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Who’s Afraid of BDS?

Meet the organizations and mega-donors trying to suppress pro-Palestine activism.


Photo: Ahona Mukherjee / Chicago Maroon

The call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel approached its ten-year anniversary this past July, and despite humble beginnings the movement has gained significant global traction. Last June a “secret” anti-BDS summit was reportedly held in Las Vegas, while a Haaretz opinion column predicted that the “age of BDS” had officially begun.

The secretive closed-door summit was hosted by Sheldon Adelson — a billionaire casino magnate who once referred to Palestinians as “an invented people” — at his luxury hotel and casino, the Venetian. Early reports estimated the roughly two dozen mega-donors and fifty organizations in attendance raised at least $20 million.

The Vegas summit’s fundraising take is a fraction of what wealthy donors give to fight pro-Palestine organizing in the US and abroad. In an attempt to catalog such fundraising efforts, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) — a network of Jews “committed to struggles for human emancipation, of which the liberation of the Palestinian people and land is an indispensable part” — published a report last year entitled “The Business of Backlash: The Attack on the Palestinian Movement and Other Movements for Justice.”

IJAN’s study deconstructs the maze of financing and social action that supports efforts to suppress and block pro-Palestine activism in the US by mapping out a money trail leading back to eleven major donors  — the Sheldon Adelson Family Foundation amongst them — and highlights important tactics of the anti-Palestine movement, including media manipulation and attacks on academia…