Protect the right to boycott Israel in Wisconsin

Barbara Olson and Tsela Barr, Wisconsin State Journal, November 11, 2017

Barbara OlsonTsela Barr
Gov. Scott Walker just issued an executive order prohibiting current or future state contracts with any “business entity” that engages in the constitutionally protected right to boycott Israel for its human rights violations.

Republicans are pushing two similar bills in the state Legislature that would compel individuals as well as companies to support Israel if they want to do business with local or state government agencies. The provisions against boycotts, divestment and sanctions (often referred to as BDS) are to be written into contracts, and long-standing low-bidder requirements are to be superseded.

Our state politicians are not alone in singling out Israel — including the Palestinian territories it illegally occupies by military force — for this special status. In Congress, the proposed “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” would make it a felony to choose not to engage in commerce with companies doing business in Israel and its illegal settlements. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, violations would be punishable by a civil penalty that could reach $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

Such laws, resolutions and executive orders have been sprouting like mushrooms after the rain. Twenty-four U.S. states now have them on the books. Nationally, Republicans and some Democrats have gotten on board thanks to well-funded efforts by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Bipartisanship may be dead when it comes to things the American people really need, but not when it comes to government overreach on behalf of the foreign state of Israel.

The absurd and dangerous consequences are becoming increasingly clear. Last month, people in a Houston suburb were required to sign an anti-BDS pledge to receive hurricane relief. (Individuals, but not companies, were eventually freed from this requirement after protests.)

And a Kansas math teacher who refused to sign an anti-BDS pledge was de-selected from a position in a state-funded teacher training program. A Mennonite, she follows her church policy to avoid purchasing goods and services from Israeli companies and those doing business with Israeli settlements. (Apparently, religious freedom exempts you from the law to provide women’s reproductive health services, but not from the duty to support Israel.) She is now suing the state of Kansas.

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Protect Free Speech

Twelve leading faith organizations pen an open letter opposing anti-BDS legislation

Friends of Sabeel North America, November 7, 2017

Today, 12 leading faith groups, including the Alliance of Baptists, Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Church of Christ, ran a letter in The Kansas City Star calling anti-BDS legislation in the United States what it is: a blatant infringement on First Amendment rights.

The letter, signed by an additional nine faith organizations and endorsed by more than 28 activist organizations, states:

    “We are alarmed by legislation recently passed in a number of states penalizing participation in the nonviolent, grassroots Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, and by similar legislation that is proposed in the U.S. Congress…As faith leaders, we have long used the nonviolent instruments of boycott and divestment in our work for justice and peace.”

There are several things you can do to oppose anti-BDS legislation to protect your First Amendment right to boycott!

  • Call or e-mail your national elected representatives (202-224-3121) to oppose proposed anti-BDS legislation as a serious attack on the right of free speech.
  • Help us spread the ad on social media by visiting us on Facebook and Twitter and sharing our posts.
  • Donate to help fund our work against anti-BDS legislation!
  • Help us show legislators that we will not tolerate attacks on free speech!

    In solidarity,
    Rochelle Watson
    National Organizer
    Friends of Sabeel, North America


    Ask Sen. Tammy Baldwin to Oppose Kenneth Marcus’s Nomination

    US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

    On October 30, Trump nominated Kenneth Marcus to be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education.

    Marcus has a long record of filing spurious discrimination claims with the department in an effort to suppress Palestine activism on campus, and supports anti-BDS legislation.

    Marcus is yet another Trump nominee who would undermine the very protections his office is supposed to uphold.

    Contact Senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and tell them to oppose Marcus’s nomination.


    Who is Kenneth Marcus? Read our memorandum outlining his history of anti-Palestinian activism and why he should not be confirmed.

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    State shouldn’t punish boycott movement — Joel Garb

    Wisconsin State Journal, 11/3/17

    Many Jews, including myself, as well as many others have been inspired by the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement in dealing with Israel. Israel’s current occupation of the Palestinian people on their traditional land is part of the reason for my discontent.

    Last Friday, Wisconsin’s governor signed Executive Order 261, alleging “a robust trading relationship” with Israel. The order said the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement against Israel is discriminatory and “serves to inflame conflict.” State agencies will not be allowed to do business with entities that engage in a boycott of Israel.

    By far the greatest inflammation of conflict runs from Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. This is similar to the boycott of South Africa when a minority community ran the country.

    Wisconsin 24th State to bar or condemn Israel BDS movement

    Jewish News Service, October 29, 2017

    (JNS.org) Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker issued an executive order last Friday to ban state agencies from engaging in businesses with ties to the anti-Israel BDS movement. 

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Credit: Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons.Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Credit: Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons.

    “We stand firmly against discrimination in any form and we wholly support our friends in Israel,” said Walker. “I look forward to leading a trade delegation to Israel to foster new trade partnerships between Wisconsin and Israeli businesses.”

    With the passing of the order, Wisconsin became the 24th U.S. state to enact official measures condemning BDS or prohibiting government business with entities that boycott Israel. 

    “Consistent with existing Wisconsin nondiscrimination provisions and regulations governing purchases…agencies may not execute a contract with a business entity if that entity is engaging in a boycott of Israel,” the order states. “Further, agencies shall reserve the right to terminate any contract with a business entity that engages in a boycott of Israel during the term of the contract.”

    The initiative came just before Walker departed on a trip to Israel at the head of a 15-member business delegation. The delegation will be in Israel until Nov. 2.

    Also last week, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed an executive order that blocks his state from awarding contracts to companies that support BDS.

    ©2016 JNS.org

    UN takes first step to end Israel’s impunity

    Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 28 September 2017

    A UN list of companies that do business with Israel’s illegal settlements would boost the global movement for Palestinian rights. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/ActiveStills)

    UN officials are finally moving to hold Israel accountable for breaking international law, though they are facing fierce resistance from Israel and its allies.

    “After decades of Palestinian dispossession and Israeli military occupation and apartheid, the United Nations has taken its first concrete, practical step to secure accountability for ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights,” said Omar Barghouti, a founder of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. “Palestinians warmly welcome this step.”

    On Wednesday, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that the UN’s human rights office began sending letters to some 150 companies around the world warning them that they may be added to a database of firms doing business with Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

    This week Nickolay Mladenov, the top UN political official in Jerusalem, told the UN Security Council that “Israel’s illegal settlement activities have continued at a high rate” in gross breach of UN resolutions.

    There is a growing legal consensus that international law requires governments to prohibit all trade with the settlements.

    “This could snowball”

    Israeli officials have admitted that many firms – though they did not provide names – have already responded to the letters by assuring the UN human rights office that they will not renew their contracts in Israel or seek new ones.

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    Justice for Palestine

    War On Want logo    Justice for Palestine, War on Want

    The catastrophe facing the Palestinian people is a defining global justice issue of our time. It is not an intractable conflict between two equal sides. It is an Occupation by a powerful military state, armed and supported by the West, against an impoverished, stateless and displaced people.

    • A fourth generation of Palestinian children is now being brought up in refugee camps inside and outside Palestine, living in chronic poverty and denied the right to return to their family homes.
    • Hundreds of thousands more Palestinians suffer discrimination over access to public services, land rights and employment within Israel itself.
    • Israel’s siege of Gaza has condemned its 1.9 million inhabitants to poverty and psychological violence on a daily basis as movement is restricted and there is an ever present threat of military force.
    • In the West Bank, the expansion of Israeli settlements, the continued construction of the Apartheid Wall, the military closure of the Jordan Valley and the annexation of East Jerusalem are creating an irreversible reality of permanent Occupation.
    • This brutal Occupation, the building of the Apartheid Wall and ongoing military oppression can only be continued with the support of countries and companies that continue to back Israel through business and investment.

    Stop Arming Israel

    UK banks and financial institutions hold billions of pounds worth of shares in companies that sell weapons, military equipment and technology to Israel. We can’t allow banks on our high streets to continue lending support to Israel’s militarised repression of Palestinians. Stay tuned for our new report and campaign focused on the role played by HSBC in financing the sale of weapons to Israel. Take action.

    The UK government is complicit in Israel’s continuing violations of human rights and international law. By purchasing arms from and selling arms to Israel, the UK government is giving direct material support for Israel’s aggression and sending a clear message of approval for its actions.Take action.

    Political Prisoners

    A political prisoner is someone who is arrested and detained because of their beliefs or political activities. Israel holds thousands of Palestinian men, women and children as political prisoners. Israel’s system of arrest and detention is an integral part of Israel’s Apartheid system, under which Palestinians are governed under a separate set of laws than Israelis.

    We’ve successfully campaigned to get G4S to stop providing services to Israeli prisons, but others are still directly complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the unlawful imprisonment of Palestinians, including children. The UK government has a responsibility under international law not to aid and abet war crimes like torture, which is routine in the Israeli prison system.

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    ACLU slams Israel lobby group’s backing for anti-BDS bill

    Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 11 August 2017

    The Anti-Defamation League, a major Israel lobby group, has given its backing to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a bill that could impose large fines and long prison sentences on those who boycott Israel.

    The legislation, already a key priority for the Israel lobby group AIPAC, has faced stiffer than usual resistance in Congress after the American Civil Liberties Union denounced it as an unconstitutional attack on free speech rights.

    Violating First Amendment

    Justifying the legislation, the Anti-Defamation League is claiming that the Israel Anti-Boycott Act “is not intended to limit the First Amendment rights of US individuals and companies who want to criticize Israel or penalize those who want to refuse to do business with Israel based on their own personal convictions.”

    But the ACLU was quick to reject this assertion, tweeting, “ ‘Not intended’ to violate the First Amendment is not good enough. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act does just that.”

    Alison Weir: Israel’s New Travel Ban

    I want to go to Palestine – a country recognized by 136 countries around the world. But your law, astoundingly, prevents me from visiting that country. You control entry and exit to the places I want to visit, even though they’re not part of your territory, or included in your exclusive democracy.

    Palestinian women, overseen by Israeli guards, crowd around the Qalandia checkpoint in the West Bank as they try to enter Jerusalem to attend Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque. (BBC News Image 8 of 10, Sept 22, 2009.)

    Alison Weir, Dissident Voice, March 20, 2017

    Dear Israeli Government:

    You’ve recently banned foreigners who support boycotts against Israel or Israeli settlements from being allowed to enter Israel – even Jewish foreigners, a first for the self-proclaimed Jewish state. After all, your “Law of Return” has allowed (and encouraged) Jewish foreigners to freely immigrate to Israel, even as multitudes of Palestinians have been banned from returning to their homes.

    People throughout the Western world have objected in outrage to your new law, particularly Jewish Westerners who have family and connections in Israel from whom they’ll be cut off in retaliation for their political positions.

    Critics, even some who oppose boycotting Israel and who have had no problem with excluding Palestinians, have called out the law for diverse reasons: its quashing of free debate and political expression, its anti-democratic nature, how it will affect them and others personally.

    I support these objections.

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