For those of you that are not aware, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions or BDS is a Palestinian-led movement that seeks freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians. This global movement was founded in July 2005 by 170 Palestinian unions, political parties, refugee networks, women’s organization, professional associations and other civil society bodies with the goal of helping Palestinians by increasing international support for Palestinians who wish to reclaim their homeland by putting pressure on Israel with the hopes of ending Israel’s colonization and occupation of Palestinian lands. Here is a map showing how Israel’s control of Palestinian lands has evolved over the past century:
The BDS movement seeks to blunt the voice of Israel in the West through the following three mechanisms:
1.) ending the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the wall that separates the West Bank from Israel.
2.) recognize the rights of Arab-Palestinians who live in Israel to full equality.
3.) respect, promote and protect the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in United Nations Resolution 194.
As would be expected, Israel has taken significant steps to blunt the impact of BDS one of which is a list of BDS groups which the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs dubs the “Network of Hate”, a network that consists of 42 of the most prominent BDS organizations, ten of which allegedly have ties to Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine:
Here’s what Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan had to say about BDS:
“The relationship between terrorist organizations and the BDS movement has never been closer, ideologically or operationally. I will continue to go after the perpetrators of this anti-Semitic hate campaign stemming from Gaza and Ramallah.”
While it is not terribly surprising that Israel is attacking the anti-Israel movement, it is rather surprising the lengths that state governments throughout the United States have taken to protect the pro-Israel narrative and prevent Americans from taking an anti-Israel/pro-BDS stance. Here is a map from Palestine Legal showing which states have passed anti-BDS measures:
Let’s look at some examples of state-level anti-BDS legislation:
1.) Texas – On Tuesday, May 2, 2017 Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed H.B.89/S.B. 29 into law. This law prohibits the state from contracting with companies (including sole proprietorships) unless they certify that they will not engage in a boycott of Israel. It also requires Texas to develop a blacklist of for-profit entities that boycott Israel and divest its pension funds from those companies.
Here’s what Governor Abbot had to say about the anti-BDS legislation:
“I am proud to have commemorated Israel’s Independence Day by signing into law Anti-BDS legislation in Texas. As Israel’s number one trading partner in the United States, Texas is proud to reaffirm its support for the people of Israel and we will continue to build on our historic partnership. Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally.”
2.) Arizona: In 2016, HB 2617 was signed into law. The law requires Arizona to create a blacklist of companies, organizations, and entities that boycott Israel, and will prohibit Arizona from investing in blacklisted entities. HB 2617 also prohibits Arizona from contracting with entities unless they certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel.
3.) Florida: In 2018, Florida lawmakers introduced a new anti-BDS bill, HB 545. The bill expands Florida’s 2016 anti-BDS law by prohibiting public entities from contracting with any company or non-profit that boycotts Israel. The original law excluded contracts worth less than $1 million; HB 545 deletes the $1 million threshold.
In 2016, one anti-BDS bill was signed into law in Florida. SB 86/HB 527 does the following: 1) requires Florida to create an online blacklist of companies (including sole proprietorships) and for-profit organizations that boycott Israel; 2) prohibits public entities in Florida from entering into contracts worth $1m or more with blacklisted entities or others who boycott Israel, and 3) prohibits state pension funds from investing in companies engaged in politically motivated boycotts of Israel.
In 2016, non-binding resolution condemning the BDS movement also passed both chambers of the legislature.
4.) Michigan: On Jan 5, 2017, two anti-boycott bills were signed into law by Gov. Snyder. HB 5821 prohibits Michigan from contracts for procurement of supplies, services, or information technology with individuals and entities engaged in discriminatory boycotts of Israel. HB 5822 prohibits Michigan from contracting for construction and repairs to state property with individuals and entities engaged in discriminatory boycotts of Israel.
And, as though those laws weren’t punitive enough, here is a look at H.R. 1697, the federal government’s Israel Anti-Boycott Act which very nearly made it into a broader budget bill that must pass before the end of 2018:This bill declares that Congress: (1) opposes the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution of March 24, 2016, which urges countries to pressure companies to divest from, or break contracts with, Israel; and (2) encourages full implementation of the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 through enhanced, governmentwide, coordinated U.S.-Israel scientific and technological cooperation in civilian areas.
“The bill amends the Export Administration Act of 1979 to declare that it shall be U.S. policy to oppose:
1.) requests by foreign countries to impose restrictive practices or boycotts against other countries friendly to the United States or against U.S. persons; and
2.) restrictive trade practices or boycotts fostered or imposed by an international governmental organization, or requests to impose such practices or boycotts, against Israel.
The bill prohibits any U.S. person engaged interstate or foreign commerce from supporting:
1.) any request by a foreign country to impose any boycott against a country that is friendly to the United States and that is not itself the object of any form of boycott pursuant to United States law or regulation, or
2.) any boycott fostered or imposed by any international governmental organization against Israel or any request by any international governmental organization to impose such a boycott.
It is a fascinating exercise to look at the lengths that American legislators of all parties at both state and federal levels are willing to take to defend Israel and punish American individuals and businesses that speak against the pro-Israel narrative. There goes the option of free speech when it comes to Israel’s actions against Palestinians.
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