NYC city council anti-BDS bill meets resistance from protesters

Activism
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The two sides of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement squared off in New York’s City Hall on Thursday, with BDS activists disrupting a hearing where city council members discussed a resolution condemning BDS. The resolution doesn’t add penalties, but displays a hostility to a non-violent act of free speech, BDS supporters say.

New York State has been a battleground for opponents and supporters of the BDS movement. The state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has decried the movement that aims to pressure Israel to respect the rights of Palestinians living under its jurisdiction. Cuomo signed an executive order in June barring the state from doing business with businesses or organizations that support BDS.

The resolution is called: “Resolution condemning all efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the people of Israel.” According to the Jerusalem Post, 33 of the council’s 55 members back the anti-BDS measure.

“New York City Council should stay out of the business of condemning non-violent human rights movements,” Radhika Sainath, staff attorney with Palestine Legal, said in a statement on Thursday. “Lawmakers’ actions carry weight. By passing this resolution, New York City Council will chill the speech of New Yorkers eager to be part of an international human rights movement. In the process, the City Council will infringe on our constitutional rights and tarnish our country’s rich history of civil and human rights boycotts.”

The Freedom to Boycott NYS helped organize a wide range of groups to participate in a press conference before the hearing, including “Center for Constitutional Rights,Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No!, Adalah New York, Palestine Legal, the National Lawyers Guild, American Muslims for Palestine and the US Palestinian Community Network,” according to a statement from JVP.

The Jerusalem Post covered the story after protests lead to the ejection of multiple pro-BDS activists from the council hearing room. They painted a picture of a room where Black Lives Matter rubbed elbows Neturei Karta, Orthodox Jews opposed to Israel’s existence for religious reasons.

Protesters, some identifying as pro-Palestinian, some associated with the Black Lives Matter movement and Neturei Karta, among others, continually disrupted the hours-long proceedings, waving Palestinian flags and shouting that “Zionism is racism,” “F**k Israel” and “Free Palestine,” to the point that police emptied out the Council chambers’ entire top-floor balcony.

According to Samidoun, an activist group that advocates for Palestinian prisoners, the disruptions delayed the start of the meeting by an hour, with protesters chanting “Zionism is Racism!” and holding up Palestinian flags. Samidoun compiled video from the event in a post, and praised Assemblyman Charles Barron for opposing the anti-BDS measure with a “powerful refutation of the resolution and support for Palestinian rights.”

Pam Sporn, part of JVP’s New York branch, added that pressure for Israel to reform its policies comes from Jewish New Yorkers as well.

“An increasing number of Jewish New Yorkers, like myself,  are deeply concerned by Israeli policies including the nearly 50 year-old military occupation of The West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza through a brutal combination of separation walls, checkpoints, and illegal Jewish-only settlements,” she said. ““ I strongly oppose the proposed this City Council initiative, Resolution 1058-A, which attempts to chill the free speech of all New Yorkers to advocate for change in Israeli policies through support for the growing BDS movement for Palestinian human rights.”

Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said that BDS deserved respect as a point of view.

“Whatever happened to, ‘I don’t agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend your right to say it?’” she asked, as quoted by the New York Daily News.

Councilman David Greenfield didn’t have sympathy for the movement, and accused it of bigotry. Greenfield also got into a shouting match with Neturei Karta and called them a “mentally unstable cult” that lives upstate in Monsey. 

“Shocked, but sadly unsurprised,” Greenfield said, reacting to the protest. “Any time you hold the BDS movement and its supporters up to any kind of scrutiny, you find either that they are simply ignorant, or that their motivations are rooted in bigotry and hatred. We saw both kinds of BDS supporters at today’s hearing.”

About Wilson Dizard

Wilson Dizard is a freelance reporter and photojournalist covering politics, civil rights, drug policy and everything else. He lives in Brooklyn with his bicycle, camera and drum set.

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20 Responses

  1. John Douglas
    September 9, 2016, 12:14 pm

    Likud first, free speech be damned. Dual loyalty? Definitely not.

    • Talkback
      September 10, 2016, 5:58 am

      Only Likud? As if the US would protect free speech if any other Israeli goverment would demand to undermine it.

      • Emory Riddle
        September 12, 2016, 11:03 am

        Getting a little fed up with these guys like Greenfield projecting their racism and bigotry onto those who oppose them and with the media for giving them a platform and treating them with such reverence.

        Luckily cell phone videos are constantly exposing their lies and dishonesty.

  2. JoeSmack
    September 9, 2016, 1:04 pm

    Wilson,

    This is a great article, but you left out some of the groups that were so instrumental to this action. The people who disrupted and who had organized this action were from a number of groups not represented in the press conference, including New York City Students for Justice in Palestine, Al-Awda NY, and the New York 4 Palestine Coalition.

    Especially considering that those groups are all heavily Palestinian I think it is important to make sure their organizing involvement is included. The only policy position on Palestine that you included was from Pam Sporn, who framed her dissent as a “Jewish” dissent and completely ignored the refugees. Of course her opinion and support are important, but I think you should make sure that when you cover these events that you don’t give short shrift — even unintentionally — to Palestinian groups that have different politics like Awda.

    My 2 cents.

  3. Citizen
    September 9, 2016, 4:33 pm

    Somebody should file a lawsuit against NY Governor for punishing free speech and depriving the city of bids by contractors who support criticism of a foreign state. Ditto for the city councilman; he’s suppose to act for all constitutes, not just those uncritical of a single foreign state.

  4. Blaine Coleman
    September 10, 2016, 9:20 am

    Thank you 1000 times to Black Lives Matter, New York City Students for Justice in Palestine, Al-Awda NY, and the New York 4 Palestine Coalition, and everyone who made noise for boycotting Israel. This was a huge victory because it landed some loud defiance against Israel directly into the mass media.

    It sounds like at least one City Council member would support a resolution for the city government to boycott all Israeli products to the maximum extent allowed by law. This would create even more noise for boycott — who cares what the vote count is? What counts is a good loud voice for boycott in the mass media.

    Thanks again to all of these New Yorkers who found their voice for boycott. I hope the students on 100 campuses heard you loud and clear, and will do the same.

  5. bettyberenson
    September 10, 2016, 6:44 pm

    The Syrians are killing their people in the thousands, the Iranians are hanging gay men and killing women who have the courage of defiance, and you jokers are boycotting Israel, the scapegoat of the left. I am sad for you, because your hostility and ignorance make peace impossible.

    From the river to the sea,
    Palestine will never be.

    • talknic
      September 10, 2016, 8:50 pm

      @ bettyberenson September 10, 2016, 6:44 pm

      “The Syrians are killing their people in the thousands, the Iranians are hanging gay men and killing women who have the courage of defiance, and you jokers are boycotting Israel, the scapegoat of the left. I am sad for you, because your hostility and ignorance make peace impossible.”

      Lemme see what you’re trying to say. If there wasn’t a civil war in Syria now, the Zionist Federation would not have decided to colonize Palestine in 1897. Is that it?

      If Iran didn’t hang murderers who happened to be gay, or is it that if Iran allowed gay people to murder, the state of Israel would not be in breach of International Law, the UN Charter and its own Declaration of independence and plea for recognition. Is that it? Seems really weird

      “I am sad for you, because your hostility and ignorance make peace impossible”

      Asking Israel to adhere to its legal obligations is hostile and ignorant and makes peace impossible or “From the river to the sea, Palestine will never be” is hostile and ignorant and makes peace impossible

      Zionist shills just don’t seem to get the irony of what they say

      • Kay24
        September 10, 2016, 10:48 pm

        They seems to be mindless minions who spew out what has been programmed and brain fed by their evil superiors. They cannot think for themselves, nor do they have an iota of honesty to admit to the crimes perpetrated in their name.

      • MHughes976
        September 11, 2016, 5:24 am

        If it is the influence of us, presumably Westerners who believe that the Palestinians are being treated unjustly, that is preventing peace, then our influence is much greater than I had supposed. It seems reasonable to ask on what terms would peace exist if we withdrew from the scene? Surely the most important means to peace is a peace proposal. I see no such thing on any table.

      • Annie Robbins
        September 11, 2016, 11:08 am

        it’s a bettybot

    • eljay
      September 10, 2016, 10:34 pm

      || bettyberenson: The Syrians are killing their people in the thousands, the Iranians are hanging gay men and killing women who have the courage of defiance … ||

      …and for decades (and among other things) the religion-supremacist state of Israel has been:
      – occupying and colonizing Palestine;
      – oppressing, torturing and killing Palestinians;
      – refusing to allow Israeli and Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands in Israel and Palestine.

      Like all Zio-supremacist hypocrites, you believe that it is acceptable for Jews to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them.

      || … and you jokers are boycotting Israel, the scapegoat of the left. … ||

      You’re a clown for suggesting that Israel is the scapegoat of its own crimes – crimes it has been committing willingly, deliberately and with impunity for decades.

      || … I am sad for you, because your hostility and ignorance make peace impossible. … ||

      I am sad for you because you defend the indefensible.

      || … From the river to the sea,
      Palestine will never be. ||

      All hail the Thousand Year “Jewish State”. Got it.

    • Kay24
      September 10, 2016, 10:56 pm

      This is the reality, the facts, the crimes, which is well reported and recorded. Not hasbara drivel.

      The arrogant occupier has stolen all they can
      ethnic cleansing, violence, and greed, part of the plan
      to drive away by harassment and military occupation
      to deny rights and never allow them to be a nation
      so they must suffer, be denigrated, made to look so bad
      so the brutal occupation goes on, will not make the world sad

    • Keith
      September 11, 2016, 10:17 am

      BETTYBERENSON- “The Syrians are killing their people in the thousands….”

      No, the imperial proxy army of foreign mercenary Jihadists is engaged in a murderous attempt to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria resulting in massive death and destruction. Israel supports these terrorists, just as Israel supports all of the despotic Gulf monarchies. Israel has always opposed secular Arab regimes and supported Islamic fundamentalists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. Israel got along just fine with the Shah of Iran, and helped train his ruthless security forces. US/Israel created the conditions which gave rise to the problems you complain about. Do you always blame the victims for the conditions imposed upon them? Are you totally lacking in intellectual honesty and integrity?

      • Mooser
        September 11, 2016, 3:21 pm

        ” Are you totally lacking in intellectual honesty and integrity?”

        “bettyberenson” makes sense to me as soon as I make one little adjustment. I just add one zero, and it makes a lot more sense.

    • Mooser
      September 11, 2016, 4:48 pm

      “From the river to the sea,
      Palestine will never be.”

      Lines from a Jewish liturgical song? Maybe they could get put on the Israeli flag, to remind the world of our great accomplishment.

    • Yossarian22
      September 13, 2016, 3:06 pm

      Thank you for your brave work fighting for peace in Syria and for better human rights in Iran, Betty Berenson! Oh wait, you don’t care at all about the people dying or suffering in either country except insofar as it provides a rhetorical tool to justify Israeli human rights abuses, right? Just like South Africa’s defenders would cry crocodile tears for all those suffering or dying under brutal African dictatorships and ask why the world didn’t care more about them and insists upon picking poor ole South Africa. Human rights abuses in Uganda or Ethiopia or Somalia or the Central African Republic didn’t justify apartheid in South Africa, just like human rights abuses in Iran or Egypt or KSA don’t justify apartheid in Israel/Palestine.

      Oh, and btw, you’ll actually find a lot of criticism of Arab dictatorships and Iran in anti-Zionist circles and in pro-Palestinian publications. It’s just that we don’t see that as a justification for state-sponsored racial oppression or violence elsewhere.

    • Talkback
      September 14, 2016, 10:44 am

      bettyberenson: “The Syrians are killing their people in the thousands, the Iranians are hanging gay men and killing women who have the courage of defiance, and you jokers are boycotting Israel, the scapegoat of the left.”

      I agree. Palestinans should free themselves from the opressing Zionist regime like all oppressed people should free themselves from theirs.

      “I am sad for you, because your hostility and ignorance make peace impossible.”

      Nope. It’s Zionist settler colonialism which is not even interested in peace, but only in the whole of historic Palestine.

      “From the river to the sea, Palestine will never be.”

      See? You just proved my point. So much for “hostility and ignorance” and what is really sad. And in your case even pathetic.

  6. lonely rico
    September 10, 2016, 8:08 pm

    Cuomo signed an executive order in June barring the state from doing business with businesses or organizations that support BDS.

    The bright side of Cuomo’s executive order – the State of NY will no longer be collecting taxes, license fees etc. from such businesses and organizations!

    “Resolution condemning … the global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the people of Israel.”

    https://bdsmovement.net/

    What is BDS ?
    “The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.

    The STATE of Israel oppresses Palestinians, and the STATE of Israel is in non-compliance (on multiple occasions) with international law.

    Bravo to all who are pushing back, and I too hope the students on 100 campuses (and more) will do likewise.

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