopt practices that deny support to settlements and the occupation, including through targeted boycotts and divestment. Narrowly targeting such activism presents serious challenges: absent a peace agreement, Israel has undeniable security needs related to the occupied territories, for example, securing its border with Jordan and preventing terrorism emanating from the West Bank into Israel. In many cases, like these, the line between contributing to the occupation and permitting Israel to address legitimate security concerns is not clear. Nonetheless, if careful enough distinctions are drawn, such activism can advance the goals of ending the occupation and promoting peace and a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In short, the legitimacy and effectiveness of settlement- and occupation-focused activism will be a function of how its proponents address these challenges. To the extent that such efforts can be portrayed by critics as ignoring or dismissing Israel's legitimate security needs, or as blurring the line between Israel and the occupied territories, they have the potential to be as problematic and counterproductive as efforts directly targeting Israel. Moreover, they risk playing into the hands of settlers and their supporters who gladly blur this same line and who are eager to denounce all anti-settlement and anti-occupation activism as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.