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Boston Jews Raise Concerns about Anti-Boycott Legislation in Massachusetts
Jewish Voice for Peace Boston is deeply concerned about an upcoming Massachusetts anti-boycott bill that would legislate against institutions that have chosen to withdraw from complicity with Israeli human rights abuses by boycotting or divesting from Israel. While the text of this bill is not yet available, statements from state legislators and the Greater Boston Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) indicate that this bill will, like dozens of similar bills in state legislatures across the country, infringe on the first amendment right to political speech.
Like many boycott movements throughout history, the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel until it complies with international law, is a peaceful, legitimate, and effective strategy for leveraging consumer and constituent power to achieve justice. Since the inception of BDS in 2005, people of all faiths from around the world have waged countless campaigns to hold corporations, universities, churches, and governments accountable for their role in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. For nearly 50 years, Palestinians have protested a system of military rule that dispossesses them of land and resources while denying them basic human rights. Because the Israeli political system and the international community have failed to grant freedom and equality for all people in Palestine/Israel, Palestinian activists have turned to grassroots nonviolent organizing, inspired by the US Civil Rights movement and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
Attempts to use legislation to suppress BDS have been defeated or disputed in other states on the grounds that they are anti-democratic and often unconstitutional. They are part of a larger political effort to silence those who aim to hold Israel and multinational corporations accountable for human rights violations. Many of these bills even legitimize Israel’s violations of international law, including the expansion of illegal settlements, which the JCRC has repeatedly failed to condemn.
In addition to infringing upon the first amendment rights of their constituents, US elected officials who support these bills are out of step with a growing number of Americans, particularly students, liberals, and people of faith, who see BDS as the most promising hope for change in Palestine/Israel.
As Boston-area Jews, we ask our state legislators to resist the silencing of their constituents and to reject this JCRC-backed anti-boycott bill. We hope for a Massachusetts where our leaders stand up for our right to work together for a better world.