Despite its progressive-sounding title, 100 organizations in Massachusetts oppose An Act Prohibiting Discrimination in State Contracts.  Among the reasons for this opposition  are the following:

» The bill is unnecessary.

S.1689 /H.1685, An Act Prohibiting Discrimination in State Contracts, purports to combat discrimination.  But Massachusetts already has robust laws to prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation, laws vigorously enforced by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).  The bill adds no new categories of protected individuals. Massachusetts already requires contractors applying for a state contract to certify under pain of perjury that they will not discriminate on these grounds.  There is no need to strengthen what already exists.   

» The bill rests upon a fundamental misconception of BDS as a form of discrimination on the basis of national origin.

The bill’s proponents, including the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), think the bill applies to BDS because they regard BDS as a form of national origin discrimination.As JCRC claims in its Action Alert, “Singling out and refusing to deal with a business owner based on an immutable characteristic – national origin in the BDS context – is a form of discrimination. “  In fact, BDS has nothing to do with national origin discrimination.

BDS targets are not chosen because of their national origin – which cannot change – but because of what they do – which can change. For example, Caterpillar, G4S, Veolia, and Hewlett-Packard (not even Israeli-owned businesses) were chosen because they profit from the Israeli occupation, and SodaStream (which is Israeli) because it expropriates Palestinian resources. Even a future BDS campaign targeting all Israeli business would not be due to some immutable characteristic of such businesses, but in order to change Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, and would end once that policy changed. The claim that BDS is national origin discrimination is simply not true.

» The bill is unconstitutional, if applied to BDS.

In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that peaceful boycott activity to “bring about political, social, or economic change” is a form of speech protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Other Supreme Court cases have ruled that states cannot require persons to give up their constitutional rights as a condition of receiving a state contract.  So if the bill is applied as JCRC intends to prevent persons engaging in BDS from contracting with the state, it is unconstitutional.

In summary, anybody who cherishes free speech  – no matter whether they approve or disapprove of BDS – should reject this bill.