Many who embrace it see it aimed primarily at ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. But its opponents say the movement’s real goal is the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.
The Israeli government has, over the years, allocated budgets to combat B.D.S., describing the movement as a grave threat that delegitimizes Israel abroad, while at the same time dismissing its economic impact on the country as marginal.
Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian leader in the West Bank who for years has advocated a boycott of Israel, assailed Mr. Pompeo’s announcement. It was, he said, the latest in a series of Trump administration attempts to throw obstructions into the path of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. — “obstacles that they think are irreversible.”
“B.D.S. is a peaceful, nonviolent movement,” Mr. Barghouti said. “It is not against Israeli or Jewish people — it is against the policy of occupation and apartheid.”
“Calling it anti-Semitic is another way of suppressing people’s rights of freedom of expression and freedom of choice,” Mr. Barghouti said, “and also a harassment of the American people who have the right to choose whether to participate in it or not participate in it.”
But Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, a right-leaning group that tracks the funding and agendas of groups that it sees as anti-Israel, said B.D.S. advocates “refer to Israel as inherently racist,” challenging the morality of its founding.
He did agree, however, that the decision could pose problems for the Biden administration.
“I don’t see this statement as a watershed moment, because it comes at the end of the Trump administration,” Mr. Steinberg said. “But nevertheless, it is important, it sets a marker. And it will be difficult for Democrats who oppose the demonization of Israel to ignore this marker.”
Adam Rasgon contributed reporting from El Bireh, West Bank.