Over 60 Massachusetts organizations protest ‘anti BDS’ legislation

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“Legislation that bars BDS activity by private groups, whether corporations or universities, strikes at the heart of First Amendment-protected free speech, will be challenged in the courts and is likely to be struck down.”

Defenders of BDS do not often see eye to eye with Abraham Foxman, who wrote these lines shortly before stepping down last year as the national director of the Anti Defamation League.   

But this is the message that the Massachusetts Freedom to Boycott Coalition will be taking to the halls of the State House on March 15 when they hand deliver to each legislative office a copy of a statement opposing anti-BDS legislation that has been signed by 61 organizations from across the Commonwealth.

The Coalition rapidly came together in response to a report that a new ‘anti BDS’ bill was being drafted with the assistance of the JCRC.  

Religious organizations, solidarity, peace and justice groups, academics and advocates for human rights, housing, criminal justice reform, corporate accountability, environmental issues, anti-racism, LGBTQ rights and civil liberties all signed on in the space of a week.  

They see this effort to proscribe the kind of non-violent boycott movement that played such a fundamental role in the US Civil Rights Movement and the struggle against the South African Apartheid system as not just potentially unconstitutional, but inherently undemocratic.

Massachusetts legislators would do well to heed their constituents – and the former ADL head – and tell the JCRC they intend to keep their focus on the Commonwealth’s more pressing business.

An Open Letter to the Massachusetts State House

From the Massachusetts Freedom to Boycott Coalition

“Non violence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding…It is a sword that heals.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘Why We Can’t Wait,’ 1963

The Massachusetts Freedom to Boycott Coalition asks the Massachusetts legislature to heed Dr. King’s words as they consider upcoming anti-boycott legislation.  While the bill’s text is not yet available, its intention is similar to that of dozens of other anti-boycott bills introduced into state legislatures across the country: to curb Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a peaceful and legitimate strategy for leveraging consumer and constituent power to persuade Israel to comply with international law and to respect Palestinian human rights.

The US Supreme Court ruled in 1982 in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. that boycotts intended to effect political, social or economic change are protected by the First Amendment.  Such boycotts have been essential tools in US movements for civil rights, labor, the environment, and the struggle against South African Apartheid. As grassroots groups building stronger Massachusetts communities, we are concerned that anti-boycott legislation is not only an unconstitutional violation of free speech, but a threat to our right to organize.

We urge Massachusetts lawmakers to respect constituents who – like growing numbers of Americans across the country – recognize the capacity of boycotts to bring about positive change in Palestine/Israel and the rest of the world as it is forged into Dr. King’s healing sword.

Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia

American Friends Service Committee – Cambridge

Arlington Street Church – Social Action Committee

Better Future Project

Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Black and Pink

Boston Alliance for Water Justice

Boston Climate Action Network

Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights

Boston University Students for Justice in Palestine

Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine

Cambridge to Bethlehem People to People Project

Cambridge United for Justice with Peace

City Life/Vida Urbana

Code Pink – Greater Boston

Code Pink – Western Massachusetts

Corporate Accountability International

Defending Dissent Foundation

Dorchester People for Peace

Executive Board & Members of United Steelworkers of America Local 8751

Faculty & Staff for Justice in Palestine at UMass Boston

Families for Justice as Healing

First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain

Friends of Sabeel – New England

Grassroots International

Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine

Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee

Intelligent Mischief

Islamic Society of Northeastern University

Jewish Voice for Peace – Boston

Jewish Voice for Peace – Western Massachusetts

Jewish Women for Justice in Israel/Palestine

Justice for Palestine at Harvard Law School

Kairos/Franklin County Justice for Palestine

Make Shift Boston

Massachusetts Global Action/Encuentro 5

Massachusetts Peace Action

Muslim Justice League

National Lawyers Guild – Massachusetts Chapter

No More Guantanamos

North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice

Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine

1for3.org

Palestine Advocacy Project

Palestine Israel Task Team of First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, UCC

Peace & Justice Committee of First Church in Bedford, MA Unitarian-Universalist

Project Voice, American Friends Service Committee, Massachusetts

Showing Up for Racial Justice

St. Francis and St. Theresa Catholic Worker of Worcester

Tree of Life Educational Fund

Tufts Jewish Voice for Peace

Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine

UMass Amherst Students for Justice in Palestine

United American Indians of New England

United for Justice with Peace

UUs for Justice in the Mid-East MA

Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment

Wellesley College Students for Justice in Palestine

Western Massachusetts Coalition for Palestine

Western Massachusetts Labor for Palestine

Youth Against Mass Incarceration

About Nancy Murray

Nancy Murray, an advocate for Palestinian rights for over 25 years, has researched and written about surveillance for the ACLU of Massachusetts and its privacysos.org website.

Other posts by .


About Liza Behrendt

Liza Behrendt is an organizer with Jewish Voice for Peace in Boston.

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13 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    March 15, 2016, 1:35 pm

    Hi, Nancy!

    As to: “Legislation that bars BDS activity by private groups, whether corporations or universities, strikes at the heart of First Amendment-protected free speech, will be challenged in the courts and is likely to be struck down.””

    As matters stand. you are probably right, though maybe not for publicly-supported universities which might fear loss of funding.

    But step back a moment and consider “Citizens United” and related S/C nonsense about allowing corporations to do politics.

    I am a proponent of a constitutional amendment to make it illegal, in America, for any entity but a human person to “take political action” in America or to pay someone else to do so (say, by donating to a PAC or political party or political campaign or advocacy organization).

    I don’t like corporations taking political stands. Or giving money (or jobs) to politicians (or their close relatives). Or publishing political ads. And, to be consistent, speaking out against (or for) BDS.

    But my position is full of holes.

    Universities, newspapers, publishing houses are all out there doing “speech”, claiming First Amendment rights, and “taking political action” (as I see it) by trying to change people’s minds.

    Anyone have an idea how to get me out of my hole?

  2. JLewisDickerson
    March 16, 2016, 3:07 pm

    RE: “They [i.e., the Massachusetts Freedom to Boycott Coalition] see this effort to proscribe the kind of non-violent boycott movement that played such a fundamental role in the US Civil Rights Movement and the struggle against the South African Apartheid system as not just potentially unconstitutional, but inherently undemocratic.” ~ Nancy Murray and Liza Behrendt

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Whitney v. California]:

    [EXCERPTS] Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927), was a United States Supreme Court decision upholding the conviction of an individual who had engaged in speech that raised a threat to society. . .

    . . . The Whitney case is most noted for Justice Louis Brandeis’s concurrence, which many scholars have lauded as perhaps the greatest defense of freedom of speech ever written by a member of the high court.[1] Justice Brandeis and Justice Holmes concurred in the result because of the Fourteenth Amendment questions, but there is no question that the sentiments are a distinct dissent from the views of the prevailing majority and supported the First Amendment.

    Holmes in Abrams had been willing to defend speech on abstract grounds, believing that unpopular ideas should have their opportunity to compete in the “marketplace of ideas.” But Brandeis had a much more specific reason for defending speech, and the power of his opinion derives from the connection he made between free speech and the democratic process. Citizens have an obligation to take part in the governing process, and they can only fulfill this obligation if they can discuss and criticize governmental policy fully and without fear. If the government can punish unpopular views, then it cramps freedom, and in the long run, will strangle democratic processes. Thus, free speech is not only an abstract virtue, but a key element that lies at the heart of a democratic society.

    Implicitly, Brandeis here moves far beyond the clear and present danger test, and he insists on what some have called a “time to answer” test: no danger flowing from speech can be considered clear and present if there is full opportunity for discussion. While upholding full and free speech, Brandeis tells legislatures that while they have a right to curb truly dangerous expression, they must define clearly the nature of that danger. Mere fear of unpopular ideas will not do. . .

    SOURCE – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitney_v._California

    • Sibiriak
      March 16, 2016, 3:21 pm

      Justice Louis Brandeis’s concurrence, which many scholars have lauded as perhaps the greatest defense of freedom of speech ever written by a member of the high court.
      —————————–

      A Liberal Zionist, defending free speech.

      • Mooser
        March 16, 2016, 3:37 pm

        “A Liberal Zionist, defending free speech.”

        “Louis Dembitz Brandeis was an American lawyer and associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Jewish immigrant parents from Bohemia, who raised him in a secular home.” Wikipedia
        Born: November 13, 1856, Louisville, KY
        Died: October 5, 1941

      • Sibiriak
        March 16, 2016, 11:09 pm

        Yes, we know, American Liberal Zionism has a long history.

        What about Herzl’s date of birth? What does it prove? Or any other early Zionist?

      • Mooser
        March 20, 2016, 6:34 pm

        “What does it prove? Or any other early Zionist?”

        Didn’t know that anybody was applying that term to themselves that early. Brandeis died before Israel was even invented.

    • niass2
      March 20, 2016, 1:38 am

      Bite me, from Boston.

  3. Kay24
    March 16, 2016, 10:01 pm

    This article about Sweden pressurized into doing things the zionist way shows, how arrogant the zionists can be. They reveal confidential conversations, pressurize, and then insult Swedish officials. In simply terms, it can be called thuggish tactics. All to stop the BDS movement and make democracies stifle the peoples right, because it is all about Israel, their victimhood, and suffering, to hell with the Palestinians. Nations under zionist control better do as they say, or else you may get zio style death threats. These are some ugly people over there in Israel.

    “In recent months, Wallström generated so much Israeli hostility for taking basic positions in support of Palestinian human rights that her security officials had to investigate apparent death threats directed against her in Israeli media.

    Israeli officials had also instituted what amounted to a boycott on meetings with the minister.

    Wallström had enraged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by calling for an investigation into Israel’s practice of summarily executing Palestinian youths alleged to have carried out attacks on Israeli occupation forces, settlers or civilians.

    The Israeli leader denounced Wallström’s remarks at the time as “outrageous and stupid.”

    https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/sweden-denies-israeli-claim-it-opposes-bds

  4. Tom Suarez
    March 19, 2016, 7:47 am

    My guess is that the pro-Israeli forces that are pushing legislators to outlaw BDS will soon wish they had never raised the issue. They can not possibly expect that any but the most fickle of those working for justice in Palestine will suddenly say, “oh, gee, okay, I’ll stop”. Rather, the inescapable result of outlawing BDS will be to give far greater public visibility to the question of WHY so many people support boycott. And getting the public to ask “why boycott?” is boycott’s most powerful aspect. But perhaps the barometer to watch is France, where such laws are not only a reality, but enforced.

    • niass2
      March 20, 2016, 1:40 am

      On Monday at 9:01 I will be calling each and every one of them.

  5. niass2
    March 20, 2016, 1:36 am

    I am Jewish and I will bluntly say here in Medford,near Boston, we have had enough of the anti BDS nonsense and these Zionist wackos who hate America, think they like Israel, but truly love apartheid and hatred We know exactly who these people are ,the kindthat never got laid in high school. I wanted to buy some kedem juice, marked down75%, cause no one is buying it. , cause I like Jewish food, just yesterday at star market, and decided again, as a Jewish person with a brain, consciously not to. Come ask the Medford police to arrest me, they will die laughing and never stop talking about it. I dare you idiots to even try. They will die laughing. I am Jewish, and wont let the local fools tell me how to think .My mom wont talk about it all day like me, but she told me she doesn’t support Israel, at all but she doesn’t like the subject. Whatever, their hatred is why this family wont raise our kids Jewish, right now, right here, in Boston. The JCRC are fools, always were, always will be. And they are very unpopular amongst all the Jews I know here in Boston, that’s about 100 families. We are not Republicans, not fools, and not buying their horse manure. Mmmmkay? They don’t like their own religion, but they do like apartheid. Weird. My dad would say no. His name was steve baran, if you all recall him. Whatever, Israel is a nightmare. Its supporters look like real fools. That is that. Ed Markey is an Israel stooge bigtime. These people lost big time in life, that is why they keep on with their hatred. They were the kapos at Auschwitz, I tell you its true. They are all old stuck up Newton based Volvo driving weirdos. they are indeed. I know who they are. They suck ,big time. The 60 year old virgin, that’s a movie about them. I am 100% Jewish, so is my wife, my ancestors name was Cohen, and we disavow the JCRC and its hatred.

    • Mooser
      March 20, 2016, 12:37 pm

      “We know exactly who these people are ,the kind that never got laid in high school.”

      Look, “niass2” we didn’t all end up like that.

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