International Jewish and Israeli Support for BDS

As reported by Paul Duffill and Gabriella Skoff in Mondoweiss magazine in June 2014, there are growing calls among members of the Israeli and international Jewish community for the withdrawal of international support for Israel’s policies towards Palestinians, to support human rights and peace in the Israel-Palestine region. These calls for a withdrawal of international support often come in the form of a wide range of boycotts, divestment and sanctions activities towards Israel.

Given the attention garnered by Duffill and Skoff’s Mondoweiss article which was written back in mid-2014, this page aims to provide an update to this article as more and more prominent Israeli and international Jewish voices have come out in support of elements of the boycott movement. Unfortunately this Jewish and Israeli criticism of the state of Israel is often ignored by mainstream media. Given that Israel, as the self-proclaimed “Jewish state”, often claims to speak on behalf of all Jewish people the world over, this growing  criticism of Israel is particularly significant. This page isn’t any sort of exhaustive list but just presents some examples of prominent voices who have come out in support of a range of boycott initiatives from various sectors of the Israeli and international Jewish community.

Though not necessarily always explicitly linked to the Palestinian civil society’s 2005 Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions call, these important Israeli and Jewish voices calling for boycotts, divestment and/or sanctions do fall within the scope of the goals of the Palestinian BDS call, which calls for: an end to the occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands occupied by Israel since 1967, full equality for non-Jewish, Arab citizens of Israel, and the right of Palestinian refugees expelled or displaced during conflict in the region to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

To suggest corrections and additions for this page contact Australians for BDS.

This page shows some examples prominent Israeli and Jewish community support for various elements of the boycott movement:

Support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions in accordance with the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society:

Formal Organisations:
Individuals and Groups of Individuals:
  • 327 Jewish Holocaust survivors and descendants (Letter published August 2014)
  • Udi Aloni – Israeli-American filmmaker
  • Ariella Azoulay – Jewish Israeli academic, art curator, and film-maker
  • Judith Butler – Jewish American philosopher and gender theorist
  • Stanley Cohen – attorney based in New York with an international and criminal law practice
  • Dr Ned Curthoys – Senior Lecturer in English and Cultural Studies, University of Western Australia
  • Lawrence Davidson – Scholar
  • Uri Davis – Anthropologist
  • Marc H. Ellis – A retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author (see more)
  • Emmanuel Farjoun – Jewish-Israeli mathematician at Hebrew University
  • David Harris-Gershon – Author
  • Rachel Giora – Israeli feminist and professor of linguistics at Tel Aviv University has also responded to the BDS call in a letter
  • Denis Goldberg – A Jewish veteran anti-apartheid activist who was put on trial alongside Nelson Mandela
  • Professor Neve Gordon – Head of Department of Politics and Government at an Israeli University (see more here and here)
  • Rabbi Lynne Gottlieb
  • David Green – Jewish-American member of Jewish Voice for Peace (see more)
  • Jeremiah Haber (the nom de plume of Charles H. Manikin) – An orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor who divides his time between Israel and the United States (see more).
  • Jeff Halper –  Co-founder and Director of  the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and anthropologist
  • Ethan Heitner – cartoonist and political activist living in New York City
  • David Klein – Professor at California State University Northridge. He hosted a ‘Boycott Israel Resource Page’.
  • Naomi Klein – Jewish-Canadian journalist and author
  • Peter Kosminsky – Filmmaker
  • Micha Kurz – co-founder of Israeli veterans group Breaking the Silence and is the co-director of Grassroots Jerusalem
  • Alana Lentin– Scholar and anti-racism activist
  • Ronit Lentin – Scholar and activist
  • Steven Levitsky and Glen Weyl – “For supporters of Israel like us, all viable forms of pressure are painful. The only tools that could plausibly shape Israeli strategic calculations are a withdrawal of U.S. aid and diplomatic support, and boycotts of and divestitures from the Israeli economy. Boycotting only goods produced in settlements would not have sufficient impact to induce Israelis to rethink the status quo. It is thus, reluctantly but resolutely, that we are refusing to travel to Israel, boycotting products produced there and calling on our universities to divest and our elected representatives to withdraw aid to Israel. Until Israel seriously engages with a peace process that either establishes a sovereign Palestinian state or grants full democratic citizenship to Palestinians living in a single state, we cannot continue to subsidize governments whose actions threaten Israel’s long-term survival.”
  • Gideon Levy – A respected Israeli journalist (see more)
  • Antony Lowenstein – Jewish-Australian journalist and author (see more about the academic boycott)
  • Anat Matar – Israeli Philosopher and activist (see more)
  • Seth Morrison – An LGBTQ activist and former member of the Washington, D.C. Board of the Jewish National Fund
  • Ilan Pappé – Israeli Historian and activist
  • Miko Peled – Israeli writer and peace activist. Also see here. He is the son of one of Israel’s most famous generals, Matti Peled, who went from Israeli war hero to peacemaker.
  • Cathy Peters – Palestine solidarity activist
  • Rabbi Brant Rosen – Co-chairperson of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council
  • Sarah Schulman – Jewish-American scholar and LGBT activist
  • Simona Sharoni – Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at SUNY Plattsburgh and the author of ‘Gender and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Politics of Women’s Resistance’.
  • Henry Siegman – Former head of the American Jewish Congress, the President of the U.S./ Middle East Project and a former senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
  • Peter Slezak – Co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices, Jewish human rights activist and professor at the University of New South Wales.
  • Kobe Snitz – Jewish Israeli member of Boycott from Within
  • Marcelo Svirsky – Political scientist
  • Sahar Vardi – Peace activist and refusenik from Jerusalem
  • Jackie Walker – anti-racism activist, teacher, writer and lecturer
  • Rabbi Brian Walt – Founding executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America and member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council.
  • Michel Warschawski – Israeli journalist, writer, and founder of the Alternative Information Centre

Support for the boycott of the illegal Israeli Occupation and Jewish-only settlements built on seized Palestinian land:

Formal Organisations:
  • Americans for Peace Now (see more)
  • The Australian Jewish Democratic Society
  • Coalition of Women for Peace (Israel) – “Support the call for cultural and economic boycott, divestment and international sanctions to increase pressure on Israel from the international community.”
  • Gush Shalom – Israeli peace activism group headed by Uri Avnery
  • If Not Now – who “demand for American Jewish institutions to end their support for the occupation”. They also carry out direct action to oppose the occupation. Their position appears focus on ending American Jewish support for the occupation but they also call call for “Freedom and Dignity for All” in the conflict and oppose Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza which suggest their focus extends beyond the boycotting the occupation.
  • Jews For Justice For Palestinians
  • J Street – Take a distinct approach: “We do not oppose boycott, divestment, or sanctions initiatives that explicitly support a two-state solution, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and focus only on occupied territory beyond the Green Line…While we do not oppose these initiatives, we do not support them, either.”
  • The New Israel Fund – “If the Jewish community is looking for a kosher stamp on a settlement boycott, it should look directly at Israel and follow the lead of engaged, unapologetically patriotic Israelis who are taking a stand by boycotting settlements, including prominent academics and artists and Peace Now, which has launched a campaign: ‘So sue me, I’m boycotting settlement products.'”
  • Partners for Progressive Israel – Liberal Zionist organization in America
  • Peace Now (Israel) – (see web archive)
  • Tikkun – A magazine founded by Rabbi Michael Lerner, which brings together progressive Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, secular humanist, and agnostic/atheist voices to talk about social transformation and strategies for political and economic democratization.
Individuals and Groups of Individuals:
  • Bernard Avishai – Visiting professor of government at Dartmouth and an adjunct professor of business at Hebrew University
  • Peter Beinart – American liberal Zionist/ journalist
  • Michael Brull – Australian Jewish journalist and activist
  • Nick Dyrenfurth – Lecturer, National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University: “Personally I wouldn’t purchase products from those [West Bank] settlements.”
  • Richard Falk – Jewish-American jurist. As UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, he has recently formally recommended that UN member states, businesses and civil society impose sanctions and boycotts against Israeli settlements and international corporations supporting the occupation of Palestinian territory.
  • Zahava Gal-On – Israeli member of the Knesset and head of the Meretz party
  • Liam Getreu – Executive Director of the New Israel Fund Australia and former chair of the Australian Union of Jewish Students
  • Emily L. Hauser – Writer
  • Nathan Hersh – Former managing director of the social justice nonprofit Partners for Progressive Israel
  • Phillip Mendes – Associate Professor in the Department of Social Work, Faculty of Medicine at Monash University, and is the Director of the Social Inclusion and Social Policy Research Unit (SISPRU). Mendes is a supporter of a “two state-solution” has recommended for supporters of a two state-solution that  “a selective boycott of Israeli West Bank settlements and their products might be appropriate as opposed to the boycotting of an entire national group”.
  • J Street National poll – A settlement boycott is supported by 49 percent of American Jews under 30
  • Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun and co-founder of the inter-faith group the Network of Spiritual Progressives (also see here).
  • American Rabbi Ellen Lippmann
  • Raphael Magarik – An American Jew who graduated in English and Jewish Studies at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Naomi Paiss – Vice President of public affairs for the New Israel Fund
  • Kathleen Peratis – lawyer and former board member of the liberal Zionist group J Street
  • M.J. Rosenberg – Commentator on Israel/Palestine and former congressional aide. He supports a boycott of multinational companies that sustain the Occupation.
  • Ben Saul – Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney: “There are new policy initiatives that Australia could take to pressure Israel. First, Australia should prohibit Australians from serving as foreign fighters for Israel in the occupied territories, just as Australians are prohibited from fighting with terrorist groups. Second, Australia should prohibit all economic dealings with the Israeli government, settlements, and companies in relation to the occupied territories. This is not a call for a general boycott of Israel, but the targeting of Israeli activities violating international law.”
  • Brocha Shanes – Graduate of Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago.
  • Over 60 Israeli actors, directors and playwrights released a statement declaring that they would not perform at the new theatre in Ariel, Israel’s fourth largest settlement, or in any other settlement (2010).
  • Over 150 Israel academics have signed a petition declaring that “we will not take part in any kind of cultural activity beyond the Green Line, take part in discussions and seminars, or lecture in any kind of academic setting in these settlements” (2010).
  • Over 300 Jewish intellectuals and writers – Call for an Economic Boycott and Political Non-recognition of the Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories

Support for a military boycott of Israel:

Formal Organisations:
  • The Australian Jewish Democratic Society – They issued a statement of support for targeted boycotts, including “divestment from military Research and Development (R&D) and boycott of industrial/ military activities unrelated to Israel’s defense and security”.
  • Conscientious Objectors of the Occupation – An Israeli youth group that signed an open letter to Netanyahu “declaring their refusal of compulsory service in the Israeli military” on the grounds of their opposition to the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian territory.
  • Jews Against the Occupation (New York, see more): “The U.S. government provides more aid to Israel than to any other country—the vast majority of this is for military purposes. Billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have propped up the occupation and fueled the Israeli government’s war machine (as well as disguising the occupation’s true cost). This aid must end.”
Individuals and Groups of Individuals:
  • Noam Chomsky
  • Ricken Patel – Founding President and Executive Director of Avaaz. Avaaz has launched a petition that has gathered over 1.7 million signatures, calling for divestment from “companies and projects that finance illegal settlements and the oppressive occupation of the Palestinian people”.
  • Nobel Peace Prize laureates and celebrities call for military boycott of Israel  – Signatories include Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Ilan Pappe and other Jewish and Israeli individuals and organisations.
  • Ben Saul – Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney: “There are new policy initiatives that Australia could take to pressure Israel. First, Australia should prohibit Australians from serving as foreign fighters for Israel in the occupied territories, just as Australians are prohibited from fighting with terrorist groups. Second, Australia should prohibit all economic dealings with the Israeli government, settlements, and companies in relation to the occupied territories. This is not a call for a general boycott of Israel, but the targeting of Israeli activities violating international law.”
  • 43 veterans of one of Israel’s most secretive military intelligence units (many are still active reservists) – They signed a public letter refusing to serve in operations involving the occupied Palestinian territories because of the widespread surveillance of innocent residents.
  • Over 50 reservist soldiers in the Israeli Defence Force signed a petition – ‘We are Reservists. We Refuse to Serve
  • Over 200 Israeli and Jewish individuals signed a petition to end military aid to Israel.

Support for the boycott of Israel academic institutions:

Formal Organisations:
Individuals and Groups of Individuals:
  • Colin Dayan – Jewish-American academic
  • Peter Kosminsky – Filmmaker
  • Malcolm Levitt – Professor at Southampton University and a fellow of the Royal Society in the UK
  • Adrienne Rich – Poet
  • Over 700 Europe-based academics, ten of which are Israeli academics from various universities, called “for a European Boycott of Research and Cultural Links with Israel” (April 2002).
  • Over 150 Israel academics have signed a petition declaring that “we will not take part in any kind of cultural activity beyond the Green Line, take part in discussions and seminars, or lecture in any kind of academic setting in these settlements” (2010).

Support for the boycott of Israeli cultural institutions:

Individuals and Groups of Individuals:
  • Aharon Shabtai – Israeli poet and translator
  • Theodore Bikel – Jewish-American actor
  • Open letter in support of a cultural/ academic boycott of settlements (Signatories include Zeev Sternhell, Anat Biletzki, Shlomo Sand, Neve Gordon, Oren Yiftache). It was also supported by several prominent Israelis including, authors A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, David Grossman and Sami Michael, and Israeli memorial sculptor and Israel Prize laureate, Dani Karavan.
  • Adrienne Rich – Poet
  • Over 60 Israeli actors, directors and playwrights released a statement declaring that they would not perform at the new theatre in Ariel, Israel’s fourth largest settlement, or in any other settlement (2010).
  • Miriam Margolyes and over 1000 other artists have signed a petition to endorsing the cultural boycott of Israeli institutions. The list of signatories is here. Miriam explains the importance of the cultural boycott here.

Support for the economic boycott of Israel:

Formal Organisations:
Individuals and Groups of Individuals:
  • Noam Chomsky – Jewish-American linguist and activist
  • Norman Finkelstein – Jewish-American political scientist and activist
  • Hannan Hever – professor of Hebrew Language & Literature and comparative literature

Boycott of Israel’s Jewish-only “Law of Return”:

  • Breaking the Law of Return – Jews from the US (see an older list here). In support of BDS, they “pledge to boycott the ‘Law of Return.’ As an act of political and ideological divestment, we repudiate the claims the State of Israel makes on us as potential citizens.”
  • Other members of the Jewish community who have also come out against Israel’s law of return:
  • Avraham Burg, former Knesset speaker and former head of the Jewish Agency

Support for other aspects of the BDS tactics and goals:

Formal Organisations:
  • Scholars for Israel and Palestine – The group describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace”. It is asking the U.S. and E.U. governments to impose visa restrictions and to freeze the foreign assets of the Minister of the Economy and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin and Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever, a former Jewish Underground member who heads the Amana Organisation, which oversees the settlement enterprise, including illegal outposts. The Call’s 20 signatories include several well-known academics from UCLA to Boston College and Columbia University, including renowned political theorist Michael Walzer, professor emeritus of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. All the signatories are Zionists and are deeply opposed to academic boycotts. (see Haaretz report)
  • If Not Now – who “demand for American Jewish institutions to end their support for the occupation”. They also carry out direct action to oppose the occupation. Their position appears focus on ending American Jewish support for the occupation but they also call call for “Freedom and Dignity for All” in the conflict and oppose Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza which suggest their focus extends beyond the boycotting the occupation.
Individuals and Groups of Individuals:
  • 100 Israeli citizens sign petition: Do Not Approve Israel’s OECD Membership Until It Abides by International Law
  • Over 540 Israeli citizens call for sanctions against Israel complies with international humanitarian law: Israeli citizens calling upon international community to stop Israel (also see here and here)
  • Jews Against the Occupation (New York, see more): “The U.S. government provides more aid to Israel than to any other country—the vast majority of this is for military purposes. Billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have propped up the occupation and fueled the Israeli government’s war machine (as well as disguising the occupation’s true cost). This aid must end.”
  • Noam Chomsky – He joined a number of academics who successfully lobbied physicist Stephen Hawking to boycott the Israeli Presidential Conference held in Jerusalem in 2014.
  • Jewish students at Princeton wrote a protest letter expressing: “regret that Jewish students who support divestment from companies that profit from or enable Israel’s continued settlement construction and human rights abuses in the West Bank are outside the bounds of what Hillel International considers to be acceptable opinions” (see more).
  • Hannan Hever – Israeli professor of Hebrew Language & Literature and comparative literature. Supports economic boycott and sanctions against Israel complies with international humanitarian law.
  • Henry Siegman – Jewish-American President of the U.S./ Middle East Project and former National Director of the American Jewish Congress. He support BDS on all grounds except the academic boycott.
  • Maya Wahlmann – Jewish-American undergraduate in the History Department of Princeton University. “Seeing BDS come to campus saddens me deeply. But it’s no longer because I strongly disagree with it. What drives me to despair is the fact that my country has reached such a level of injustice that it might be necessary to take so drastic a measure to actually change something… I have by no means run the full gamut of important considerations. I do not know if BDS is the answer. But if commercial sanctions effectively pressure the Israeli government and show them that the injustice must end, potentially leading to commitment to a peaceful resolution, then who am I to stand in the way?”
  • Williamsburg Jewish community

Support for free speech and the right to speak in support BDS:

Formal Organisations:
Individuals and Groups of Individuals:
  • Israeli Foreign Ministry officials – The Foreign Ministry, led by Avigdor Lieberman, argues that an Anti-Boycott Law would play into the hands of boycott activists.
  • Naomi Pass – President of the New Israel Fund. She stated that her organization “will not disqualify organizations for funding if they support the boycott of settlement goods because we see it as entirely consistent with our opposition to the occupation, our defense of Israeli democracy and our support for a two-state solution.”
  • Over 150 U.S.-based academics, spearheaded by Jewish academic Judith Butler, and Rashid Khalidi, signed a statement condemning the “accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS.”

From Birthright to BDS:

  • The Taglit-Birthright program offers young Jews free 10-day trips to Israel. After the trip, some participants joined pro-BDS organisations (see more).
  • Some young Jews on the Israel excursion program say a rah-rah atmosphere has turned them into harsh critics of the occupation (see more).
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