Publication Date

April 2015


Ioana Emy Matesan




English (United States)


This paper analyzes the effectiveness of boycott, divestment, and sanctions as strategies used by the South African anti-apartheid movement in order to better understand the prospects of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. I first propose a framework for understanding transnational social movements against oppressive regimes based on three stages: domestic mobilization, international mobilization and decisions by foreign actors, and effect on the offending government. Each of these stages is enhanced or limited by domestic and international contextual factors. I then use this framework to analyze the South African anti-apartheid case in order to understand the effectiveness of boycott, divestment, and sanctions and what conditions allowed the anti-apartheid movement to be successful. Using lessons from this case study, I analyze the recent Palestinian BDS movement and its prospects for success in achieving justice, freedom, and human rights for Palestinians. I conclude that while the BDS movement has potential to grow and put significant pressure on Israel, many of the conditions that allowed the anti-apartheid movement to be successful differ in the Palestinian case, creating significant barriers to the BDS movement's ability to succeed.



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