You’ve all heard by now of NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s historic Israel-loving move: he signed an executive order yesterday making it illegal for NY state entities to do business with companies or organizations that boycott the state of Israel. The order targeting BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) was a naked expression of power for all to see: the governor made the announcement at the Harvard Club, surrounded by leading Israel lobby groups and Israeli diplomats.
And it was a hit overseas:
I salute you, Governor Cuomo. #BDSFail
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) June 6, 2016
Benjamin Netanyahu has made fighting BDS a priority for Israeli diplomats, Hillary Clinton has echoed the concern, and Israel lobby donors such as Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson have made the campaign a top priority. The New York Times reports:
Mr. Cuomo made his announcement in a speech at the Harvard Club in Manhattan to an audience including local Jewish leaders and lawmakers, describing the B.D.S. movement as an “economic attack” on Israel.
“We cannot allow that to happen,” the governor said, adding that, “If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you.”
Jewish Insider says that the AIPAC president, the Israeli consul, and the president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations were all in attendance at the announcement:
Cuomo [to outgoing consul Ido Aharoni]: “What are we going to do without you when you leave? Can we appeal to someone and make you stay? How do we do that?), Malcolm Hoenlein [of the Conference of Presidents] who introduced the governor (Cuomo: “First, to Malcolm Hoenlein, who for so many years has been such an outstanding leader. Literally, generations have learned from Malcolm and he’s done a beautiful job) ..”
The executive order says that Cuomo will direct the commissioner of the Office of General Services to compile a list of businesses and groups engaged in “boycott, divestment or sanctions activity targeting Israel, either directly or through a parent or subsidiary.”
Chuck Schumer promptly celebrated the move and told Jewish Insider he was figuring out how to pass federal legislation to do the same thing:
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. BDS is a movement that is just totally unfair to Israel.
The Times story includes a strong comment from Omar Barghouti, a boycott leader, saying the New York move is part of the state of Israel’s “legal warfare against B.D.S.”
And this surprising statement from Alphonso David, counselor to the governor:
He added that although he did not know how many companies that do business with the state had endorsed or engaged in the B.D.S. movement, “we anticipate it’s going to be quite significant.”
That’s hard to believe, but if it’s true, it means open warfare in New York over the use of the boycott tool. And arts organizations and leftwing activist groups and Bernie Sanders’s base are sure to be animated.
Here is Adalah NY’s statement, denouncing the order. A “dangerous” decision by Cuomo, and boycott is an instrument that has been used from Montgomery, Alabama to the fields of California (cue Woody Guthrie, folks!)
It is both unconstitutional and outrageous that Governor Cuomo has committed the State of New York to punishing those who wish to support basic human rights for the Palestinian people.
— Adalah-NY (@AdalahNY) June 6, 2016
Baher Azmy of the Center for Constitutional Rights says, thanks to Institute for Middle East Understanding:
Governor Cuomo’s measure is illegitimate and an obvious pander. Procedurally, he sought to avoid any transparent debate about the centuries-old validity of boycott as a means of protest in this country.
And on substance his ‘enemies list’ approach to suffocate opinions he and his financial supporters disapprove of is plainly unconstitutional in its McCarthyist vision. Nelson Mandela, who both understood the need to challenge state repression through economic pressure and who prioritized the Palestinian struggle for human rights would rightly be appalled by this craven pander to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ugly agenda.
Palestine Legal also says the move is “reminiscent of McCarthyism” and says it will invite legal challenges:
Executive Order No. 157 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.
The State of New York may not punish businesses, organizations, and other entities because of their speech and political views. This executive order would chill First Amendment protected activities by requiring persons to avoid or renounce such activities before they can be considered beneficiaries of public funds. It will certainly invite legal challenges.
Katherine Franke, Chair of the Board of Directors, Center for Constitutional Rights, and Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School:
“Governor Cuomo has decided that his moral compass points in the direction of Joseph McCarthy rather than Rosa Parks.”
Here is Schumer saying last night at the Agudath Israel dinner that BDS is anti-Semitic.
This is an evil and pernicious movement. But we have to call it what it is. There may be some people in it who you know are misguided and humanitarian.
But at its core and so many of the people who run it are against any state of Israel whatsoever. And we have to call them out. Even those who say they might be for a two state solution, you know their two states are– one is a Palestinian state and one is a state on the east [west] side of the present border with Jordan where there is the so-called right of return, which means any Palestinian or their third cousin who lived on that side of the border before 1948 can come in and claim their land. So they want two Palestinian states.
What does it mean that those who are at the core of the BDS movement are so fond of statehood for every other people but not the Jewish people? There’s an old word for it, we always have a word for it. It’s called anti-Semitism. Not simply just– bad enough anti-Israel, they’re anti-Semites. Why, why– what is it anti-semitism? It says what everyone can do what the Jew cannot. Everyone can be a farmer and own farm land but the Jew cannot. Everyone could live in Moscow but the Jew could not…
[They’re saying] Every other people should have their own state and their own homeland, but not the Jew.