The New York State Senate passed "BILL S6378A" earlier this month, which attempts to shut down calls for boycotts on a number of so-called "allied nations". The list of nations includes members of NATO, signatories of the Southeast Asia Treaty, and Rio Treaty (excluding Venezuela - which is already on the United States' 'bad guy' list), as well as Israel, Japan, South Korea,and Ireland.
The bill - one of many introduced in recent years across the United States as calls to boycott Israel have grown - takes aim at the First Amendment, U.S. anti-occupation activists and all those calling for a boycott of an 'ally', as well as any areas it controls. This means that it covers those calling for a total boycott, including the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which calls for a boycott of Israel. It also covers those calling for a boycott of goods made in Israeli settlements and outposts in occupied territories.
Everyone found to be involved in boycotting allies and businesses located on their territory or territory they "control" will be included on a state comptroller-kept blacklist. This list would include folks like Peter Beinart, who teaches at CUNY and who has called for "Zionist" boycott to "save Israel". So, just to be clear, the legislation seeks to stamp out support for the generally mainstream (in Israel and Jewish communities around the world), decades old Israeli-led boycott of settlement goods. Sounds like an anti-Israel (maybe even Anti-Semitic) law to me! Okay, too much.
According to the bill a boycott:
SHALL MEAN TO ENGAGE IN ANY ACTIVITY, OR TO PROMOTE OR ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO ENGAGE IN ANY ACTIVITY, THAT WILL RESULT IN ANY PERSON ABSTAINING FROM COMMERCIAL, SOCIAL OR POLITICAL RELATIONS, WITH ANY ALLIED NATION, OR COMPANIES BASED IN AN ALLIED NATION OR IN TERRITORIES CONTROLLED BY AN ALLIED NATION, WITH THE INTENT TO PENALIZE, INFLICT, OR CAUSE HARM TO, OR OTHERWISE PROMOTE OR CAST DISREPUTE UPON, SUCH ALLIED NATION, ITS PEOPLE OR ITS COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS.
Okay, it does leave room for you to abstain from commercial, social, or political relations if you don't mean to cause harm. So... I suppose you could argue that any boycott with the intent to liberate everyone from the shackles of violence, occupation, racism, etc. is meant to help not hurt. I'm no lawyer, but I'm fairly certain that this will be foolproof in court (Note: The preceding sentence was a joke. I am not a lawyer and have zero idea of what might hold up in court).
This bill, which would stop the state from hiring, partnering and investing in people who call for a boycott sounds like an attempt to silence speech and it is, which seems strange considering that it is literally the FIRST amendment. It's the first one. It's right there.
So the bill aims to control what people talk about. Hilariously, on top of that, the bill was introduced by State Senator Jack M. Martins who has, in the past, made known his contentment with Citizens United, which includes the spending of money in the definition of free speech and therefore allows unlimited private funds flowing into U.S. elections.
As well, one of the anti-boycott bill's co-sponsors, Simcha Felder, was the sole state Democrat to withhold a signature from a bill to overturn Citizens United in the state.
Odd then that their anti-boycott bill would seek to block New Yorkers' right to decide how and where to spend or withhold their money. The very same guys that support the idea that money is speech, want to control how New Yorkers spend and withhold their money.
So, whether you think speech is speech or money is speech these 'distinguished gentlemen' want to control it, which sounds fairly unconstitutional. Then again, Citizens United seemed to stand on the same shaky ground, but here we are.
There are, of course, some areas that Martins (who just hates bills that haven't been fully thought through) may want to smooth out. If made law this legislation would also aim to curb boycotts of, say, Turkey (a member of NATO) even if it turned out it's been buying oil from ISIS, which the Israeli government has suggested. I wonder if anyone in Israel will connect the dots and ask New York state to kill a bill that could support ensure New Yorkers are unwillingly supporting ISIS.
The bill, which passed the State Senate in a 55 to 6 vote, is now in committee as bill A9036 in the State Assembly waiting to be voted on there, after which, if it passes, it will make its way to Governor Andrew Cuomo's desk.
New Yorkers, if you want to speak to your Reps you can find them here.
This article also appears at Jewschool.com