"Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" (BDS) refers to a campaign which 171 Palestinian non-governmental organizations initiated on July 9, 2005 to pressure Israel to "compl[y] with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights." The campaign's priorities are:
"Ending [Israel's] occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall" (i.e., the anti-terrorism Separation Barrier in the West Bank);
"Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;" and
"Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194."
The BDS movement seeks to compel the divestment of funds from American companies based in Israel, and from companies that do business with Israel -- in an effort to cripple that nation's economy. To encourage such divestment, BDS depicts Israel as a pariah state that practices apartheid and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians. Ultimately, BDS seeks to force Israel to abandon, internally, its Jewish character, and externally, its sovereignty.
The delegitimization strategy waged against Israel today, and particularly its apartheid component, owes much to the Soviet Union. As the international campaign against Israel waged by states aligned with the USSR escalated during the 1970s, the apartheid analogy came into play. The clearest example of this was Resolution 3379, passed by the UN General Assembly in 1975 with active Soviet encouragement, which categorized Zionism as a form of racism. By bracketing Zionism with apartheid and racism, the Resolution effectively said that Israel was not a state but a toxic growth within the international system.
The apartheid analogy is found in many places: in the Iranian press; on Arab satellite television channels; in the academic boycott motions submitted to British academic unions in 2005, 2006, and 2007; on American university campuses; and, most importantly, in the corridors of the United Nations, where many officials still behave as though Resolution 3379, revoked in 1991, is still on the books. The UN continues to sponsor conferences and meetings, such as the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, that are little more than excuses to pile opprobrium upon Israel and give ammunition to the divestment movement. Implicit within the accusation that Israel practices apartheid is the recommendation for that country's termination -- a chief objective of many calling for a boycott of Israel.