On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that directs state agencies to divest themselves of companies and organizations that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activity regarding Israel, “either directly or through a parent or subsidiary.” He held a speech proclaiming this at the Harvard Club in Manhattan, to an “audience including local Jewish leaders and lawmakers” as the New York Times reports. After that he went out to march in the Celebrate Israel march on 5th Avenue. Just before entering the parade he boasted to reporters: “I am the first governor in the country to sign an executive order saying we oppose the boycott of Israel. I am proud of it and I hope other states follow our lead”. Cuomo has been named as the co-chair of the American Jewish Committee’s Governors against BDS initiative.
An executive order? To avert an act which stands under constitutional right (1st Amendment)? Executive orders are meant to avert imminent or existential crises that cannot await legislation.
But it seems that this is not merely an act that would anticipate expected legislation as such. As the NY Daily News reported, State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan “praised the executive order, which he said was necessary because the Assembly was likely not in favor of the counter-boycott.”
It’s as if we are being asked to believe that BDS is some deplorable enemy endangering our very existence as a free society, and that only those who really care, take action on behalf of the rest of us, who have not yet awoken to the grim reality. For Cuomo, fighting this fight on behalf of Israel is all about “freedom, liberty and democracy”. Thus, one may conclude, any means to avert this protest against these values must be seen as an existential necessity – deserving of “executive orders”.
In order to convince us that limiting our democratic rights is good for us, one must demonise the enemy. We know this from the worst examples in history, which I do not even need to name. Now – BDS has become the “villain”.
Alphonso David, the counsel to the governor, said that the executive action was meant to send a clear message that “the B.D.S. movement is deplorable.”
Israel has had its anti-Boycott law since 2011. MK Zeev Elkin (Likud), who proposed the law, said the law is not meant to silence people, but “to protect the citizens of Israel.” And there you have it again: ‘it’s for your own good’.
When the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the Anti-Boycott Law last year in a 5-4 ruling, the majority of justices departed from technical legal arguments and openly endorsed the law’s political goals. One justice wrote that boycott could be a form of “political terror;” another wrote that BDS should stand for “Bigoted, Dishonest and Shameful;” and a third wrote that “There is nothing wrong in anchoring laws passed by the Knesset in the struggle against those who wish to destroy us.”
USA is still behind France in terms of legislative acts against BDS. France is even ahead of Israel in terms of the punishment it applies to BDS activists.
French magistrate Ghislain Poissonnier writes that the 1972 law (which served as legal background for Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie 2010 prosecution-assault on BDS activists across France), is an amendment to France’s 1881 press law, which was intended to combat “discrimination against physical persons and in no case in order to prohibit peaceful calls to boycott the goods of a state whose politics [are] criticized.”
Imagine that – a law that served as a pillar of freedom, has been twisted in order to serve imperialist agendas.
Cuomo may say this is all about “freedom, liberty and democracy,” just as the French boast “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.” But when it comes to siding with Israel against international pressure and the “deplorable”, “terrorist”, “bigoted”, “dishonest”, “shameful” BDS – we see that they are not just against BDS – they are also full of BS.
There are those who are willing to sell democracy out on this one. Maybe BDS does after all stand for something else. Maybe it stands for Be Damn Sure: Be Damn Sure, that if this current of anti-democratic acts is not countered, it will continue. Soon enough, those who don’t toe the conservative line on behalf of Israel, will all become Palestinians.