Global BDS Movement – Why Sanctions?




Why Sanctions?

Given the current level and dependency of Israel upon global markets, particularly the technology and research sector, sanctions at a state, regional or institutional level may be the only effective measure to bring about effective pressure.



– Open the debate about sanctions on Israel.

– Raise awareness of Israel’s breaches of international law. A strong advocacy campaign can open up the issue to a wide audience and raise awareness of the Palestinian cause.

– Highlight international complicity with Israeli breaches of even the most basic norms of international law and Human Rights.

– Implementation of comprehensive sanctions against Israel encompassing military, trade and diplomacy ties.

– Ending of Israel’s membership of various diplomatic and economic forums including the United Nations, WHO, Red Cross, WTO and OECD.


The argument for sanctions against Israel is a powerful one as Israel is in breach of almost all its obligations under international law. In particular, Israel’s acceptance into the United Nations was conditional on its acceptance and implementation of UN Resolution 194. This resolution affirms the right of all Palestinians to return to their homes and lands from where they were exiled in 1948, requires Israel to compensate for losses, and stipulates that Palestinians must be compensated and relocated should they choose not to return to their communities. Israel refuses to abide by this resolution along with many others. Israel is also in clear breach of the fourth Geneva Convention, which is the cornerstone of international humanitarian law that ensures minimum protections for civilians in armed conflict and occupation. Sanctions would ensure that that Israeli apartheid and occupation become unprofitable and finally untenable, catalyze an anti-Zionist movement in Israeli society and boost the morale of those struggling under Occupation.

Do it yourself

The principle problem of sanctions is that action rests on states and global institutions, many of whom have a long history of supporting or implementing colonialism and occupations in the Middle East. However, a campaign for sanctions can be very effective in raising public awareness as government measures are often perceived by the general public to have more ‘legitimacy’ than boycotts and pickets by activists. There are three areas to which sanctions can be applied:

  • – Military links, including partnerships, agreements and joint operations(See the Military Ties section)
  • – Economic links, including trade, co-operation, forums, agreements, and joint research centres (See Cooperation Agreements)
  • – Diplomatic links, including relations on an official level, participation in external forums and networks and meetings between state representatives.


1. Start a letter writing campaign to your governmental representative or

Parliamentarians are often surprisingly ignorant of international politics: many are focused mostly on parochial issues. They need to be made aware that Israel’s breaches of international law are a matter of serious concern to their constituents. Start an email or post card campaign addressing your representative or organize Lobbying Days when concerned constituents speak to them in person, highlighting Israel’s breaches of International law and the situation on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza. Encourage them to raise the matter in the national parliament and call for sanctions.


2. Pressure on supra-national bodies

If you have representation in a supra-national body, apply similar pressure. For example, in summer 2004 the Non-Aligned Movement gave a hesitant indication that they might move towards sanctions. Pressure your government not to shelve this point but to implement it. If you are European citizen, find out who your member of the European Parliament is and write to them pointing at the EU Neighbourhood Policy and the free trade and research agreements with Israel and the fact that they involve Europe and its citizens directly with Israeli violations of human rights and international law. The OECD has recently invited Israel to become a member – though the state is in grave breach of many of its core principles. Join the campaign to stop their accession to membership.


3. Establish a local campaign group to put pressure on politicians

Pressure is more effective from a coordinated group than from individuals. In most countries, solidarity groups and human rights organizations have already started calls for sanctions. Join these groups or, where not possible, organize a local campaign group to spread the word about putting pressure on politicians. Draft a standard letter and circulate it by email or post. Spread the word by having your campaign group arrange meetings and speakers and invite other members of the public. Check out activist material and links for more resources.

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