In some countries, boycotts of Israelis or Israeli products may actually be against the law.

The American Studies Association is currently under attack because its academic boycott may violate the New York State Human Rights Law Section 296(13), which says:

“”[i]t shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice (i) for any person to discriminate against, boycott or blacklist, or to refuse to buy from, sell to or trade with, any person, because of the race, creed, color, national origin or sex of such person, or of such person’s partners, members, stockholders, directors, officers, managers, superintendents, agents, employees, business associates, suppliers or customers, or (ii) for any person willfully to do any act or refrain from doing any act which enables any such person to take such action. This subdivision shall not apply to: (a) Boycotts connected with labor disputes; or (b) Boycotts to protest unlawful discriminatory practices.””

In America there are other laws that prohibit boycotts are that are not approved by the government such as the 1977 amendment to the Export Administration Act and the Ribicoff Amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976.

The United Kingdom also has passed laws forbidding discrimination by national origin. This caused the University and College Union to cease the debate about imposing an academic boycott on Israel in 2007 when they realized that doing so may be illegal.

In 2009, the European Court of Human Rights found that a French mayor who called for a boycott of Israeli products was “inciting to the commission of a discriminatory act.” France has an anti-discrimination act passed in 1981 and convicted a BDS activist in February 2010 of “hinder[ing] the normal exercise of economic activities by making a distinction on the basis of nationality.” Most recently, a French court has ruled against a BDS group that was calling for a boycott of Sodastream, prohibiting them from defacing and manipulating Sodastream’s advertising.

A pro-BDS academic is currently being sued under Australia’s 1975 Racial Discrimination Act for denying a fellowship to an applicant simply because he is Israeli.