November 21, 2017
In Service of State Violence

“Palestine and the Restrictions on Academic Freedom”

Listen live online here
Tuesday, November 21
11:30 am – 1:00 pm CENTRAL TIME

Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi
The Palestine Center, Washington, DC
The presentation will also be posted on line after the talk.

Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi is Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies/Race and Resistance Studies & the Senior Scholar of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative, San Francisco State University.

Dr. Abdulhadi will speak about her own experiences of being the target of long standing and systemic attempts to silence Palestine activism in the United States. Her talk will underscore the consequences of limiting academic freedom on issues of state violence, namely, allowing it to go unchallenged. Finally, Dr. Abdulhadi will address the role of preserving academic freedom as paramount to sustaining vibrant institutions of learning and discuss her own experiences challenging the many attempts to silence dissent that she has encountered, including a harassing court case that was just dismissed.

For more info see: http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/events/upcoming/service-state-violence-palestine-restrictions-academic-freedom

Walker Order and GOP Bills on BDS Serve Big Donor

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, November 14, 2017

Republican Gov. Scott Walker has prohibited the state from doing business with anyone who participates in a boycott against Israel, a move guaranteed to please a Las Vegas casino billionaire who has contributed more than $900,000 to Walker and the state GOP.

On Oct. 27, Walker issue Executive Order 261, calling the boycott “discriminatory” and saying it “serves to inflame conflict.”

In addition to the governor’s executive order, two legislative proposals, Senate Bill 450 and Assembly Bill 553, would also prohibit state and local governments from adopting rules to boycott doing business with Israel. The measures also prohibit state and local governments from doing business with anyone involved in the so-called Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that has surfaced in recent years on some college campuses.  The movement is designed to pressure Israel to stop oppressing the Palestinian people.

One of the bills’ authors, Republican Sen. Leah Vukmir, of Wauwatosa, penned a column last year that called BDS “economic terrorism” against the Jewish State. Vukmir, who is on the board and a former chair of a bill-mill called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is running for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate to run against incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin in 2018. Vukmir wrote her column for ALEC’s website.

The campaign contributor, Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson, has been a generous benefactor for conservative and GOP candidates in federal and state races across the country. Adelson has also been involved in recent years in efforts against BDS. He and his wife, Miriam, directly contributed $270,000 to Walker’s 2012 recall and 2014 reelection campaigns. In addition, Adelson contributed another $650,000 in 2014 to the state Republican Party, which turned around days later and contributed $600,000 to Walker’s campaign.

ALEC, which was created in the 1970s, unites powerful business interests with conservative state legislators around the country. They meet to come up with “model legislation” that state policymakers can tweak and introduce in their home states. The legislation developed by ALEC hits a range of issues, like privatizing government services and programs, environmental deregulation, voter ID, and the Castle Doctrine.

About four dozen legislators from Wisconsin have been involved in ALEC during the past several years, and ALEC-generated legislation has shown up in Wisconsin, especially since 2010 when Republicans took control of the governor’s office and the legislature.

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.

This “Palestine exception” to the First Amendment is of obvious concern to the millions of people who support the global BDS campaign called by Palestinian civil society to get Israel to comply with international law and basic standards of human rights.

But it should alarm anyone who values their freedom to engage in collective economic action to right wrongs and build a better society. How long before others — such as those in the burgeoning movement to divest from fossil fuels — will have their own “exceptions” written into law? Contact your state legislators and ask them to oppose these bills and Gov. Walker’s executive order.

Olson is a member of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project. Barr is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison.

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.

    Read our alerts