This week, as Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, enter their 50th year living under Israel’s regime of military occupation and settlements, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has chosen to issue an anti-democratic executive order creating a blacklist of companies and organizations that abide by BDS campaigns for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality. The order is a prelude to McCarthyism 2.0, where loyalty to Israel’s far-right apartheid government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, trumps respect for human rights, free speech, and common decency.
Launched in 2005 by the absolute majority in Palestinian civil society — including labor unions, students groups, and women’s grassroots movements — the inclusive, nonviolent, global BDS movement seeks to hold Israel’s regime of military occupation, colonization and apartheid accountable to international law, as was done to the apartheid regime in South Africa. The overarching goal of the movement is contributing to the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people by asking institutions and individuals to cut their complicity in maintaining Israel’s regime of oppression, which has only grown worse over time.
As the New York Civil Liberties Union has said, attempts to create blacklists to financially penalize groups, businesses, and others that engage in politically motivated speech and association “reach far beyond what is constitutionally permissible.” The U.S. Supreme Court has “clearly established that First Amendment protections apply to politically-motivated economic boycotts aimed at influencing public policy and advancing social change.”
The governments of Sweden, Netherlands and Ireland have upheld the right to campaign for Palestinian rights under international law through BDS tactics against Israel, and so have Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
Having failed to stop the growth in grassroots support for BDS as an effective strategy to realize Palestinian rights, Israel has adopted since 2014 a new top-down strategy that employs legal warfare, espionage and intensified propaganda to block citizens and civil society groups from exercising their right to boycott.
Israel is seeking support from governments in Europe and North America to shield its regime of oppression from accountability and sanctions similar to those applied against apartheid South Africa.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee, the largest coalition in Palestinian society that is leading the global BDS movement, will continue working with our partners around the world, who recognize that individuals must step in where governments have failed us. We are determined to continue our contribution to our people’s struggle for our UN-stipulated human rights.
We regret that Governor Cuomo is among those standing on the wrong side of history, and we express our appreciation to the growing number of courageous policymakers and citizens who stand with the Palestinian people today.