The right to boycott is heading to the Supreme Court

I’m writing with breaking news. Today the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that boycotts are not protected by the First Amendment. The ACLU has confirmed they will take the case to the Supreme Court, with huge implications for free speech and the right to boycott in the US. Our team has been following this case closely as one of the key stories chronicled in our latest film, Boycott.

The case centers around an Arkansas law that requires public contractors to sign a pledge promising that they do not boycott Israel. Versions of this law have been passed in 33 states since 2016. In recent years, several Americans have challenged these laws, suing their respective states for violating their First Amendment rights. In almost every case — from Texas to Arizona to Kansas to Georgia — the plaintiffs won, with courts finding the anti-boycott laws unconstitutional.

The only exception has been Arkansas, where Alan Leveritt, publisher of the Arkansas Times, is the plaintiff. Alan originally lost in District Court but when he appealed to a three-judge panel at the Eighth Circuit, he won. The State of Arkansas was then granted a re-hearing. Today, the final ruling came out against Alan with the court deciding that boycotts, even when politically motivated, are strictly economic activity and not a form of expression. Brian Hauss, the ACLU’s chief litigator in the case has said that the decision “misreads Supreme Court precedent and departs from this nation’s long standing traditions.” He expressed hope that the Supreme Court “will set things right and reaffirm the nation’s historic commitment to providing robust protection to political boycotts.”

Alan believes that as a news publisher, he has a special duty to stand up for free speech rights. As he wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed: “We don’t take political positions in return for advertising. If we signed the pledge, I believe, we’d be signing away our right to freedom of conscience. And as journalists, we would be unworthy of the protections granted us under the First Amendment.”

When we started filming Boycott, we understood there was a risk that the anti-boycott legislation vis-a-vis Israel could be used as a template. By the time we finished the film, this was already becoming a reality. There are now copycat bills targeting boycotts of fossil fuels, firearms, and other industries. As Alan’s case heads to the Supreme Court, it is not only advocacy for Palestinian rights, the environment or gun safety that stands on the line — but our very right to protest, and to band together for collective political action.

With the stakes increasingly high, we remain committed to sounding the alarm on this story, and you can help us. Share the news on social media, ask your go-to news outlet to cover this story, and get in touch to organize a screening of Boycott in your community. These laws have been able to pass with such ease in large part due to the lack of public scrutiny around its origins and implications. The time to change that is now.

Onwards,
Julia Bacha
Creative Director, Just Vision
Director, Boycott

Montgomery Bus Boycott, December 5, 1955 to December 20, 1956


Rosa Parks sitting on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, 1956. (Encyclopedia Britannica)


The boycott was organized by local ministers, including Martin Luther King, Jr. (PBS)

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute

Sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks on 1 December 1955, the Montgomery bus boycott was a 13-month mass protest that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional.

AIPAC’s new tactic to unseat Rashida Tlaib

A new Super PAC aligned with AIPAC looks to undercut the only Palestinian Democrat ever elected to Congress, and diminish the growing support between Palestinians and African-Americans.


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (PHOTO: TLAIB.HOUSE.GOV)

MITCHELL PLITNICK, Mondoweiss, MAY 31, 2022

A new Super PAC has reared its head and it’s made no secret of its first target: Rashida Tlaib. 

It comes as no surprise that Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American woman and the only Palestinian Democrat ever in Congress, is coming under severe attack ahead of her primary two months from now. But the nature of that attack is a particularly dangerous and pernicious one, and its nature is one that constitutes a unique and serious threat to not only advocates of Palestinian rights and freedom, but to progressives across the board.

The Urban Empowerment Action PAC (UEA) says its “supporters include a broad coalition of African American business, political and civic leaders, working alongside peers in the Jewish community.” Its stated mission is to “narrow the wealth gap between Black and white Americans.”

They explicitly stated that ousting Tlaib was their focus, and they planned to spend over $1 million to support Janice Winfrey, a centrist African-American and the Detroit City Clerk since 2005, against Tlaib. 

UEA squares its thin anti-racist rhetoric with targeting one of the most progressive members of Congress by implicitly accusing Tlaib of ignoring the needs of the Black community. To carry that case, UEA is employing activist and CNN commentator Bakari Sellers, who has long been one of the leading spokespeople for AIPAC in the Black community. 

In 2016, Sellers was a key figure in the fight between the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders camps over how to address Israel and the Palestinians in the Democratic Party platform. Sanders’ camp led an effort to draft wording that called for “an end to occupation and illegal settlements,” which clearly aligned with stated U.S. policy in 2016. 

Sellers wrote a letter opposing the mention of occupation or settlements and got dozens of other African-American leaders to sign on. A compromise was eventually reached where the Democratic platform expressed some sympathy for the Palestinians for the first time, but there was no mention of occupation or settlements. There is little doubt that Sellers’ efforts were an important factor in staving off what was a popular proposal during the 2016 race. 

A photo posted to Twitter by Bakaki Sellers of him meeting Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.

Sellers was hardly subtle in his attacks on Tlaib. “Congresswoman Tlaib, I’m sure, serves admirably,” he told POLITICO. “However, we were hoping that we can have a candidate that doesn’t have varying distractions…we want someone, particularly in these Black communities, that does not get distracted by shiny things or media opportunities but is focused on the uplift of our communities and does right by them.

“I don’t have a beef with her directly,” Sellers continued. “I just think that there are individuals who will have the interest of their district, first and foremost, and not their brand. And will do things in the interest of uplift of that community. It’s not as much of a knock on her as it is that somebody else can do the job better because they’re focused on these particular issues.”

Sellers characterizes Tlaib as being self-centered, an odd charge considering that her politics are not well-suited to upward mobility and she has remained closely connected to the grassroots in her district. He makes no secret of what he means by “distractions,” noting that her criticisms of Israel are “high on the list” of his concerns about Tlaib.

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San Francisco Library Censors Palestine

Demand the Reinstatement of the Wall + Response Exhibit Now!

After four months of planning, the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) decided to cancel a mural exhibition because of its inclusion of the local Clarion Alley Arab Liberation Mural.

SF Public Library informed the Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) that it would not allow the exhibition Wall + Response to open without censoring an image of the project’s Arab Liberation Mural. In partnership with the Arab Resource & Organizing Center’s (AROC) Arab Youth Organizing, the mural was created by a diverse team of community organizations, artists and allies to honor Arab, Muslim and migrant histories and struggles against racism and xenophobia, as well as the experiences of resilience and resistance in the Bay Area. This Mural has been a landmark for the community for over four years.

Recently, the SF Library decided to censor the Wall + Response exhibition because the Mural included the phrase “Zionism is Racism”. Zionism is the official ideology of Israeli apartheid. This phrase captures the experiences of Palestinians and others struggling against apartheid and Israel’s settler-colonial violence. Human rights organizations Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Yesh Din, and B’Tselem, as well as the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia and Harvard Law School have all determined Israel is an apartheid state. It is the height of irony that an art project designed to highlight and resist repression being faced by racial justice movements would be the subject of racist censorship. All the artists, poets, and community-based organizations who were part of the planned Wall + Response exhibition responded with a letter expressing their concerns of structural racism and asking the library to reinstate the exhibition in its entirety.

We are calling on communities to email the SFPL Commission and administration using our one-click tool to demand that the Wall + Response exhibition moves forward, free of censorship.

Take action now!

American Bar Association questions Israel’s designation of six Palestinian organizations

The ABA schools Israel on international law regarding the military’s decision to silence widely respected Palestinian voices by calling them ‘terrorist’


Sahar Francis, director of Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners rights group designated “terrorist” by the Israeli government. Francis is pictured in her office in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. December 2021. (Photo: Yumna Patel)

JEFF WRIGHT, Mondoweiss, MAY 5, 2022

In what must have come as a surprise to Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the American Bar Association (ABA) has now weighed in on Israel’s designation last year of six Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist.” On behalf of the ABA, its president, Reginald M. Turner, wrote in a letter to the prime minister dated April 22, “We request that you review the concerns some in the international community have expressed questioning whether the procedures utilized [in making this designation] inappropriately deprive persons or organizations of their rights.”

The American Bar Association is the world’s largest voluntary association of attorneys
and legal professionals, “committed to… advancing the rule of law throughout the United States and around the world,” according to its website.

In the ABA’s letter to Bennett, Turner wrote, “Advancing the rule of law is one of the ABA’s four goals, the objectives of which include working for just laws, including human rights and a fair legal process; assuring meaningful access to justice for all persons; preserving the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary; and holding governments accountable under law.”

The six targeted organizations are Al-Haq, Addameer, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees. As Turner wrote, “A number of organizations and officials have expressed concerns that these designations have been made on the basis of vague or uncorroborated allegations and target legitimate human rights activities.”

The ABA letter didn’t address the discovery that mobile phones of some of the Palestinian organization’ staff members had been previously hacked by sophisticated spyware made by Israel’s NSO Group, but a post on the European Union’s website cites a report by Front Line Defenders and charges that Israel’s designation was “premised on ‘secret evidence’ and information obtained using unlawful means… part of an ongoing institutionalised Israeli campaign of persecution and attacks to criminalise the organisations and cut off their sources of funding and support from the international community.”

Israel has provided no public evidence of its charges against the organizations, but has insisted that it has provided such evidence to the White House. When asked about the U.S. response to this attempt on Israel’s part to silence Palestinian human rights organizations, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly equivocated, saying that the State Department is looking into the charges.

The letter calls attention to Israel’s biased court system. The American Bar Association has thus added another respected voice to the growing criticism of Israel’s apartheid laws, policies and practices and, by extension, to the silence of the U.S. State Department on this matter. 


Reginald M. Turner Jr.,
ABA President

While the ABA “takes no position on the ultimate culpability of the designated organizations,” Turner wrote, “procedural rights guaranteed under international law would suggest that authorities should disclose to those organizations or their counsel the evidence on which the allegations are based to permit them to prepare a proper legal defense.”

“Organizations should not forfeit their rights simply because they are accused of engaging in terrorist activity. Those charged are still entitled to the presumption of innocence,” the ABA letter asserts. “International law accepts that the requirements of a fair trial may be modified in counterterrorism matters and that states may have recourse to special courts, particularly military courts. It is fundamental, however, that court procedures adhere to the principle of ‘equality of arms,’ a jurisprudential principle that obliges a court to ensure that neither party is put at a disadvantage in presenting its case by being denied access to evidence at the core of the case against it.”

In what can be taken as a reference to the secrecy afforded Israel’s military courts, the letter charges, “While a final appeal can be brought before the Israeli Supreme Court, this could be an inadequate protection since the organizations likely will not have had access to the evidence on which the military order was based, and there may well be no written decision or record for the Court to review.”

In response to attempts to reach Mr. Turner—in the hope that it might be learned how the issue came to the ABA’s attention, what moved the ABA to pen the correspondence, and what response the ABA has received to date—a member of the ABA’s media office responded, “The letter speaks for itself.”

Copied on the letter are: Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, IDF Military Commanding Officer
in Charge of the West Bank; Michael Herzog, Ambassador of Israel to the United States; Gilad Erdan, Ambassador of Israel to the United Nations; Thomas R. Nides, United States Ambassador to Israel; Antony J. Blinken, United States Secretary of State; Ms. Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

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April 25, 2022: Wisconsin Premiere of the Film Boycott

Just Vision’s new documentary, Boycott, will have its Wisconsin Premiere at the Milwaukee Film Festival on Monday, April 25 at 5:45pm. Boycott follows the stories of a news publisher, an attorney and a speech therapist, who, when forced to choose between their jobs and their political beliefs, launch legal battles that expose an attack on freedom of speech across America.

The film traces the impact of state legislation passed in 33 states – including Wisconsin – designed to penalize individuals and companies that choose to boycott Israel due to its human rights record. A legal thriller with “accidental plaintiffs” at the center of the story, Boycott is a bracing look at the far-reaching implications of anti-boycott legislation and an inspiring tale of everyday Americans standing up to protect our rights in an age of shifting politics and threats to freedom of speech.

Google, don’t punish your workers for standing with Palestinians!

They think we Arabs are uncivilized?

Amer Zahr, YouTube, 8 March 2022

Amer Zahr is a Palestinian Arab American comedian, speaker, writer, academic, and adjunct professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. He draws on his experiences growing up as a child of Palestinian refugees, performing and lecturing on topics like politics, society, culture, identity, Palestine, Islam, and more.

Israel Uses Military Tech Industry to Spy on Americans

If Americans Knew, YouTube, Oct 6, 2021

Part one of a three-part series. Part two is at https://iakn.us/VidBetray. For citations see https://iakn.us/3Ded9MU. If you don’t want U.S. politicians to give Israel over $10 million per day and spend an additional $10 million per day of our tax money on behalf of Israel, tell your Congress members here: https://iakn.us/No20Mill

If Americans Knew is a tax-exempt 501c3 U.S. nonprofit organization. Please donate so that we can continue to provide facts to the American public: https://iakn.us/donate

#Palestine: Violations of Palestinian Digital Rights in 2021


The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media (7amleh), 2022-01-10

1,033 violations of Palestinian digital
rights on social media platforms

Development and use of surveillance and spyware technologies by Israeli authorities against Palestinians

Use of technologies to hack the mobile phones of Palestinian citizens by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas

7amleh – the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media released on Tuesday, 11 January 2022, its seventh annual report “Hashtag Palestine,” illuminating the digital rights violations of Palestinians and pro-Palestinian advocates online, at the hands of the three authorities as well as different social media companies in relation to the escalations and developments on the ground. 

The report, in its seventh edition, shows the continuation and escalation in Israeli violations of Palestinian digital rights. According to the report, use of surveillance technologies significantly increased, evident in the proposal of an Israeli law to allow the use of facial-recognition cameras in public spaces. Similarly, a former Israeli officer revealed organised efforts to spy on Palestinian phone calls, indicating the Israeli authorities’ ability to access all calls conducted between Palestinians. Furthermore, the Israeli manufactured “Pegasus” spyware, developed by the Israeli “NSO Group,” was identified on the phones of 6 Palestinian human rights defenders and workers in Palestinian rights organisations and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Additionally, in line with the Israeli authorities’ efforts to restrict Palestinian content online, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation recently approved the first draft of the “Facebook Law,” which would allow the Israeli Public Prosecution to refer to the Israeli courts to issue binding decisions to remove any content online, which would have serious repercussions on Palestinian digital rights.

As for Israeli incitement online, the “Hashtag Palestine 2021” report illustrates the continuation of Israeli incitement, both official and unofficial, against Palestinians in the media and on social media platforms. According to the “Index of Racism and Incitement” issued by 7amleh in June, incitement in Hebrew against Arabs and Palestinians increased by 15 times during the aggression on the Gaza Strip and the events of May 2021, compared to the same period in 2020.

Regarding the Palestinian Authority and De-Facto Authority of the Gaza Strip (Hamas), violations came as part of a larger assault on the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The report presents cases of arbitrary detention, summonses on the basis of political activity, and even smear and extortion campaigns on similar grounds. The situation also remains critical in the occupied territory regarding privacy and data protection, as the above authorities continue to infringe the privacy of users, especially in the absence of legislation enshrining the right to privacy and data protection, and in light of the Israeli authorities’ control over the information communication technology (ICT) infrastructure in the occupied Palestinian Territory.

At the level of technology companies, the events of May 2021 perhaps best highlighted the extent of censorship of Palestinian human rights and political content, as well as critiques of Israeli violations against the Palestinians. Social media platforms increased censorship of Palestinian content, and in less than two weeks, deleted, suspended and restricted hundreds of posts related to Palestine. 7amleh documented more than 1,000 violations across different platforms, with Facebook and Instagram atop the list of the most violating platforms, the report said. 7amleh also reported that Twitter and Tik Tok were more responsive to reports of violations by the center than Meta.

In addition to all of the above restrictions and limitations on Palestinian digital rights at the hands of the three authorities and technology companies, Palestinians further face internal societal challenges such as hate speech and misleading news, impacting their activity in the digital space and digital participation.

Check out the full research