Tell the ADL: your lies will never silence the movement for Palestinian liberation!

June 16, 2022

(To add your name as an individual, click here. To add an organizational endorsement, please send a message to jfpror@gmail.com)

We, the undersigned, unequivocally condemn the Anti-Defamation League’s recent slanderous attack on the movement for Palestinian liberation.

At the organization’s Virtual National Leadership Summit on May 1, 2022, National Director Jonathan Greenblatt not only explicitly peddled the lie that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism,” but left no doubt as to how the ADL intends to muzzle and/or punish those who oppose the apartheid Israeli regime. “We will use our litigation skills to hold [anti-Zionists] accountable for their harm,” he declared, “[and] use our advocacy muscles to push policymakers to take action.” 

Greenblatt specifically targeted Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) — who issued a joint statement in response (a group of prominent Jewish Palestine supporters also published an open letter answering ADL’s attack) — but his warning was clearly directed at all who stand up for Palestinian rights. 

The ADL’s threats should not be taken lightly. In 2020, it reported net assets of $152m. The organization has close ties with police and the FBI (and a sordid history of surveilling anti-racist activists). It supports unconstitutional “anti-BDS” laws designed to silence Palestine advocacy. As Mondoweiss recently noted, “the ADL would be laughable if it weren’t dangerous.”

Greenblatt’s chest thumping, however, cannot save the Israeli regime’s crumbling public image. Three high profile reports in the past year — from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and B’Tselem — exposed the regime as an apartheid state, affirming what Palestinians themselves have been telling the world since the Nakba of 1948. The current ethnic cleansing in Masafer Yatta, approved by the Israeli High Court, is a stark reminder that the Nakba is not a distant memory but a permanently operating feature of the settler-colonial Zionist state.

Meanwhile, the Zionist establishment, desperate to distract from this exposure, and spreading its own version of white supremacist “replacement theory,” frames the mere presence of Palestinians in their homeland as a demographic and existential threat to Jewish people.  

Ten days after Greenblatt’s address, and two days before Nakba Day, Israeli forces attacking the Jenin Palestinian refugee camp murdered Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a longtime reporter for Al Jazeera. Two days later, with the whole world watching, Israeli police violently assaulted mourners at her funeral procession, “a response,” wrote fellow journalist Belen Fernandez, “that can only be classified as acute and multitiered state savagery, in keeping with Israel’s modus operandi of refusing to let Palestinians live, die, or be buried in peace.”

In honor of Shireen, and in the spirit of anti-racist resistance from the Warsaw Ghetto to apartheid South Africa to the Jim Crow South to Standing Rock to Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate, we serve the ADL notice: your slanders and your threats will never silence the growing movement for a free Palestine from the river to the sea with equal rights for all.

Signed,

Adalah Justice Project

Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition

Al Quds Day Committee of New York

Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine

American Muslims for Palestine – NJ

Arab Resource and Organizing Center

Black Lives Matter Paterson

Canadian BDS Coalition

Council on American-Islamic Relations – NJ 

CUNY for Palestine

Decolonize This Place

Democratic Socialists of America BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group

Democratic Socialists of America North New Jersey

Democratic Socialists of America Metro DC

Episcopal Peace Fellowship-Palestine Israel Network

Football Against Apartheid

Friends of Sabeel North America

Green Party of New Jersey

Haiti Action Committee

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Jewish Voice for Peace – Boston

Jewish Voice for Peace – Central NJ

Jewish Voice for Peace – Los Angeles

Jewish Voice for Peace – Portland, OR

Jewish Voice for Peace – Northern NJ

Jews for Palestinian Right of Return

Jews Say No!

Just Peace Advocates/Mouvement Pour Une Paix Juste

Labor for Palestine

Majlis Ash-Shura: Islamic Leadership Council of New York

Oakville Palestinian Rights Association (Canada)

Palestine Legal

Palestinian American Community Center

People’s Organization for Progress

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

South Asian Americans Leading Together

Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers – New Brunswick

Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers – Newark

Students for Justice in Palestine – Drew University

Tzedek Chicago

USA Palestine Mental Health Network

U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

U.S. Palestinian Community Network

Voices for Justice in Palestine, North Carolina

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

Young Democratic Socialists of America, San Francisco State University chapter

Open Letter Against Rutgers MOU With Tel Aviv University

January 20, 2022

Dear President Holloway,

As a Rutgers University employee, a member of the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union (PTLFC-AAUP-AFT), a New Jersey resident, and a co-founder of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, I am writing to voice my opposition to the recent Memorandum of Understanding you signed between Rutgers and Tel Aviv University (TAU) “to enhance the existing partnership between the two universities.”

In 2021, three prominent human rights organizations published reports exposing the Israeli regime’s systemic oppression of the Palestinian people. Human Rights Watch released “A Threshold Crossed,” which found that Israel is “committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” Jerusalem-based B’Tselem declared Israel a “regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea” (“This is Apartheid”). And in its “Report 2020/21: The state of the world’s human rights,” Amnesty International summarized that Israel “continued to impose institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians living under its rule in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” 

These powerful indictments — often in language unprecedented for mainstream human rights NGOs — affirm what Palestinians themselves have been telling the world since the Israeli state was forcibly established on Palestinian land in 1948 through an ongoing campaign of mass ethnic cleansing (the Nakba). Indeed, Palestinian resistance to Israel only makes sense when viewed through the lens of this violent displacement and all that has followed from it.

As the Palestinian-led campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) explains, far from opposing this regime of legalized discrimination and oppression, Israeli universities — including public institutions like TAU — are “involved in developing weapon systems and military doctrines deployed in Israel’s recent war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza, justifying the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land, rationalizing gradual ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians, providing moral justification for extra-judicial killings, systematically discriminating against ‘non-Jewish’ students, and other implicit and explicit violations of human rights and international law.”

For these reasons, BDS, which echoes the historic divestment campaign that helped topple apartheid South Africa, specifically calls for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Yet at the very time that awareness of systemic Israeli racism and settler-colonial violence is surging, and as the world mourns the recent passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, celebrated critic of both the South African and Israeli apartheid regimes, Rutgers is violating the Palestinian picket line by deepening ties with a complicit Israeli academic institution, all the while hiding behind whitewashing platitudes about “growing partnerships,” “educational and scientific exchanges,” and “benefits to local economies.”
 
You, personally, have spoken of building “beloved community.” But I ask: In what vision of beloved community is there room for growing partnerships with a state where, in the words of Israeli scholar Ilan Pappe, “the value of ethnic superiority and supremacy overrides any other human and civil value”? And can you explain how collaborating with a university guilty of enabling war crimes conforms to the vision you espouse for the university over which you preside?

“Inspired by the US civil rights and South African anti-apartheid movements,” writes BDS cofounder Omar Barghouti, “BDS calls for ending Israel’s 1967 military occupation, full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the UN-stipulated right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homeland they were uprooted from. BDS categorically opposes all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.”

This is a call for justice that Rutgers — and anyone committed to beloved community — should get behind. 

Sincerely,

David Letwin
Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Rutgers PTLFC-AAUP-AFT 6324

Jews for Palestinian Right of Return: Solidarity with Khaled Barakat and Palestine Free Speech in Germany

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Solidarity with Khaled Barakat and Palestine Free Speech in Germany

Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, July 2, 2019

Jews for Palestine Right of Return stands in solidarity with Khaled Barakat, a Palestinian writer and political activist who has been barred by the German state from participating in political activity. This is a racist form of repression and political targeting that aims to silence the Palestinian community in Germany, based on a false conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

Some claim that these attacks on Palestinian rights are a manifestation of German guilt over the Nazi holocaust against Jewish people. In reality, however, these repressive actions are encouraged, supported, and pushed forward by the far right in Germany, which embraces an alliance with Israel at the same time that it pushes anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Muslim propaganda. These far-right parties, such as the Alternative for Germany Political (AfD), are infamous for their own legacies of genuine anti-Semitism and racism.

Germany’s anti-Palestinian campaign is being promoted by Gilad Erdan’s Israeli “anti-BDS ministry,” funded with millions of dollars from the Netanyahu government to silence advocacy of Palestinian human rights, particularly in the U.S., Germany, UK, and other Western imperialist countries which arm apartheid Israel, just as they once armed apartheid South Africa.

In Germany, this repression includes the Bundestag’s recent anti-BDS resolution, the disinvitation of Talib Kweli and other performers who support justice in Palestine, the deportation of Rasmea Odeh, the closure of the bank account of Jewish Voices for a Just Peace, and the forced resignation of the director of the Jewish Museum. While Palestinians have been the primary target, the German state and right-wing similarly smear dissenting Jewish speech as anti-Semitic. Everyone who cares about justice and liberation suffers as a result.

All people, including those in Germany, have the right — and need — to hear directly from Palestinians. We call on Germany to immediately drop the political ban on Khaled Barakat, and end its policy of repression against those working for Palestinian freedom and human rights.

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Open Letter to New Jersey Legislature: Vote NO on Fake “Prohibiting Anti-Semitism” Bill

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July 24, 2019

Jews for Palestinian Right of Return calls on New Jersey state legislators to vote No on proposed Senate Bill 4001/Assembly Bill 5755, “Prohibiting anti-Semitism in public schools and institutions of higher education.”

Even were this bill actually intended to prohibit genuine anti-Semitism, it should be rejected on the basis that a) existing anti-discrimination laws already protect against anti-Jewish bigotry, b) it is tone deaf to the suffering of others in this country subjected to systemic oppression, and c) it creates the inaccurate impression that Jews are uniquely vulnerable.

But S. 4001/A. 5755, despite its title, has nothing to do with prohibiting genuine anti-Semitism in the first place. Like anti-BDS legislation already passed in 27 states muzzling our constitutional right to boycott Israel, its real goal is to legally enshrine a fabricated definition of anti-Semitism that would wed Jewish identity to Israel, criminalize opposition to a settler-colonial state, and silence those calling for equality, freedom, and justice throughout historic Palestine.

According to the bill, anti-Semitism includes “delegitimizing Israel by denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and denying Israel the right to exist,” “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, or blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions,” and “focusing peace or human rights investigations only on Israel.” 

It is past time to call these arguments out for what they are: double-speak to distract from Israel’s long-standing oppression of Palestinians. 

In what is known as the Nakba, or Catastrophe, Zionist settlers violently expelled and dispossessed more than 700,000 Palestinians in 1948 to establish the Israeli state. Ever since, Israel has denied these refugees and their descendants their inalienable right to return to their homeland. Those Palestinians who were able to resist expulsion are treated as second-class Israeli citizens, subject to over sixty discriminatory laws.

Since 1967, the West Bank has been ruled by a brutal Israeli military occupation, under which Palestinians have no citizenship rights at all. Since 2007, Israel has enforced a barbaric siege of Gaza — whose residents are overwhelmingly 1948 refugees and their families — turning it into a virtual concentration camp.

In 2018, Israel reinforced its status as an apartheid regime through the Nationality Law, which officially declared Israel a state of its Jewish citizens only. 

To oppose the existence of such a state is not anti-Jewish; it’s anti-racist, anti-colonialist, anti-occupation, and anti-injustice.

This is precisely why Israel supporters have had to resort to a fictional definition of anti-Semitism. Unable to morally defend Israel, their only option is to criminalize arguments for which they have no answer, while smearing U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and other supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — many of them Jewish — to justify stripping away our First Amendment rights. 

Meanwhile, this McCarthyite lawfare campaign conspicuously fails to acknowledge that recent violence against Jews in the U.S. — the Tree of Life massacre, the Charlottesville rally (“Jews will not replace us!”), the Poway shooting — has been perpetrated not by Palestine supporters but by self-proclaimed white nationalist anti-Semites and Islamophobes. Not surprisingly, white supremacist admiration for Israel and Zionism, and Israel’s cozy relationship with anti-Semites, also go unmentioned.   

Real anti-Semitism — hatred of Jews as Jews — must, like all bigotry, be condemned at every turn. As descendants of Holocaust victims, we need no reminding of that. But S. 4001/A. 5755 is no more than a transparent attempt to distort and weaponize the meaning of anti-Semitism to attack advocates of Palestinian human rights.

Vote NO on S. 4001/A. 5755.

Stop Ban of Palestine Children’s Book at Highland Park NJ Public Library!

PLEASE SIGN HERE.

We call on the Highland Park Public Library to rise up for what is right, reject this racist attack on free speech, and immediately reinstate the planned “P is for Palestine: A Palestine ABC Book” event with author Dr. Golbarg Bashi.

Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return CoalitionAmerican Muslims for Palestine – NJCouncil on American-Islamic Relations – NJOccupy Bergen CountyJews for Palestinian Right of ReturnLabor for PalestinePeople’s Organization for ProgressSamidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity NetworkSOMA for Palestine, USACBI: US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Full petition text:

To the Highland Park Public Library Director and Board of Trustees,

It is inexcusable that the Highland Park, New Jersey, Public Library has bowed to pressure from Israel supporters to cancel its previously scheduled reading of the children’s alphabet book, “P is for Palestine” by Dr. Golbarg Bashi, an event originally sponsored by the library and Jewish Voice Peace-Central NJ. The book is “the world’s first-ever English-language ABC story book about Palestine.”

The pretext for this censorship is that the book’s entry “I is for Intifada” is “hate speech” that promotes “violence and terror”against Jews.

That is completely false.

Intifada means “rebellion” or “resistance”; as the entry says, “Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or grownup!” And Palestinians are certainly justified in rising up against the settler-colonial regime that occupies the West Bank, has enforced a barbaric siege on Gaza for over a decade, denies Palestinian refugees it forcibly expelled and dispossessed in the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe) their right to return to their homeland, and practices systemic discrimination against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

As Bashi recently summarized, “Intifada is actually 71 years old. It is resistance to occupation of a people’s land. It is like Native American resistance to white settlers.” She also likened it to the Black Lives Matter movement in this country.

Furthermore, we denounce the racist characterizations of Palestinians as a “fake people” with “no history,” driven by anti-Semitic blood-lust, promoted in so many pro-censorship comments (see the book’s Facebook page for examples).

The event cancellation is not an isolated case. As of April this year, 27 states have adopted anti-BDS laws designed to muzzle our constitutional right to boycott Israel. Elected officials who have the courage to speak up for Palestinian rights — mainly women of color like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — are slandered by Israel supporters as anti-Semitic. Just this past February, they similarly tried — and failed — to shut down a “Your Right to Boycott and the Campaign to Silence BDS” event at the Maplewood Public Library.

Fortunately, this McCarthyite campaign has only boosted support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). Moreover, mainstream media is finally giving voice to those, including a growing number of Jews, who challenge not only Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, but the Zionist regime itself. Indeed, the call to cancel the Highland Park book reading is a tacit concession that, having lost the moral argument, apartheid Israel’s enablers have no recourse but to silence pro-Palestinian voices — including authors of children’s books.

We call on the Highland Park Public Library to rise up for what is right, reject this racist attack on free speech, and immediately reinstate the planned “P is for Palestine: A Palestine ABC Book” event with author Dr. Golbarg Bashi.

Further actions to take:

  • Attend the Highland Park Library Board of Trustees Meeting on Wednesday 6/5/19 at 7:30pm, to show your support for the reinstatement of the “P is for Palestine” program. The venue for the meeting has not yet been announced. Call the library at (732) 572-2750 the day before the Board Meeting, or visit the website at https://www.hpplnj.org/ to find out the venue.
  • Write a letter or statement to the Highland Park Library and the Trustees, urging them to reinstate the program: director@hpplnj.org; childref@hpplnj.org (Library Director and Children’s Reference); trustees@hpplnj.org. Please send a copy of your letter to: CentralNJ@JewishVoiceForPeace.org. For maximum impact, please keep your letter polite.
  • Buy this book for yourself and for your local library: https://www.drbashi.com/books
  • Write letters to the editor. Thank the Star-Ledger for printing the positive guest Op-Ed. See letter guidelines at: https://www.nj.com/opinion/2018/01/submit_an_op-ed.html

Tell Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Stand By Your Principles — Stand With Palestine!

Issued by Jews for Palestinian Right of Return. To sign, please click here.

AOC Stand With Palestine

On May 14, supporters of justice around the world were heartened when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Bronx Democratic congressional primaries with a grassroots campaign that included a forceful condemnation of the ongoing Israeli massacre of Palestinian Great Return March protesters in Gaza.

Now, under intense Zionist backlash, she has “walked back” her stand, saying she had not used “the right words” in calling out Israeli occupation, and endorsing Israel’s “right to exist.”

We fully embrace Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ original defense of Palestinian rights, and reiterate these essential facts:

Alexandria, your campaign is only as strong as its principles. Just as you speak truth to power for Abolish ICE, Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, and Puerto Rico, stand firm with justice for Palestine!

In the Spirit of Dr. King: Condemn the Land Day Massacre — No Arms for Apartheid Israel!

April 4, 2018

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. courageously condemned the Vietnam War, declaring, “For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”

On this, the 50th anniversary Dr. King’s assassination, we follow his example by condemning Israel’s premeditated massacre of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza on March 30, 2018, which left at least 17 dead and 1,400 wounded — some of them shot in the back by snipers while fleeing.

They were among 30,000 participants in the Great Return March demanding their right, enshrined in UN Resolution 194, to return to homes from which they were expelled during the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe) that created the Israeli settler-colonial state.

“I will not whitewash colonial violence by describing it with benign terminology,” says Palestinian-American scholar Steven Salaita about the massacre. “It is cruel, depraved, gratuitous, racist, and genocidal.”

The massacre took place on Land Day, which commemorates Israel’s 1976 killing of six Palestinians during mass protests against land theft, and is part of Israel’s crippling twelve-year siege on Gaza, including the military assault in 2014 that murdered 2,200 Palestinians, including 500 children.

By weaponizing Israel to the tune of $3.8 billion a year, the U.S. government — with virtually unanimous bipartisan support — shares full responsibility for all these crimes.

Evoking memories of racist violence at Sharpesville, South Africa in 1960 and Selma, Alabama in 1965, this latest massacre exposes the innate inhumanity of the entire Zionist project, while only strengthening refugees’ resolve.

“Being a Palestinian and standing up for our rights has meant sacrifice since our first displacement in 1948,” explains Rana Shubair. “My family and I will not back down.”

More than ever, in solidarity with this popular resistance, we call on all people of conscience to support the full Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions platform, which demands an end to Israeli occupation and apartheid, full equality for Palestinians, and — what BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti describes as “absolutely the most significant right in the BDS call” — refugees’ right to return to their homes and lands.

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!

Jews for Palestinian Right of Return

Anti-Zionism is Not Anti-Semitic: Reinstate Moshé Machover to the British Labour Party

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Anti-Zionism is Not Anti-Semitic: Reinstate Moshé Machover to the British Labour Party
Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
October 23, 2017

On October 3, eminent Israeli scholar Moshé Machover was summarily expelled from the British Labour Party for authoring an allegedly anti-Semitic article. In reality, however, Prof. Machover’s article discusses well-documented ideological parallels and active collaboration between Zionism and Nazism in the 1930s and ’40s, the current relevance of which is only confirmed by neo-Nazis like Richard Spencer, who calls himself a “white Zionist.”

Unable to dispute such facts, Zionists resort to smearing anti-Zionism — which is anti-racist, anti-apartheid, anti-colonialist, and anti-fascist — as anti-Semitic. Above all, this McCarthyite witch-hunt is designed to silence the surging Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, many of whose supporters are Jewish.

BDS, which resembles the divestment movement from apartheid South Africa and many other social justice movements, demands an end to Israeli occupation and apartheid, full equality for all, and Palestinian refugees’ right to return to the homes and lands from which they were expelled.

In short, the Labour Party doesn’t have an “anti-Semitism” problem; it has a Zionism problem, as reflected in this baseless expulsion. Along with Jewish Voice for Labour and many others, we call on the Leader of the Party, and its National Executive, to immediately reinstate Prof. Machover and end all Labour complicity in attacks on the Palestine freedom movement.

Stop Fascism & White Supremacy: National Day of Action in Solidarity with Berkeley

Stop Fascism

Stop Fascism & White Supremacy: National Day of Action in Solidarity with Berkeley
Sunday August 27th
Union Square
3pm – to coincide with the counter-demonstration against the fascist mobilization in Berkeley

In the wake of Charlottesville, the streets of Boston this weekend were a resounding showing of the mass outrage against fascist mobilizations. The more than 40,000 people in Boston today have outnumbered and made it impossible for the racists to congregate on Boston Common.

We need to continue to show our numbers and our refusal to allow Nazis to grow or mobilize. Next weekend, another “alt-right” call is convening in Berkeley – and they will be met with resistance. A large ad hoc coalition is organizing a broad, large call to counter the right. They have put out a call for a national weekend of solidarity actions. As one chant in at demonstration today highlights: “Wherever you go, whatever you do, we are many, you are few!” So next weekend, let’s make it a national day of action against hate that the fascists will remember.

***We want this to be as broad and large and representative as possible – email ntylim@gmail.com to endorse. We will list endorsers and make them admins for this event as we receive them. There will be an organizing meeting on Wednesday 8/23 at 7pm at the Brooklyn Free School (372 Clinton Ave) – an event page for this is posted on the wall of this event***

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We have seen, all too chillingly, the impact the Trump presidency has had on an emboldened and rebranded “alt-right”. Charlottesville has exposed the nature of these organized racists who aim to enact violence against people of color, activists, and anyone who stands in their way. While mourning the life of Heather Heyer, we must redouble our commitment to stopping these murderers in their tracks. We need to unite every organization and every individual in the shared goal of marginalizing their message, halting their efforts at organizing, and refusing to accept the normalization of Nazis in the streets.

Tens of thousands have rallied against the right since Charlottesville. We have another upcoming opportunity to stake our ground next weekend. Berkeley, which has been at the center of right wing mobilizations since the election, is calling for a day of solidarity actions as a broad, united front of trade unions and political and faith-based organizations seek to counter a far-right provocation. Now is the time to take up the call. There is a renewed opening in the aftermath of Charlottesville to unite tens of thousands across the country against racism, against fear, and against fascist mobilizations.

Let’s take this opportunity to build as large and broad a demonstration as we can here in NYC on August 27th. This is a crucial next step in better organizing our side, and to take on the fights against racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-semitism and all the forms of oppression and hatred stoked by the Trump regime. Showing in numbers that these forces are not welcome is the only way to demoralize and isolate them. This is an urgent task.

Sponsored by (list in formation): American Muslims for Palestine, Decolonize This Place, International Socialist Organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Jews say No, NYC Solidarity With Palestine, Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Science for the People NYC

Updated: 100 Groups Call on Congress to Oppose Israel Anti-Boycott Act

Updated: 100 Groups Call on Congress to Oppose Israel Anti-Boycott Act

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Updated August 31, 2017 

One hundred national and local civil and human rights organizations endorsed a joint statement to members of Congress expressing strong opposition to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act and calling on lawmakers to reject – rather than amend – the bill.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced in the U.S. Congress in March 2017, amends anti-boycott provisions of the federal Export Administration Act (EAA), enacted in 1979. Those provisions prohibit specific actions taken to comply with or support a boycott of Israel “fostered or imposed” by a foreign country. The sponsors of the new Act propose to add new restrictions on boycotts “fostered or imposed” by an international governmental organization (IGO), such as the European Union or the United Nations. Violations are punishable by exorbitant fines and up to 20 years in prison.

Due to widespread outrage over the bill, its chief Senate sponsor, Maryland Senator Benjamin Cardin, has stated that he is open to amending the bill to remove criminal penalties. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand withdrew sponsorship from the bill in early August, saying that she could not support it “in its current form.” But amending the bill does not resolve its underlying problems, including the chilling effect it will have on constitutionally-protected speech.

The full statement is below. Click here for a PDF version.

Note: We will continue to update the statement with new endorsements. If your organization would like to endorse the statement, please fill out this form.


Oppose the Israel Anti-Boycott Act

We are a diverse group of civil and human rights organizations writing to express our strong opposition to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720 and H.R. 1697) (Act). We call on you to publicly oppose this unconstitutional, draconian bill and to affirm the First Amendment right of all people in the United States to support political boycotts as a means to achieve justice and equality for Palestinians.

The Act amends anti-boycott provisions of the federal Export Administration Act (EAA), enacted in 1979.1 Those provisions prohibit specific actions taken to comply with or support a boycott of Israel “fostered or imposed” by a foreign country. The sponsors of the new Act propose to add new restrictions on boycotts “fostered or imposed” by an international governmental organization (IGO), such as the European Union or the United Nations. Violations are punishable by exorbitant fines and up to 20 years in prison.

This amendment would seriously threaten fundamental First Amendment freedoms and discourage U.S. individuals, businesses, nonprofits or others from supporting boycotts for Palestinian rights. Even if the bill were amended to remove penalties, its passage would still send a message that political boycotts for Palestinian rights are disfavored by the government, causing a severe chilling effect on constitutionally protected speech.

The Act would chill protected speech despite the fact that under its terms, it should not reach the vast majority of boycott activities related to Israeli government policies. Most boycotts for Palestinian rights are not conducted in response to a call for boycott from a foreign country or IGO, but are acts of conscience seeking justice and equality for Palestinians and Israel’s compliance with international law. Indeed, people across the United States are increasingly using strategies involving boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights.

The United States has a long and rich history of boycotts being used to take collective action to advance social justice and secure civil and human rights. Boycotts helped end racial segregation in the United States and apartheid in South Africa. More recently, boycotts helped end a regressive North Carolina law targeting transgender people, and boycott and divestment campaigns have been organized to end university investments in the private prison and fossil fuel industries.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that peaceful political boycotts are protected by the First Amendment.2 The government may not enact laws that would punish those who support political boycotts or compromise the right to support political boycotts.

The Act’s chief Senate sponsor, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, has written that the Act does not target political boycotts.3 Instead, he claims, it merely expands preexisting law to prohibit U.S. businesses from complying with boycott requirements imposed by IGOs. In other words, he argues that the bill does not prohibit political speech but targets “commercial conduct,” which is afforded a lower level of constitutional protection.4

Senator Cardin’s interpretation fails to consider the following:

·         Political speech activities would be directly prohibited by the Act.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would directly prohibit political speech activities, in violation of the First Amendment. Consider the situation of a human rights organization that distributes research on companies operating in illegal West Bank settlements. This organization could be in violation of the Act if the organization’s intent is to support a call by an IGO to boycott settlements.

·         The Act would empower overzealous presidential administrations to target supporters of political boycotts.

We have no doubt that the Act would be used as a pretext for overzealous presidential administrations, lobbied by Israel advocacy groups (including those that support this bill), to investigate and even punish supporters of Palestinian rights, whether or not they actually support a call for boycotts by an IGO, which they must do to trigger the Act. Arab and Muslim communities will likely face the brunt of this potential for overbroad enforcement.

From 2014 through 2016, Palestine Legal responded to 650 incidents of suppression nationwide targeting speech supportive of Palestinian rights, an additional 200 requests for legal assistance in anticipation of such incidents, and dozens of efforts to enact federal, state and local laws aimed at punishing BDS activism and chilling speech supportive of Palestinian rights.5 Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights documented this pattern of suppression of Palestinian rights advocacy in a 2015 report, The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in the U.S.6

As such, our belief that the Act, if enacted, would be enforced in this way is based on a well-researched pattern of suppression of First Amendment-protected speech and actions in support of Palestinian rights involving heightened government surveillance, investigations and prosecutions of individuals due to their support for Palestinian freedom, as well as private harassment and targeting, including by organizations that support the Act.

·         The Act will have the effect of chilling First Amendment-protected political speech.

Despite Senator Cardin’s efforts to insist the Israel Anti-Boycott Act doesn’t target political conduct, the leading lobby group for U.S. support of Israel, America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), itself frames it as a measure to “Combat the BDS Movement.”7  In the past two years, 21 states have enacted laws aimed at punishing participation in political boycotts for Palestinian rights.8 Together with these state laws, the Act will create a severe chilling effect on people across the country who are otherwise inclined to support First Amendment-protected boycotts for Palestinian rights, or who are merely curious to learn more. The wave of anti-BDS legislation, promoted by Israel advocacy groups to undermine the movement for Palestinian rights in the United States aims to send a clear signal that support for Palestinian rights is disfavored by our government and is potentially punishable.

Statements by state officials and Israel advocates illustrate their intent to thwart grassroots boycott campaigns. For example, when a state senator in Washington introduced an anti-BDS bill, he said, “If students want to protest on campus and do what students do, that’s just fine. But we’ll settle the question for them, the adults in [the] legislature.”9 The leader of one Israel advocacy group boasted, “[w]hile you were doing your campus antics, the grown-ups were in the state legislature passing laws that make your cause improbable.”10

Amending the Act to reduce the associated penalties or otherwise will not solve the underlying problems listed above, which illustrate how it is unconstitutional. We call on members of Congress who currently support the Act to withdraw their sponsorship. And we call on all members of Congress to publicly oppose the Israel Anti-Boycott Act and to affirm the First Amendment right to support political boycotts – including those aimed at achieving justice and equality for Palestinians.

Signatories (listed alphabetically)

  • American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
  • American Friends Service Committee
  • American Muslims for Palestine
  • Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
  • Center for Constitutional Rights
  • CODEPINK
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations
  • Defending Rights and Dissent
  • Friends of Sabeel – North America
  • Jewish Voice for Peace
  • Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
  • Labor for Palestine
  • National Lawyers Guild and the National Lawyers Guild Palestine Sub-Committee
  • Palestine Legal
  • Project South
  • Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East
  • United Church of Christ
  • United Methodists for Kairos Response
  • U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
  • U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights
  • U.S. Palestinian Community Network
  • War Resisters League

 

This statement has been endorsed by the following organizations, listed by state (updated August 31, 2017):

Alabama

  • Birmingham Peace Project

Arizona

  • Arizona Progressive Coalition – AZPC Inc.

California

  • 14 Friends of Palestine
  • Arab American Civic Council
  • Buena Vista United Methodist Church
  • Chico Palestine Action Group
  • Culture and Conflict Forum
  • Democrats for Palestinian Equal Rights
  • Friends of Sabeel, Sacramento Region
  • International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity
  • Israel Palestine Task Force of the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • Jewish Voice for Peace, Bay Area Chapter
  • Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles Chapter
  • Jewish Voice for Peace, Sacramento Chapter
  • Jewish Voice for Peace, San Diego Chapter
  • Northern California International Solidarity Movement
  • QUIT: Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism
  • Sacramento Area Peace Action
  • Sacramento Regional Coalition for Palestinian Rights
  • Students for Justice in Palestine at California State University, Fullerton
  • United Methodists’ Holy Land Taskforce
  • Wellstone Progressive Democrats of Sacramento

Connecticut

  • Connecticut Peace and Solidarity Coalition
  • Greater New Haven Peace Council
  • Ironworkers Local 15
  • Jewish Voice for Peace, New Haven Chapter
  • Promoting Enduring Peace
  • Tree of Life Educational Fund
  • We Refuse to be Enemies

District of Columbia

  • U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations

Florida

  • Jewish Voice for Peace, South Florida Chapter
  • National Lawyers Guild, South Florida Chapter

Illinois

  • Arab Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East
  • Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy
  • Committee for Just Peace in Israel-Palestine
  • Jewish Voice for Peace, Chicago Chapter
  • National Lawyers Guild, Chicago Chapter
  • Students for Justice in Palestine at UIUC

Kentucky

  • Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Maryland

  • Baltimore Palestine Solidarity
  • Committee for Palestinian Rights
  • Freedom2Boycott Maryland
  • Friends of Sabeel DC Metro Area

Massachusetts

  • Adalah Justice Project
  • Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine
  • Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights
  • Common Ground for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land, Inc.
  • Jewish Voice for Peace, Boston Chapter
  • Massachusetts Peace Action
  • Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment

Missouri

  • Mid-Missourians for Justice in Palestine

New York

  • Adalah-NY: Campaign for the Boycott of Israel
  • Black Movement-Law Project
  • Brooklyn for Peace
  • Columbia/Barnard Jewish Voice for Peace
  • Columbia University Apartheid Divest
  • Columbia University Students for Justice in Palestine
  • Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center
  • Concerned Families of Westchester
  • Jewish Voice for Peace, Westchester Chapter
  • Jews Say No!
  • The Majlis Ash Shura (Islamic Leadership Council) of New York
  • Muslim Peace Fellowship
  • Palestine Solidarity Alliance of Hunter College
  • Peace Action New York State
  • Queers Against Israeli Apartheid
  • Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
  • Syracuse Peace Council
  • USA-Palestine Mental Health Network
  • WESPAC Foundation
  • Westchester Coalition against Islamophobia

Oregon

  • Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights
  • Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land

Pennsylvania

  • Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition

Vermont

  • Green Mountain Solidarity with Palestine

Virginia

  • Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace
  • Virginia Coalition for Human Rights

Washington

  • Vancouver for Peace

 


1 ↩ The EAA expired in 2001. 50 U.S.C. §4622 (1977). It has been purportedly continued by executive order.

2 ↩ NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886 (1982).

3 ↩ Ben Cardin, Setting the Record Straight: Nothing in the Israel Anti-Boycott Act restricts constitutionally-protected free speech, Medium, July 20, 2017, https://medium.com/@SenatorBenCardin/setting-the-record-straight-nothing-in-the-the-israel-anti-boycott-act-restricts-constitutionally-13bfa7428d8.

4 ↩ Although one provision of the EAA was upheld on commercial speech grounds, the law was never challenged for its restrictions on political speech. Briggs & Stratton Corp. v. Baldridge, 728 F. 2d 915 (7th Cir. 1984). As described in this document, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act would significantly increase the law’s infringement on political speech.

5 ↩ Palestine Legal, Year-in-Review: Palestine Legal Responded to 258 Incidents in 2016, available athttp://palestinelegal.org/2016-report.

6 ↩ Palestine Legal and Center for Constitutional Rights, The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in the U.S. (2015), available athttps://www.palestinelegal.org/the-palestine-exception.

7 ↩ See AIPAC, Fight The Boycott of Israel, http://www.aipac.org/learn/legislative-agenda/agenda-display?agendaid=%7BB499D12C-C5ED-4CA6-93CF-61266D842328%7D.

8 ↩ www.RightToBoycott.org.

9 ↩ Dyer Oxley, Senator: Colleges are being used as ‘politically-correct batons,’ MyNorthwest.com, Jan. 2, 2017, http://mynorthwest.com/500618/senator-baumgartner-bds-bill.

10 ↩ Eitan Arom, As BDS opponents move from campuses to state capitols ,California is up next, JNS.org, April 13, 2016, http://www.jns.org/latest-articles/2016/4/13/as-bds-opponents-move-from-campuses-to-state-capitols-california-is-up-next-