Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order signed yesterday is a disappointment for the BDS movement in New York State and a failure of the democratic process. The executive order will create a list of persons and entities that express a particular political viewpoint, and then bar New York from doing business with and investing in those on that list- essentially punishing and blacklisting organizations and entities that engage with and support BDS.
The right to boycott is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution and cannot be infringed upon by any federal, state, or local law. To blacklist citizens for expressing a political opinion, namely the demand that the State of Israel comply with international law and cease its violation of Palestinian human rights, is McCarthyite at its core. As a student group working toward Columbia’s divestment from Israeli companies that profit from human rights violations in Palestine, we denounce this move by the governor as politically unprincipled, legally irresponsible, and a violation of democratic principles.
The growing fear and opposition evidenced by this executive order is a testament to the growth of the Palestine solidarity movement and its mounting success. More people are becoming aware of the ways in which we, as residents and citizens of the United States of America, are key in enabling Israeli Apartheid and thus key in its abolishment. Pro-Israel reactionary efforts, like this executive order, are fueled by the fear of growing awareness and support for equality and justice for Palestinians.
BDS is an international movement in response to a call from Palestinian civil society in 2005 to boycott Israel until it complies with international human rights law. BDS has three clear demands:
- an end to the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands in Palestine and a dismantling of the wall
- recognition of the fundamental rights to full equality for Arab citizens of Israel
- recognizing and protecting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes
Governor Cuomo’s decision today to forbid state business with pro-BDS organizations is an attack on 1st Amendment rights not only because it penalizes free speech and political action but because it also severely limits institutional freedom to political organization. This executive order will increase the price for organizations that support BDS by revoking state funding. Cuomo is employing tactics of intimidation and coercion, using state funds as carrot and stick to punish BDS advocates and discourage participation.
Boycotts have always been a powerful and effective way to fight for the betterment of peoples, for human rights, and for liberation. History shows countless examples of powerful, principled political stances expressed through boycotts from the Montgomery Bus Boycott, to the boycotts of Apartheid South Africa, to the Delano Grape Boycott. In a world where individuals and organizations speak with their economic decisions, boycotts are essential to the flourishing of a robust and responsible political discourse.
The attack on BDS that we are experiencing right now, both in state legislatures and in private sabotage, is evidence that BDS poses a real threat to the hegemony of the pro-Israel camp, dominance of the American pro-Israel lobby, and the continuation of apartheid. BDS will continue to grow despite these attacks and will not be discouraged by those who stand in the way of Palestinian liberation. In the face of McCarthyite tactics to silence and persecute, we will resist and remain resilient.
Proliferation of anti boycott legislation poses significant harm not only to the BDS movement, but to the integrity of freedom of expression. Find out more about similar bills, resolutions, orders moving through your state and how to write to your representative here http://palestinelegal.org/righttoboycott . If you are a NY state resident, please write to your representative and Governor Cuomo expressing your disagreement with this order at 1-518-474-8390 or here https://www.governor.ny.gov/contact
“ Hello Governor Cuomo,
I am writing you today as a concerned citizen and NY state resident from ________ to express my disagreement and disappointment in Executive Order no. 157. This order is an attack on freedom of expression and political debate that is at the heart of democracy. The right to boycott is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution and cannot be infringed upon by any federal, state, or local law. To blacklist citizens for expressing a political opinion, namely the demand that the State of Israel comply with international law and cease its violation of Palestinian human rights, is McCarthyite at its core. Your move is politically unprincipled, legally irresponsible, and a violation of democratic principles. I request you to reconsider your action and its impacts.
For more information on protests for our #RightToBoycott happening Thursday 6/8/16, click here