N.Y. assault on Palestine solidarity

June 2016 Palestine

By MARK UGOLINI

As part of a major multi-country assault designed to outlaw advocacy of boycotts of Israel, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on June 5 signed “Executive Order No. 157,” instructing state agencies to divest from companies and institutions that participate in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In the tradition of McCarthyism, the order directs state agencies to blacklist “institutions and companies” that support boycott activity in defense of Palestinian rights.

At Manhattan’s exclusive Harvard Club, flanked by other politicians and Israel state lobbyists Cuomo said: “If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you.”

Under this new order, the state Office of General Services (OGS) will immediately compile a list of businesses and groups that “participate in boycott, divestment, and sanction activity targeting Israel, either directly or through a parent or subsidiary.”

Within the next six months, the list will be posted on the OGS website based on “credible information available to the public” and updated twice a year. If an organization wants to be removed from the list, the burden of proof falls on the accused. To be considered for removal, those listed are required to submit formal documentation verifying they are not engaged in BDS activity.

New York is the first state in the country to create a blacklist of this type, and Cuomo encouraged other states to follow suit.

A similar effort has been underway since February in California. An anti-BDS law was submitted to the State Assembly, which would ban state business with companies involved in boycotting Israel. However, the wording of the proposed law was substantially revised, and the final bill approved by the Assembly on June 2 strips out all mentions of Israel, and does not require the state to end contracts with businesses boycotting Israel.

The bill must still pass the California State Senate, where an effort is underway to return the bill to its original state

New York Senator Chuck Schumer hailed Cuomo’s action in New York State, and is launching this effort on a national scale. “I think what the governor has done is an excellent idea.” Schumer told news blog site Jewish Insider. “I think that the state (of New York) should not do any business with any company that participates in BDS, and I am looking at introducing a federal law to do the same thing.”

Palestine Legal, a legal resource for Palestine solidarity activists, quickly responded: “[The Order] is a blatantly unconstitutional attack on freedom of speech and establishes a dangerous precedent reminiscent of McCarthyism. It is unprecedented for a state to create a list of entities that support or engage in a First Amendment protected political activity, and deny them financial benefits because of it. Boycotts are a constitutionally-protected form of speech, association and assembly, and have a long history of being used successfully to address injustice and demand political change.”

Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel states that boycotts historically have been used “to advocate for justice from Montgomery, Alabama to the fields of California, from Arizona to North Carolina to South Africa. Just two months ago Governor Cuomo himself effectively acknowledged boycott’s power to support human rights by banning taxpayer-funded trips to North Carolina to oppose the state’s discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Whether struggling for freedom for African Americans, farm workers, immigrants, trans people, South Africans, or Palestinians, we must stand together to affirm our right to engage in political action.”

This outrageous executive order is a frontal attack on BDS, all Palestine solidarity activists, and the democratic rights of all working people. An outpouring of opposition to New York’s unconstitutional Executive Order is necessary to push back this widening offensive against free speech and the right to protest. All supporters of Palestinian self-determination and equal rights, and all defenders of democratic rights need to stand up and loudly demand its immediate repeal.

Photo: Sainatee Suarez / Adalah-NY