With BDS order, Cuomo imports the anti-democratic spirit, from Israel and France

US Politics
on 26 Comments

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”.

Malcolm Hoenlein, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, speaking at Gov. Cuomo's announcement that he was signing anti-BDS executive order

Malcolm Hoenlein, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, speaking at Gov. Cuomo’s announcement that he was signing anti-BDS executive order

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.

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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26 Responses

  1. a blah chick
    June 7, 2016, 2:59 pm

    He had to go with an executive order because it wasn’t going through the legislature. They can’t get it done any other way.

    Also I heard on twitter that the lady in the hijab did not know she was was being used as a prop. Someone who knows her or about her says she thought it was to be “breakfast with the governor.” Stay tuned.

  2. hophmi
    June 8, 2016, 12:15 am

    Your over the top reaction, Jonathan, suggests that the anti-BDS campaign is working.

    • Misterioso
      June 8, 2016, 10:08 am

      The “over the top reaction” of your camp further confirms that the BDS campaign IS working.

  3. Marnie
    June 8, 2016, 12:49 am

    Don’t americans care that their elected officials put the interests of a foreign country, who has done nothing for americans but pressured its officials to fight their wars so as to save israeli ‘soldiers’ for the continual occupation of the indigenous people of Palestine?

    Wake the [email protected] up americans!

    • Misterioso
      June 8, 2016, 10:13 am

      When it comes to Israel, America’s leaders will inevitably have to heed the sage advice of their country’s founding father. In his Farewell Address, George Washington admonished his fellow citizens to steer clear of a “passionate attachment” to another nation, as it could create “the illusion of a common interest…where no common interest exists.”

    • Annie Robbins
      June 8, 2016, 11:01 am

      Don’t americans care that their elected officials put the interests of a foreign country, who has done nothing for americans but pressured its officials to fight their wars so as to save israeli ‘soldiers’ for the continual occupation of the indigenous people of Palestine?

      why stop w/americans? the same could be said for the british considering the loyalty (to israel) of so many of UK politicians (conservative friend of israel/labor friends of israel etc).

      • Marnie
        June 8, 2016, 11:03 am

        I suppose because my heart is with americans Annie. The person I am today is because I’m american, though no longer live, plan to visit or vote in any election. I don’t have skin in the game, but care about family and folks like you. My disgust is not limited to the united states by any means, I just feel betrayed, angry and saddened by what she does/does not do. No offense.

      • Annie Robbins
        June 8, 2016, 11:19 am

        betrayed — yeah me too.

      • hophmi
        June 8, 2016, 12:55 pm

        Classic BDS obnoxiousness; if you support a strong relationship between your country and Israel as a matter of national interest, you’re part of a fifth column.

      • Annie Robbins
        June 8, 2016, 1:06 pm

        strong relationship between your country and Israel as a matter of national interest

        our national interests are not furthered by a strong alliance with an apartheid state with an ugly decades long oppressive occupation, so your allegation is a moot point.

      • Marnie
        June 8, 2016, 11:43 pm

        Support of israel has been to the detriment of the united states. I know Annie’s asked you and you haven’t responded, but I just have to know Hophni – what has israel done for the united states? How has this ‘special relationship’ benefitted the united states? The united states is reviled world wide in part by its ‘special relationship’ with the zionist state. You please provide the necessary info to prove it ain’t so. Just for fun: What do you think HRC means when she says she wants to take the relationship (with the zionist state or Netanyahoo?) to the next level? What wonderful outcome could that possibly lead to for americans? I see white phosphorus, bombs, drones, more bombs, Apache helicopters………

        Also, ‘special relationship’ has got the slimiest connotation to it; sounds like a pervert’s description of incest (Oh come on, you know how Uncle Saul is – he’s showing how much he loves you!) or pedophelia (ala special airplanes with special clients traveling to special places to have sex with special underage females).

    • hophmi
      June 8, 2016, 2:28 pm

      “our national interests are not furthered by a strong alliance with an apartheid state with an ugly decades long oppressive occupation, so your allegation is a moot point. ”

      Most people disagree with you, Annie. You’re so incapable of acknowledging any other POV besides your own; always, you revert to your talking points. Get your head out of your ceramic vases and try to see the world from someone else’s POV for a change.

      • Annie Robbins
        June 8, 2016, 3:13 pm

        don’t give me this “most people” thing to back up your claim. if most people agreed with you there would be no need for an israel lobby in this country hops. it’s a one way street. most americans want the US to take a neutral stance wrt israel/palestine. that info bears out in polls repeatedly.

        if you’d like to make the case how a strong relationship with an apartheid state is in our nation interests do so, but “You’re so incapable of acknowledging any other POV” is not an argument.

        besides, i am not incapable of acknowledging any such thing. i am well aware there are people who think aligning with israel is in our national interest. — but what i am VERY aware of is politicians who think it’s in their personal interest, who realize their careers could be in jeopardy if they don’t tow the line. recall the ‘making a list- checking it twice’ for those who didn’t attend netanyahu’s senate address? you really think that was for our national interests! the 29 standing ovations? our national interests?

        so make the case hops, what does israel do for us?

      • Mooser
        June 8, 2016, 6:39 pm

        “Most people disagree with you, Annie. “

        In that case “MondoHophmi” should be much more popular than this icky blog!

  4. Citizen
    June 8, 2016, 5:06 am

    Now that Killery won, there will be more of this Mccarthyite blacklisting, a list that will cow free speech even after BDS wins in court. NY joins via its governor the seven or more state currently with anti-BDS laws. Plus Israel and France. Who’s next? OTOH, at least three foreign Western states have come out in support of BDS–with how many more to come? Some day, the Palestinians will have their day in the court of pubic opinion–unless the internet in the USA also falls to the power of Zionist moneybags. Informed consent, the bedrock of democracy, has a long struggle ahead, and the Palestinians will continue to be a litmus test of how it’s doing.

    • hophmi
      June 8, 2016, 12:56 pm

      “at least three foreign Western states have come out in support of BDS”

      Which ones would those be?

      • Marnie
        June 9, 2016, 1:29 am

        News
        Irish and Dutch governments join Sweden in speaking out for right to call for BDS

        Posted on May 28, 2016 by Palestinian BDS National Committee

        A demonstration against Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza in France, where the government has been prosecuting BDS activists
        ◾Dutch foreign minister says BDS “protected by the freedom of expression”
        ◾Irish foreign minister says BDS is a “legitimate political viewpoint” and that his department is monitoring Israel’s repression of BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti
        ◾352 European bodies call on the EU to support right to boycott
        ◾23,000 people appeal to UN on the #RightToBoycott

        The Dutch and Irish governments have publicly stated that calls for a boycott of Israel are legitimate, with the Dutch foreign minister saying that advocating and campaigning for Palestinian rights through the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel are “protected by the freedom of expression”.

        The statements dealt a serious blow to Israel’s relentless war of repression that has led governments in the UK, France, Canada and state legislatures across the US to introduce anti-democratic legislation and taking other repressive measures to undermine the BDS movement. Israel has also admitted that it is using its intelligence services to spy on BDS activists overseas.

        Irish foreign minister Charles Flanagan responded to a parliamentary question by Deputy Paul Murphy on Israel’s attacks on the movement saying that BDS is not supported by the Irish government but that it is a “a legitimate political viewpoint”.

        In response to a question regarding Israel’s travel ban and attempts to revoke the residency of BDS movement co-founder and human rights defender Omar Barghouti, Flanagan said that the Irish foreign ministry “will monitor the ongoing developments” and that “I do not agree with attempts to demonise those who advocate this [BDS] policy”. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions had called on the Irish government to pressure Israel to respect the rights of Palestinian human rights defenders.

        Israel has imposed a travel ban on Omar Barghouti, who lives in Acre in present day Israel with his family, and seems intent on revoking his residency to punish him for his BDS advocacy.

        In response to a similar question by Green Left MP Rik Grashoff, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders, said that “Statements or meetings concerning BDS are protected by the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as enshrined in the Dutch Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

        Revealing that Israel regularly raises the topic of BDS in bilateral meetings with the Dutch government, Koenders reiterated his government’s opposition to the boycott of Israel but insisted that “endorsing BDS falls under freedom of expression.”

        Riya Hassan, Europe coordinator for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the broadest coalition in Palestinian civil society that is leading the global BDS movement, said:

        “With the Netherlands and Ireland joining Sweden in defending the right to advocate and campaign for Palestinian rights under international law through BDS, Israel’s attempt to get BDS outlawed in Europe and to bully its supporters into silence have been dealt a serious blow.”

        In March 2016, the Swedish foreign ministry reaffirmed basic democratic principles by stating that BDS “is a civil society movement” and that “governments should not interfere in civil society organization views.”

        More than 350 European human rights organizations, trade unions, church groups and political parties, some of whom do not yet endorse BDS, have called on the European Union to support the right to boycott Israel in response to its occupation and violations of Palestinian rights. Similar statements have been made by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

        Riya Hassan added:

        “Israel’s attacks on our movement appear to be backfiring as they have led to European governments and some of the world’s most famous human rights organisations and political organisations across Europe and the world speaking out in defence of our right to advocate BDS.”

        “Across European civil society, there is a fast spreading recognition of the BDS movement as a legitimate form of nonviolent, grassroots human rights advocacy for the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people.”

        More than 23,000 people have signed an appeal urging the UN to take measures to uphold and protect the rights of Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders who campaign nonviolently for Palestinian rights, including through the BDS movement. The appeal will be sent to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the coming few days.

        Hassan added: “We’re hugely grateful to each of the 23,000 people who signed our appeal urging the UN to protect our right to campaign for Palestinian rights, and we’re more optimistic than ever that Israel’s desperate legal, spying and propaganda war on our human rights movement will ultimately fail.”

        The impressive growth in recent years of support for the BDS movement in mainstream trade unions, churches and pension funds, as well as among student governments, academic associations, anti-racist movements, LGBTQ groups and artists across the world, has prompted the Israeli establishment to admit the strategic impact of BDS.

        The fact that large European companies such as Veolia, Orange and G4S are abandoning or announcing plans to leave the Israeli market following BDS campaigns is also particularly worrying for Israel.

        Israeli-induced attacks on free speech and civil rights in Europe, the US and Canada, among others, are seen by BDS campaigners as fostering an “ominous environment of bullying, intimidation and repression that has all the hallmarks of the era of McCarthyism in the US and the worst days of the apartheid regime in South Africa”.

        Fatin Al Tamimi, chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign welcomed the government statement. Ms. Tamimi said:

        “At a time when our colleagues are being attacked in Britain, France, the US and elsewhere via anti-democratic legislation, it is refreshing that the BDS campaign has been recognised by the Irish Government as a legitimate and democratic movement for justice in Palestine.

        “It is, of course, disappointing that the government itself doesn’t actively support the BDS campaign at the moment, but nevertheless we will continue campaigning for sanctions, including an arms embargo, to be imposed on Israel until it complies with its intentional law and human rights obligations.”

      • Annie Robbins
        June 9, 2016, 2:01 am

        we published that here last week marnie http://mondoweiss.net/2016/05/governments-sweden-speaking/

        excellent news

      • Marnie
        June 9, 2016, 3:50 am

        Annie Robbins June 9, 2016, 2:01 am we published that here last week marnie link to mondoweiss.net excellent news – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/06/imports-democratic-spirit/#comment-842520

        You sure did.

  5. JLewisDickerson
    June 8, 2016, 5:38 am

    RE: “In order to convince us that limiting our democratic rights is good for us, one must demonise the enemy.” ~ Jonathan Ofir

    ALDOUS HUXLEY:

    “The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.” ~ Aldous Huxley, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aldoushuxl387288.html

  6. Boomer
    June 8, 2016, 9:55 am

    AIPAC isn’t restricted to executive orders. I see that there is a new bill in Congress to help Holocaust victims and their heirs retrieve property stolen from them. I wish that Congress were equally enthusiastic about helping Palestinian victims and their survivors retrieve what was stolen from them (often with support from the U.S. that helped enable the theft). I wonder why the glaring difference?

  7. mcohen.
    June 9, 2016, 1:28 am

    annie said..

    “betrayed…..yeah me too,”

    how so.explain this to me.

    • Annie Robbins
      June 9, 2016, 2:08 am

      My disgust is not limited to the united states by any means, I just feel betrayed, angry and saddened by what she does/does not do.

      see the bolded part. i was brought up to believe my country was good. instead, it supports and empowers war and grotesque regimes. just stuff like that. a child’s mind is so simple, so innocent.

  8. mcohen.
    June 9, 2016, 2:42 am

    annie

    there is no bad or good.everything is paid for in blood and treasure.
    you should be grateful you live in america.

  9. Jonathan Ofir
    June 12, 2016, 11:31 am

    Mcohen, in your response to Annie, you write “there is no bad or good.everything is paid for in blood and treasure. you should be grateful you live in america.”

    If there is no bad or good, then no state is better than another. Why should Annie then be grateful to live in America? It is after all not worse or better than any other country? Ah, perhaps because America managed to get more “treasure” by “blood”. So the argument is supposed to be that it’s a rich country (and that’s the only thing that counts, because it can’t be a “good” country anyway. According to the US debt clock, the USA debt is very close to 20 trillion USD. (http://www.usdebtclock.org/#), where a lot of that is simply war expenditure and maintenance of about 800 military locations worldwide. So we could talk about how, or whether, this “blood” is actually producing “treasure”. By your logic, USA is not policing the world in order for it to become “good”, or to remove “bad regimes” – because there is no bad or good. It is spilling blood in order to get treasure. Ironically, I think this is the logic underlying the many interventions. I think it’s bad, really bad. But you don’t believe in good or bad.

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