Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Kevin DePew

Committee Member

David Metzger

Committee Member

Louise Wetherbee Phelps

Committee Member

Paula Mathieu


This rhetorical frame analysis uses a combination of rhetorical theory and frame analysis to examine the rhetorical framing strategies of the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. This project investigates how both official and vernacular BDS activist-rhetors frame the movement and their goals, how they frame their responses to evolving rhetorical situations and challenges, how they tailor these frames for different audiences, and how resonant these frames are likely to be for targeted audiences. The results of this study suggest that BDS activist-rhetors typically frame the BDS movement as a nonviolent movement to achieve Palestinian rights and hold Israel accountable for an ongoing system of oppression, discrimination, and settler colonialism against Palestinians. This framing relies on the values of justice, freedom, equality, joint struggle, and individual and collective agency—values that strongly overlap with social and racial justice activist discourses that focus on intersectionality and justice for marginalized and oppressed peoples. Thus, these framing strategies likely resonate most strongly with audiences comprised of networks of social and racial justice activists, especially black American activists and other activists of color in the US, and to a significant degree with younger liberal and leftist Americans, including many young Jewish American racial justice activists. In response to the shifting rhetorical situations and challenges they face, including sensitivity to antisemitism, BDS activists regularly denounce antisemitism, emphasize Jewish support for the BDS movement, and draw comparisons to other familiar struggles for justice and liberation. BDS activists emphasize certain frames for particular audiences while maintaining a strong consistency in overall framing strategies between Palestinian official BDS discourse and the more vernacular student-generated discourse of US college activists. To address common critiques of the movement and expand support for BDS, BDS activist-rhetors could express more empathy with Jewish fears of antisemitism and clarify some BDS goals and demands, both of which could help wider audiences transcend the affective rhetorical obstacles and predictable uptakes to promote more productive discussions about Palestinian rights and help achieve a more just and sustainable resolution to this intractable conflict.