Divestment began as a new weapon against Israel in 2002 with a petition circulating at Harvard and MIT calling for both universities to divest from Israel. The petition was not particularly successful and only had 481 signatories by the end of the year. A counter petition received 10 times this number of signatures and brought the call for divestment to an end. However, the mention of two such prestigious universities led to similar divestment petition drives across America and the Presbyterian Church of the USA became the jewel in the crown of the divestment movement in 2004 when the denomination decided to divest from Israel. The decision, however, was made by a small radical group acting with minimal input from its members. Once the members became aware of the proposals the decision was overturned by a 20:1 majority.
As Jon Haber has said, "in every case where divestment has met with success it has been the result of a small group of dedicated activists willing to use any tactic including subverting democratic procedures to turn a respected organisation into an ally of the BDS movement. Whenever those decisions have been subjected to democratic input they have been reversed and democratically defeated by a large margin.” The Presbyterian Church of the USA has subsequently acknowledged that spending their time on biased and unfounded propaganda against Israel has been a costly mistake.
There was a similar campaign calling for municipal divestment in Somerville, Massachusetts in 2004 which was also overturned once the Aldermen began to understand the complexity of the Middle East Conflict.
It has been said that the BDS movement specialises in mugging other institutions as noted in the two cases above and does not have its own genuine grassroots support and organisation.
A call for the Anglican Church to divest from Israel was fought off and it was decided to "invest in peace rather than divest from Israel”.
Sanctions were the final blow which ended apartheid in South Africa and the BDS campaign would dearly like sanctions to be placed on Israel. However, if the boycott campaign is failing it is unlikely that this more serious step will be taken. The campaigners may have included the word "Sanctions" for its association with South Africa rather than as being a policy likely to be enforceable.!