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What is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement?

Here we provide an introduction to the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and explain our support for it.

BDS calls for the international community to put nonviolent pressure on Israel until it complies with international human rights laws, such as the Geneva Conventions and UN Resolution 242.

We view the Palestinian BDS movement as a way for civil society to hold Israel to account for its internationally condemned human rights violations.

What is the BDS movement?

The BDS movement was launched in Palestine in 2005.

According to the official BDS website “The BDS movement was launched by 170 Palestinian unions, refugee networks, women’s organisations, professional associations, popular resistance committees and other Palestinian civil society bodies.”

It is the broadest Palestinian civil society coalition.

It says “BDS is an inclusive, anti-racist human rights movement that is opposed on principle to all forms of discrimination, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia.”

BDS calls for “nonviolent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law by meeting three demands”:

  • Ending the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Syrian Golan Heights) and dismantling the wall.
  • Recognising the rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.
  • Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

BDS uses the following three methods:


The BDS website states “Boycotts involve withdrawing support from Israel's apartheid regime, complicit Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions, and from all Israeli and international companies engaged in violations of Palestinian human rights.”

Divestment campaigns

“Divestment campaigns urge banks, local councils, churches, pension funds and universities to withdraw investments from the State of Israel and all Israeli and international companies that sustain Israeli apartheid.”

Calls for sanctions

“Sanctions campaigns pressure governments to fulfil their legal obligations to end Israeli apartheid, and not aid or assist its maintenance, by banning business with illegal Israeli settlements, ending military trade and free-trade agreements, as well as suspending Israel's membership in international forums such as UN bodies and FIFA.”

Watch our video to get an overview of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

10 Ways to Support BDS

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) calls for the boycott of several companies operating globally – find out which on their website.

The BNC also says that it targets “all Israeli and international companies engaged in violations of Palestinian human rights”, and as such it’s possible for local BDS groups around the world to launch their own campaigns against specific brands.

Here we’ve compiled a list of BDS boycotts you can support in the UK in 2023.


The ‘Stop AXA Assistance to Israeli Apartheid’ coalition has called for a boycott of the insurance company over its links to Israeli banks that help maintain and expand unlawful settlements on Palestinian land. Over 10,000 people and 230 organisations have signed the pledge to boycott AXA.


In October 2022 the BDS National Committee (BNC) called for a boycott of Chevron.The BNC says Chevron has been the main international actor extracting gas claimed by Israel in the Eastern Mediterranean since 2020, and is therefore implicated in Israel’s “practice of depriving the Palestinian people of their right to sovereignty over their natural resources”. It also says that Israel illegally transfers fossil gas to Egypt through a submarine pipeline, “owing Palestinians millions in transit fees”.


The #NotInMyFridge campaign by Friends of Al Aqsa calls for a boycott of Coca-Cola because it profits from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. It states, “Coca-Cola's violates international law by operating in Atarot illegal Israeli settlement.” The campaign tweeted in May 2022 “This summer, Coca-Cola is #NotInMyFridge”.


HP provides services to the Israeli police and prison services. According to the Who Profits? website HPE was once again contracted to maintain servers for the Israeli Police until 2023.

Israeli dates

American Muslims for Palestine say that dates are regularly grown in illegal Israeli settlements. It urges people to boycott these. It says “Palestinian dates are often labeled “Grown in Palestine,” and there are a plethora of Algerian, Tunisian, Emirati, and Californian varieties to choose from.”


The #BoycottPuma campaign was launched in 2018 after 200 Palestinian sports clubs sent a letter urging it to end its sponsorship of the Israel Football Association (IFA). The IFA includes teams based in illegal Israeli settlements. The campaign also highlights the abusive treatment of Palestinian footballers, who it says are routinely attacked, imprisoned and killed. BDS says "Puma’s sponsorship brings international legitimacy to the IFA’s actions." More than 2,800 copies of a letter written by the Palestinian football club Balata were sent to the new CEO of PUMA earlier this year. The social media reach of the #BoycottPUMA hashtag has now topped 14 million and over 120k signed a SumOfUs petition to Puma.

Sabra hummus

Sabra hummus brand is part-owned by The Strauss Group. The Strauss Group is Israel's second biggest food company. The BNC says "Sabra hummus is a joint venture between PepsiCo and the Strauss Group, an Israeli food company that provides financial support to the Israel Defense Forces."


In October 2022 the BDS National Committee (BNC) called for a boycott of Siemens, stating that it helps “to fuel environmental destruction and Israeli apartheid”. Siemens won a new contract to connect Israel’s electricity grid with that of the EU (the EuroAsia Interconnector project). BDS says that if implemented, this contract would contribute to the maintenance and expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.


In 2015 after an intense boycott call, Sodastream closed the factory it ran in the illegally occupied West Bank. However, the BDS movement continues to call for a boycott, stating “SodaStream's mistreatment of and discrimination against Palestinian workers is not forgotten”.

For more information about each of these boycotts, visit our Boycotts List.

BankTrack’s 2022 report “Don’t Buy Into Occupation” examines how EU financial institutions are heavily invested in companies connected to illegal Israeli settlements.

HSBC and Barclays are listed as some of the largest lenders to settlements.

Several leading UK banks hold shares in companies that sell military technology and weapons to Israel, and provide financial loans to companies that produce weapons and military technology.

Researching whether your own bank is complicit is a good first step. You could switch bank and / or contact the company to let them know your concerns. Our ethical banking guides can help you find out more about your bank.

The campaigns section of the BDS website also lists the major ongoing campaigns organised by the BNC. Click on any one of them and scroll to the ‘Take Action’ section.

This is a great way to amplify the impact of your boycotts, for example by sharing a Tweet or doing research in your local area to support a campaign.

To take it a step further you could research more widely in your community.

For example:

  • Which company does your workplace bank with? 
  • What company is your pension with? Unison has produced a practical guide titled ‘Palestine: Is your pension investing in the occupation?’
  • Does your local community club receive funding from Puma?

Visiting your company or local organisation’s website in order to find out what other companies and institutions it has relationships with is a good way to start.

You can use the Who Profits website or a search engine to research whether these companies are complicit. Who Profits publishes links between the private sector and what it calls “the Israeli occupation industry”.

In the UK fresh produce coming from the West Bank is supposed to be labelled either “produce of the West Bank (Israeli settlement produce)” or “produce of the West Bank (Palestinian produce)”. However, there have been concerns about whether the labelling is done accurately, with produce labelled ‘Made in Israel’ or ‘Made in Palestine’ actually coming from illegal settlements.

It is therefore difficult to always know what labelling to look for. One approach could be to pay attention to the labelling, and if it states that it was made in Israel or the West Bank to then take extra steps to research or contact the company and try to trace it back to where it was grown.

If it isn't clear you may want to refuse to buy the product, email the store, or share concerns with the manager.

Getting involved in a local campaign group is the most effective way to support BDS. By doing so you’ll likely end up ticking off several actions on this top 10 list.

Activist groups are working on BDS campaigns in major cities and many smaller ones across the UK. Groups can choose campaigns suited to their members or local area. It’s then up to the group to decide how to pursue the goal - this could include for example online petitions, lobbying MPs, or demonstrations, depending on what’s most effective for the specific target.

For example, in the UK HSBC was picketed monthly over a sustained period by activist groups in different cities. Over 40 different HSBC branches were targeted by the pickets. Customers couldn’t access their bank during many of the pickets, resulting in complaints being sent to the company by disgruntled customers and activists alike! 

‘BDS’ might be in the group title, or it may be a Palestine solidarity group or a different human rights group that also supports Palestine (for example, it’s not uncommon for university Amnesty International or People & Planet societies to do some work against complicit companies). 

The BDS website or search engines can help you find local groups.

The BNC also runs the campaign ‘Apartheid Free Zones’.  

It states “Inspired by the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the Apartheid Free Zones (AFZ) campaign seeks to foster the creation of spaces free of Israel’s apartheid, including settler colonialism and military occupation, that oppresses the Palestinian people.”

It calls on people to create AFZs in their own communities. 

If for example a cultural centre, students union, or any other organisation declares itself an AFZ, this means it “commits to refraining from any kind of support or assistance to the Israeli apartheid regime”. For example, it would refuse to invest in or source products from HP.

There are AFZs all over the world - over 250 in Italy, and over 100 in Spain.

There are many websites like BDS, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and more where you can find the facts.

Speaking up in whatever way you can is valuable. Opening up with family and friends who may know little about the situation, or doing social media posts, is a good place to start.

One proactive way to speak up for BDS is to run a session on Palestine in any groups you are part of.

There are many ways to connect what is happening in Palestine and Israel to other issues.

Many LGBT* groups across the globe have become involved in the movement against ‘Pinkwashing’, for example. Al Qaws is a Palestine LGBT* organisation which is considered to have coined the term, which refers to how the Israeli state has attempted to portray itself as LGBT friendly in order to distract attention away from Palestinian human rights abuses.

Several Palestinian athletes have spoken out against Puma, which raises interesting questions that could be discussed in any sports meeting. 

There is also increasing interest in the phenomena of Veganwashing - the Israeli government and military self-promoting as friendly towards animals, in order to distract attention away from human rights abuses towards Palestinians. The Israeli military has self-promoted as the most vegan army in the world on Instagram, for instance.

UK organisation Makan can help advise how to speak about Palestine effectively and there are many useful resources on its website.

You could reach out to a Palestinian rights organisation to ask how you might effectively talk about Palestine in your local group.

BDS states “Israel’s cultural institutions are part and parcel of the ideological and institutional scaffolding of Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people. These institutions are clearly implicated, through their silence or active participation, in supporting, justifying and whitewashing Israel’s occupation and systematic denial of Palestinian rights.”

It continues “When international artists perform at Israeli cultural venues and institutions, they help to create the false impression that Israel is a “normal” country like any other. The absolute majority of Palestinian writers, artists and cultural centers have endorsed the cultural boycott of Israel, and there is a growing number of anti-colonial Israelis who support BDS, including the cultural boycott of Israel.”

One of the most well-known ways the cultural boycott is pursued is through campaigning for artists to cancel their shows in Israel. Many artists have signed up to support the boycott, such as Roger Waters, Wolf Alice and Lowkey.

Likewise, the BDS website says “For decades, Israeli universities have played a key role in planning, implementing and justifying Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies, while maintaining a uniquely close relationship with the Israeli military”.

Hundreds of UK academics have committed to supporting the academic boycott “in protest at what they call intolerable human rights violations against the Palestinian people”.

New BDS campaigns are launched all the time. An easy way to stay informed is to subscribe to email updates from the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC). 

To subscribe visit, click ‘Get Updates’ and enter your details. Up to date information about BDS campaigns and actions you can take to support them will be sent straight to your inbox.

Why does Ethical Consumer support BDS?

In July and August 2014 the Israeli military killed 2,100 Palestinians and injured 11,000 in the assault on Gaza known as Operation Protective Edge. Most who were killed were civilians - many were infants.

That is when we decided that Ethical Consumer would support the BDS movement.

Several former and current Ethical Consumer staff members have visited Palestine and witnessed what life is like for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation.

While we are a publisher we also run and regularly support or sign our names to campaigns that align with our mission and values. BDS is a human rights movement that aligns with our values and strategies and we are proud to support it.

There are also historical reasons why we support the Palestinian struggle - Britain’s colonial legacy, in particular through the Balfour Declaration. We consider acknowledging Britain’s colonial legacy and responding to calls by those who suffer the consequences  part of our work as an organisation that seeks to be anti-racist.

Ultimately we believe that BDS empowers individuals to do better than their governments, and can be a way to pressure governments to act. While governments fail to take a stand against war crimes committed by the Israeli state, we can condemn these actions through Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions.

We consider BDS to be an example of consumer power in action.

Why are boycotts important?

Boycotts exert economic pressure on powerful companies or governments so they change their ways. Boycotts have seen countless successes and played an important role in the ethical consumer movement since it began.

From the boycott of South African products during the Apartheid in the 1980s, to the Alabama bus boycotts, it is clear they can contribute to real change.

Author and activist Naomi Klein has stated “The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.”

Ethical Consumer was founded during South African apartheid when the boycott of goods from South Africa was in full swing.

The BDS website states that it is “Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement”.

There is significant support for the Palestinian BDS movement in South Africa. The African National Congress supports BDS, as does the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

BDS stated “Both the South Africa and BDS boycotts were called by those impacted by the state in question, rather than imposed by consumers or civil society abroad.”

The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. He supports BDS and stated "I have witnessed the systematic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government."

Who else supports BDS?

Thousands of organisations are working on BDS campaigns globally.

UK organisations that have expressed support for BDS include NUS, the Scottish Trades Union Congress, National Union of Teachers, Union of Students in Ireland, Unite the Union, War on Want, and 25 student unions, including the University of Manchester, SOAS, Goldsmiths, UCL and Kings College London.

Individuals who have expressed support for BDS include Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Arundhati Roy, Benjamin Zephaniah, Eduardo Galeano, Gideon Levy, Ilhan Omar, Judith Butler, Ken Loach, Lauryn Hill, Mandla Mandela, Naomi Klein, Roger Waters and Stephen Hawking.

Several governments have spoken out in defense of the right for citizens to support BDS, including the Netherlands, Sweden and Ireland.

Governments clamp down on BDS

However, recent years have seen increased efforts to criminalise BDS.

More than half of US states have passed laws that combat the BDS movement, and there has been proposed anti-BDS legislation at various levels of government from state to councils in Canada, France, Germany, Austria,Czech Republic and the Balearic Islands.

The December 2019 Queen’s speech announced the proposal of a new law essentially criminalising the BDS movement. It stated that (if the law passes) public institutions such as universities and local councils would be prohibited from “imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries”.

While the BDS website specifies that its campaigns target Israeli and international companies and institutions that are complicit in Palestinian human rights violations and “sustain Israeli apartheid”, as opposed to explicitly calling for a blanket approach to all Israeli institutions and companies, this law would effectively prohibit BDS campaigns.

Update on #RightToBoycott campaign

Tabling of the so-called Anti-Boycott Bill looks imminent. The indiscreetly named ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Bill’ aims to stop local public bodies from being able to spend according to their ethics, in particular in support of Palestinian human rights.

Over 50 civil society organisations, including War on Want, Campaign Against the Arms Trade and Ethical Consumer have signed a public statement called the #RightToBoycott (coordinated by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign).

Campaigners have effectively challenged legislation targeting BDS campaigns before. 

In 2016 the UK government stated that procurement boycotts by public authorities were “inappropriate”, essentially prohibiting support for BDS campaigns among for example local councils. It stated “Any public body found to be in breach of the regulations could be subject to severe penalties”. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) won a landmark Supreme Court case to overturn this government order, meaning that for now local institutions can continue to support boycotts.

Several of these have been linked to accusations that the BDS movement is anti-semitic (see our response to this below).

The Transnational Institute (TNI) publication ‘Shrinking Space & The BDS Movement’ states that Israeli officials were initially slow to respond to the BDS movement, and that official responses “were tepid until about 2014”, at which point Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu vehemently condemned the movement.

The publication indicates that attempts to clamp down on the movement have gained traction as it has grown in success.

It states “repression of BDS is hardly surprising, as successful examples of direct democracy and people power fly in the face of efforts to cow and silence activists and movements.”

Protest against the 2014 attack on Gaza in Haifa, Israel
Protest against the 2014 attack on Gaza in Haifa, Israel (Oren Ziv/Activestills via BDS Movement).

What are the concerns about BDS? 

'BDS is antisemitic'

We share the concerns of many about anti-semitism in the UK and globally. We stand firmly against anti-semitism.

BDS states "BDS campaigns target the Israeli state because of its responsibility for serious violations of international law and the companies and institutions that participate in and are complicit in these Israeli violations. The BDS movement does not boycott or campaign against any individual or group simply because they are Israeli."

Organisations such as Jewish Voice for Peace and Boycott from Within show that there is support for BDS within both the Jewish and Israeli communities. Ethical Consumer reader Nikki Mailer is a member of Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine. She says “BDS is calling for basic human rights.” We believe it is vital to hold states to account and believe that the BDS movement is a peaceful way to do this.

'Why do you focus so much on Israel? Why not the China boycott or other boycotts?'

We report on consumer campaigns that are happening. We try to report on all the major consumer boycotts that have been called globally, including national ones such as the China boycott and Turkey boycott. If a specific boycott has not been called, we may still produce content that focus on human rights abuses and issues of sovereignty, for example in Hong Kong, Tibet and Taiwan, which was discussed in the ‘Should we boycott China?’ article. We will continue to give coverage to other atrocities as information becomes available.

We only add companies to our Boycotts List if a boycott has officially been called by an external group. This is the case with BDS, which is a movement developed and led by Palestinians and people across the globe proactively support. If a boycott hasn’t been called, then we will still mark down companies that have operations in Oppressive Regimes.

Please get in touch if there is a specific boycott you would like us to cover. View our full boycotts list.

'It’s complicated, you don’t understand'

We agree with the BDS movement methods, values and objectives, and have researched criticisms against the movement. Overall we believe it to be an ethical boycott. We do not comment on other political issues connected to Palestine-Israel (so won’t be making any comments on one versus two-state solutions, for example).

We also receive messages from individuals who have family in Israel who live near the Gaza border and are living in fear of rockets. We believe that no civilians should be forced to live in fear for their physical safety, in Israel or Palestine or anywhere else. The OPT has limited power and influence, economically and militarily, in comparison with the Israeli state.

From this position it can be difficult to imagine how Palestinians living in the OPT could struggle to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation and gain independence. When they fire rockets militants such as Hamas have chosen an approach involving violence. Many Palestinians do not support this violence. At Ethical Consumer we only support the peaceful methods of resistance, such as BDS, which call for Palestinians to be entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.

Further background on the occupation

What is the situation in Palestine and Israel?

The West Bank and Gaza Strip (the two separated pieces of land in which most Palestinians who live in Palestine reside) have been occupied by Israel since 1967. For this reason, it is referred to as the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

According to the Red Cross, “Occupation may be defined as the effective control of a foreign territory by hostile armed forces. This definition derives from Article 42 of the Hague Regulations of 1907”.

Israel is considered to have effective control over the Palestinian territories. Shortly after Israel occupied these territories in 1967, UN Security Council Resolution 242 called without success for the "Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict".

Human rights in Gaza

The Gaza Strip is bordered by Egypt, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea (which the Israeli military patrols). Israel and Egypt have effectively blockaded Gaza since 2007, meaning that Palestinians living in Gaza are unable to freely enter or leave the area. Noam Chomsky has therefore described Gaza as “the world’s largest open air prison”. Gaza is just 41km long and 10km wide.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) states “Israel has imposed movement restrictions on the Gaza Strip since the early 1990s [...] 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza remain ‘locked in’, denied free access to the remainder of the territory and the outside world. The blockade has undermined the living conditions in the coastal enclave and fragmented the oPt and its economic and social fabric.”

Living conditions

Access to resources like water and electricity is limited. UNICEF states "In Gaza, there is an acute water crisis. Over 90% of households have a tap where clean water once flowed, but today the water is no longer safe to drink [...] Only one in 10 households now has direct access to safe water. [...] As hygiene suffers, the risk of disease rises, particularly for children, which is especially dangerous in densely populated areas.” 

Amnesty International states “Israel does not allow water to be transferred from the West Bank to Gaza, and Gaza’s only fresh water resource, the Coastal Aquifer, is insufficient for the needs of the population and is being increasingly depleted by over-extraction and contaminated by sewage and seawater infiltration.” Water supply is also limited in the West Bank.

Electricity shortages means the whole of Gaza, including hospitals, schools and homes can be without electricity for 20 hours per day. Israel controls whether fuel can enter Gaza for electricity.

Young people bear the brunt of the blockade of Gaza. 43% of Gaza’s population are aged 14 or under. 64% of the population is aged 24 or under. (To put this in perspective, the median age in the UK is 41 years old. In Gaza the median age is 18.)

Military conflict and assaults

Israel has carried out several military assaults on Gaza, including in 2009, 2012 and 2014.

Thousands of Palestinians civilians have been killed in these assaults. Hospitals, schools, and infrastructure for example for water have been damaged or destroyed. During the 2014 assault Channel Four stated, “Gaza's Wafa hospital was evacuated and then "obliterated" by more than 15 direct hits from Israeli forces”.

Israeli military officials often cite the reason for assaults on Gaza as the firing of rockets from militant group Hamas. These rockets are typically cheap and easy to manufacture. The home-made rockets lack precision or targetting. When sent in large numbers, Israeli citizens have been killed by these rockets.

Resistance in Gaza

Large scale resistance emerges in Gaza periodically, such as The Great Return March of 2018-19, which saw protestors demonstrate every Friday morning near the Israel-Gaza border. The majority of protesters were peaceful.

According to Médecins Sans Frontières, “Nearly every Friday between 30 March 2018 and December 2019, protestors in the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations in Gaza, Palestine were met with hails of bullets from the Israeli army.”

“The young Palestinians that we see in our clinics feel hopeless, as though they have no future. Of course, some may have been manipulated by the authorities into protesting along the fence. Or they may have been simply protesting against an unjust life and a lack of liberty.”

One protestor told Médecins Sans Frontières: "I was injured during the ‘Great March of Return’ protest on Friday 6 April. I knew it was dangerous, but I went anyway – everybody did. I was just standing there when I got shot.”

“Why was I protesting? I am like every Palestinian – we have been through a lot of conflicts with Israel, and it is never-ending. I went to protest at the border because it is our right and this is our land. I went there only for this purpose.”

Tunnels are built connecting Gaza to the outside in order to enable movement of goods and people. These tunnels are clamped down on by the Israeli authorities. People regularly die in collapsed tunnels.

Human rights in the West Bank

Unlike in Gaza, the Israeli military is present inside the borders of the West Bank. The military is key to facilitating the creation of settlements.


The settlements are communities established by Israel on land in the OPT. The Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying state from moving its own civilians into the territory it occupies. Establishing settlements often involves Israeli citizens moving into empty land or moving directly into Palestinian property which residents are forced to vacate, breaking the Convention.

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development “the expansion of the Israeli settlements in the OPT, which has been declared as a "flagrant violation of international law” by Security Council resolution 2334 (23 December 2016), disrupts the peace process and threatens the Palestinian State formation process”.

The UN continues to state that Israeli settlements in the OPT are in breach of international law.

Settlements are hotspots for clashes as Palestinian residents and illegal Israeli settlers (protected by armed soldiers) are in close proximity to one another.

The Palestinian city of Hebron is home to five Israeli settlement compounds.Large parts of Hebron in which settlers reside have been closed off to Palestinians who do not live in that area. Palestinian residents who live in settlement areas cannot have visitors to their homes, must access their house by foot as vehicle use is prohibited, and some are not permitted to enter their houses via the front door: they can only use the back door or exit through a neighbour’s house via the rooftop. In order to travel between their homes and other parts of Hebron, Palestinian residents must be screened by Israeli military at checkpoints.

40% of Palestinian homes in the old city area of Hebron are said to have been abandoned. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs states: “Attacks and intimidation by Israeli settlers have been key components of the coercive environment exerted on Palestinians living in the vicinity of the settlement area.”

The Middle East Monitor interviewed Azza, a 25 year old living in Hebron. She stated, "If they [Israeli settlers] see any house which is empty, they will take over the houses”

“Six years ago, an aggressive settler woman who was maybe 45 years old attacked my brother [...] He was young. She took a big stone, and she tried to put [it] inside his mouth, just to cut the oxygen."

"He is lucky that he just closed his teeth and she crushed his teeth. [...] One of the soldiers saw what happened, but Israeli courts do nothing [to] settlers."

Different legal systems

Armed Israeli soldiers protect illegal settlements. According to Breaking the Silence (an organization of veteran soldiers who served in the Israeli military and now seek to expose the reality of life in the Occupied Territories), even if an Israeli soldier wanted to intervene in an instance of settler violence towards Palestinians, they would not be allowed to do so. Israelis and Palestinians are subject to a dual legal system: Israeli settlers are subject to Israeli civil law, whilst West Bank Palestinians are subject to Israeli military rule and military law, meaning they face very different protections and restrictions.

One ex-soldier stated "I'm not allowed to handcuff them [Israeli settlers], they’re citizens of the State of Israel, you’re the army. An army cannot arrest its own citizens. [....] you’re not allowed to do anything.”

Image: Qalandiya Checkpoint in the West Bank in 2009
Qalandiya Checkpoint in the West Bank in 2009 (Anne Paq/Activestills via BDS Movement).


The Israeli military also operates checkpoints in the West Bank. Palestinians are required to queue in order to pass through a checkpoint where they must show ID. There are at least 593 Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank.

These make daily life extremely difficult as in order to travel from home to hospitals, universities, schools or elsewhere Palestinians must first pass through potentially several checkpoints. Checkpoint queues can be several hours long. Sometimes the military closes a checkpoint meaning that no one can pass through. People are regularly turned away from checkpoints even if they have valid ID.

In 2017, the Guardian quoted Murad Wash, 34, who installed floors in Jerusalem. Waiting at the checkpoints “is like being in a zoo,” Murad states. “Today is one of the better days [...] The line is moving quickly. The problem when it is slow is if there is a pick-up time with a car on the other side. If you miss that you have to pay for a taxi.” 

Apartheid Wall

There are also Israeli military lookout points on the wall which surrounds and cuts through parts of the West Bank. In 2002 the Israeli state began construction of what it calls a Barrier, which is in parts a high fence and in others a concrete wall twice as high as the Berlin wall. This is referred to as an Apartheid Wall by the BDS movement. It was declared illegal by the UN in 2006 and the International Court of Justice in 2004.

UNOCHA states, “Palestinians in the West Bank are subject to a complex system of control, including physical (the Barrier, checkpoints, roadblocks) and bureaucratic barriers (permits, closure of areas) which restrict their right to freedom of movement.”


In 2020 Israel announced plans to annex significant amounts of the Occupied West Bank, including most of the Jordan Valley and over 235 illegal settlements, meaning that it would take possession of the areas and declare sovereignty over them. These plans are currently stalled, seemingly due to differing opinions among Israeli officials on how to proceed and what priorities should be during the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN Human Rights Council stated in June 2020, “the annexation of occupied territory is a serious violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions”.

It continued, “twice before, Israel has annexed occupied land – East Jerusalem in 1980 and the Syrian Golan Heights in 1981. On both occasions, the UN Security Council immediately condemned the annexations as unlawful but took no meaningful countermeasures to oppose Israel’s actions.”

De facto annexation, meaning Israel controls the ground in reality, is already happening.

Violations of international human rights laws

According to the Red Cross the Geneva Conventions “form the core of international humanitarian law, which regulates the conduct of armed conflict and seeks to limit its effects. They protect people not taking part in hostilities”.

A 2017 UN General Assembly Resolution stated that Israel was in breach of several provisions of the Geneva Convention. It called for Israel to “comply strictly with its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law”. It has adopted several similar resolutions historically, for example in 2015 and 2016.

The UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) states “The United Nations has stated on many occasions that the 53-year-old Israeli occupation is the source of profound human rights violations against the Palestinian people. These violations include land confiscation, settler violence, discriminatory planning laws, the confiscation of natural resources, home demolitions, forcible population transfer, excessive use of force and torture, labour exploitation, extensive infringements of privacy rights, restrictions on the media and freedom of expression, the targeting of women activists and journalists, the detention of children, poisoning by exposure to toxic wastes, forced evictions and displacement, economic deprivation and extreme poverty, arbitrary detention, lack of freedom of movement, food insecurity, discriminatory law enforcement and the imposition of a two-tier system of disparate political, legal, social, cultural and economic rights based on ethnicity and nationality.

Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders, who peacefully bring public attention to these violations, are slandered, criminalised or labeled as terrorists. Above all, the Israeli occupation has meant the denial of the right of Palestinian self-determination.”

In addition to the violations of international human rights laws posed by settlements and annexation, the Israeli government is accused of violating the right of refugees to return to their homeland and is accused of discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The right of refugees to return home

Estimates indicate that nearly 50% of Palestinians live outside of Palestine.

According to the Oxford Human Rights Hub, Palestinian refugees and their descendents “constitute one of the largest and longest-standing unresolved refugee crises in the world, with 7.54 million refugees in addition to 720,000 internally displaced persons”.

UN Resolution 194, which was passed in 1948, states that Palestinian refugees should have the right to return to their homes, but this right has been denied.

Oxford Human Rights Hub continues, “Palestinian refugees, who were forcibly displaced as a result of 1948 and 1967 wars, are stripped of their UN-mandated Right of Return [...] Like never before in the history of the UN, Resolution 194’s consistency with international laws and instruments was reaffirmed by the UN more than 135 times.”

Palestinians living in Israel

According to Adalah, a legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel, Palestinian citizens of Israel face several discriminatory laws.

One example is the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law.

Amnesty International stated that this law “bars family reunification for Israelis married to Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. It specifically targets Israeli Arabs (Palestinian citizens of Israel) [...] for it is they who marry Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”