Anti-BDS laws undermine America’s claim of Freedom
Pro-Israel and anti-Arab American government officials are bending to pressure from foreign lobbyists and PACs to approve laws that curtail the free speech rights of Americans when it comes to the interests of the foreign country, Israel. BDS laws which violate American Constitutional protections have been approved in 28 American States and in the U.S. Congress as a direct result of intimidation, threats of anti-Semitism labeling and through cash donations to congress members.
By Ray Hanania
Americans proudly proclaim their support for the U.S. Constitution which guarantees the right of every citizen to express themselves without fear of retribution for their views.
Speech that incites violence or involves slanderous accusations of criminal behavior or sexual activity, however, is not protected and can be prosecuted.
Without changing the Constitution, however, pro-Israel activists have managed to undermine the American Constitution, by creating an exclusion to the Constitution. Pro-Israel activists have pushed for the passage in at least 28 American States for laws punishing Americans who boycott Israel, a foreign country.
Similarly, the U.S. Congress has adopted a law that does the same, punishing Americans simply for declaring that they support a boycott of a foreign country, Israel.
It’s the only law of its kind.
Part of the motivation is to block the success of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) movement which targets Israel’s illegal settlement activity. And, they criticize Israel’s government embrace of Apartheid-like policies that discriminate against Christians and Muslim Palestinians inside Israel and in the occupied territories.
As a “Jewish State,” Israel has implemented 67 laws and policies that specifically discriminates against Christian and Muslim Palestinians Arabs, because of their religion and Arab race.
That battle is being fought in congress and on university campuses where debate on foreign policy is considered a treasured and protected tradition.
Last week, Abby Martin, an American citizen and award-winning journalist, filed a lawsuit in Georgia which passed an anti-boycott law in 2016 punishing anyone to be paid more than $1,000 for any services by Georgia State-owned or operated agencies.
Organizers of a conference at state-run Georgia Southern University blocked Martin from giving a keynote speech at a conference in which her documentary, “Gaza Fights for Freedom,” was to be showcased after she refused to sign a declaration to not boycott Israel. The conference collapsed as a result of the demand.
Calling the demand an illegal “loyalty pledge,” Martin filed a lawsuit against the University and the State on Feb. 10, 2020.
In a January 10, 2020 statement on Twitter, Martin wrote, “After I was scheduled to give keynote speech at an upcoming @GeorgiaSouthern conference, organizers said I must comply w/ Georgia’s anti-BDS law & sign a contractual pledge to not boycott Israel. I refused & my talk was canceled. The event fell apart after colleagues supported me.”
Martin’s lawsuit follows in the wake of a successful lawsuit filed I 2018 against a similar ant-BDS law in Texas.
Bahia Amawi, a Houston-based children’s speech pathologist who worked with autistic, speech-impaired and other developmentally disabled children through a state program. She was fired from her job after refusing to sign a document stating she would not oppose Israel’s government in any manner.
Amawi is described as an exemplary employee and who provided services to Autism students for nine years. As a result of the lawsuit, courts have overturned the Texas law and Amawi was allowed to return to her job helping people with disabilities without signing the pernicious pledge.
The campaign to justify the anti-boycott laws is based on a distortion of facts, that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish.
Pro-Israel activists want to avoid addressing the real issues of Israeli civil rights violations and theft of Palestinian lands to build the settlements, and instead distort the boycott goals as being anti-Semitic.
Examples include statements from the American Jewish Committee’s David Harris who asserted recently that anti-Israel boycotts would undermine efforts to confront the fast-spreading and deadly Corona Virus, and other medical breakthroughs. But, that’s not true.
Other activists making these pernicious and false claims include Pamela Geller, whose anti-Palestinian and racist hatred of Muslims is embraced as “acceptable” by those who seeking to punish Americans who support a boycott of Israel’s illegal actions.
Geller recently described a student rally criticizing Israel’s illegal denial of civil rights to Palestinians in the occupied territories in this way: “University of Illinois student government passes resolution to boycott Jews (BDS): The resolution was sponsored by an Islamic terror-tied group. US college campuses have become cesspools for left-wing Jew hatred and totalitarianism.”
The resolution she references does not mention “Jews,” but does criticize Israel’s violations of international laws which apparently Geller supports.
The resolution, introduced Feb. 5, 2020 and voted on Feb. 18, specifically urges the University of Illinois to withdraw investments from companies that “profit from human rights violations in Palestine.” It named three military arms companies, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Company and Elbit Systems Ltd., denounced U.S. Immigration crackdowns on refugees by ICE, and compared Israel’s settlements and discriminatory laws to laws approved under South Africa’s Apartheid.
Boycott advocates insist the focus is on the illegality of the Israeli settlements and support for those settlements. Their goal, they say, is to make Israel abide by the International Rule of Law.
One Palestinian Rights activist, Sarah Wilkinson, said it best, clearly and plainly in a Twitter account post recently: “I support #BDS and I boycott Israel, just as I did South Africa, for mostly the same reasons, to end apartheid and convince Israel to obey international laws.”
The pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has asserted that Illinois is one of the most active in supporting anti-Israel boycott resolutions and activism, in part because of the state’s large Palestinian population.
The fight against the anti-BDS censorship of American free speech is being championed in courtrooms around the country by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Last year, ACLU attorney Brian Hauss wrote, “The ACLU takes no position on boycotts of Israel or any foreign country, but we have long defended the right to boycott, which is protected under the First Amendment. That’s why we challenged anti-boycott laws in Kansas, Arizona, Arkansas, and Texas, and strongly opposed the Combating BDS Act in Congress.”
“To be clear: Anti-BDS laws are not designed to prevent discrimination. In fact, they’re designed to discriminate against disfavored political expression, which is why two federal courts and several prominent First Amendment scholars have agreed that these laws violate the First Amendment,” Hauss continued.
Israel’s government has been actively engaged in rallying the anti-BDS fight, spending more than $15 million since 2005 to fight the boycott movement which has been embraced by many American celebrities and entertainers.
They include Rihanna, Jon Stewart, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, Selena Gomez, Penelope Cruz, Russell Brand, Whoopi Goldberg, Emma Thompson, Danny Glover, and Roger Waters of the band Pink Floyd who will be addressing a pro-Arab anti-Israel lobbying conference in May. Click here for more information.
Complete list of U.S. States that have adopted laws to curtail the free speech of Americans to protect the racist policies of Israel, a foreign country, as of March 1, 2020:
- Tennessee (April 2015)
- South Carolina (June 2015)
- Illinois (July 2015)
- Alabama (February 2016)
- Colorado (February 2016)
- Indiana (March 2016)
- Florida (March 2016)
- Virginia (March 2016)
- Arizona (March 2016)
- Georgia (April 2016)
- Iowa (May 2016)
- New York (June 2016)
- New Jersey (August 2016)
- California Sept. 2016)
- Pennsylvania (November 2016)
- Ohio (December 2016)
- Michigan (January 2017)
- Arkansas (March 22, 2017)
- Texas (May 2017)
- Minnesota (May 2017)
- Nevada (2017)
- Kansas June 2017)
- North Carolina (July 2017)
- Maryland (October 2017)
- Wisconsin (October 2017)
- Louisiana (May 2018)
- Kentucky (November 2018)
- South Dakota (Jan. 14, 2020)