Urge your Congressional Representatives to support BDS and strongly condemn legislation that infringes on our Constitutional right to free speech
Take Action Now: Stand on the right side of history and pressure Israel to cease its illegal and immoral treatment of Palestinians. Urge your Congressional Representatives to support BDS and stand against Israel’s infringment of universal human rights and international law.
BDS as a nonviolent movement to support human rights:
Thirty years ago, an international movement utilizing boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) tactics rose in solidarity with those suffering under the brutal apartheid regime of South Africa. The historic acts of BDS activists from around the world isolated South Africa as a pariah state and heralded the end of apartheid.
For years, Palestinians have adopted non-violent measures aimed at bringing an end to occupation. Through the BDS movement, activists are seeking to create international pressure on Israel to abide by international law, and end the occupation of Palestine.
Begun in 2005 by the largest trade union federations and organizations in Palestinian society, B.D.S. calls for:
- Ending Israel’s 1967 occupation,
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality,
- Recognizing and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes and lands from which they were forcibly displaced and dispossessed in 1948.
The BDS movement has received a lot of attention in recent months. Several months ago, various American academic organizations including the American Studies Association, instituted an academic boycott of Israeli universities and institutions. Recently, religious groups such as the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches have divested from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation.
Current Anti-BDS Legislation in Congress:
As the BDS Movement gains traction among progressive groups who value universal human rights, pro-Israel groups are taking the fight to Congress, where political expediency and power lust often trump ideals such as human rights, and they still maintain a stronghold.
On May 30th, 2014, Rep. Alan Grayson [Fl-9] introduced a bill H.R. 4776, “To prohibit an institution of higher education that participates in a boycott of the Israeli government, economy, or academia from receiving funds from the U.S. federal government.”
The purpose of H.R. 4776 is to protect a foreign country at the expense of the time-honored American traditions of free speech and association.
“To underscore the “existential” danger that B.D.S. poses, Israel and its lobby groups often invoke the smear of anti-Semitism, despite the unequivocal, consistent position of the movement against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. This unfounded allegation is intended to intimidate into silence those who criticize Israel and to conflate such criticism with anti-Jewish racism.” –Omar Barghouti, founding member of the Palestinian Civil Society BDS campaign against Israel.
Constitutional Law on BDS:
Under the 1st Amendment, public speech requires the highest level of protection. The government may not discriminate based on the views of the speaker (“viewpoint discrimination”). When considering government restrictions of speech in public forums, courts use “strict scrutiny.” The Supreme Court of the United States has long held that the political boycott is an activity afforded the highest level of protection under the First Amendment. Boycotts “to bring about political, social and economic change” are protected activity under the speech, assembly, association, and petition clauses of the First Amendment. (NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 US at 911-12, 1982). Thus, to discriminate against an academic institution based on the institution’s views as expressed through political boycott would be an unconstitutional restriction on the institution’s freedom of speech.