Amid the pandemic, Missouri and Oklahoma pass anti-BDS bills

“In the midst of a global pandemic, it is dismaying that state lawmakers in Missouri and Oklahoma have prioritized passing bills that punish those who boycott for justice" - Palestine Legal Senior Staff Attorney Meera Shah
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On May 14, Missouri’s state legislature passed a bill prohibiting the state from entering into contracts with businesses that boycott Israel. The next day, Oklahoma’s legislature passed a nearly identical piece of legislation. Both states have Republican Governor, who are expected to sign the bills into law.

The two bills mirror a number of state anti-BDS laws that have been passed in recent years, in that they only apply to companies that employ more than 10 people and contracts that are worth more than $100,000. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and a number of human rights groups, successfully thwarted an effort to pass the Missouri bill in 2018. The legislation had passed Missouri’s House but ended up hitting a wall in the Senate. The bill was filibustered by former GOP State Senator Robert Schaaf, who argued that every country in the world could hypothetically be boycotted and Israel was being singled out for preferential treatment. The new bill passed the Senate 28-1 on April 30 and 95-40 on May 14.

Oklahoma’s House passed its anti-BDS bill on March 3, 75-20. The May 15th Senate vote was 36-7. GOP Rep. Mark McBride, a cosponsor of the House bill, told The Oklahoman that the BDS movement is “anti-peace.” “The Bible is clear that those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed,” said McBride.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, it is dismaying that state lawmakers in Missouri and Oklahoma have prioritized passing bills that punish those who boycott for justice,” Palestine Legal Senior Staff Attorney Meera Shah told Mondoweiss, “Year after year, activists in these states successfully fought back against anti-boycott bills. This year, while legislative sessions were truncated due to COVID-19, and people sheltering in place were unable to fight back, lawmakers made the time to pass bills aiming to silence constitutionally protected speech in support of Palestinian rights. These laws will be challenged.”

This week the Biden campaign released a document titled, “Joe Biden and the Jewish Community: A Record and a Plan of Friendship, Support and Action”, which details a number of his potential administration’s policy objectives. The plan cites Biden’s “efforts to oppose the delegitimization of Israel, whether in international organizations or by the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement here at home.” It also declares that a Biden administration would “firmly reject the BDS movement, which singles out Israel — home to millions of Jews — and too often veers into anti-Semitism, while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.”

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Passage of the anti-boycott bill in my state, Missouri, must certainly be accounted a setback for freedom, justice, and equality in Palestine, as well as for civil liberties of Missourians under the First Amendment. Still, Hasbara Central has paid a heavy price. In the House, 40 members voted against the bill: 29 of the 48 Democrats, and 11 of the 114 Republicans. Only 2 Democrats voted for the bill (the other 17 voted either Present… Read more »

The two anti-BDS bills have no legal foundation. They violate the First Amendment of U.S. Constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Missouri and Oklahoma? Who’da thunk it?

Canada is going in that direction as well. If there are actual prosecutions, cases will go to both Supreme Courts, and the laws will be thrown out. But of course that’s not the purpose of these laws, which are there to intimidate, especially to intimidate academic institutions. They are working.