Black Lives Matter Benefit Is Canceled Over Stand on Israel

The owners of the club have canceled a concert, citing a platform of groups affiliated with Black Lives Matter that calls Israel “an apartheid state”

MICHAEL PAULSON, The New York Times, September 8, 2016

Photo Credit: Karsten Moran for The New York Times

A popular Broadway cabaret club has canceled a concert benefiting Black Lives Matter, citing the movement’s criticism of Israel.

The owners of Feinstein’s/54 Below, a small performance venue just north of Times Square, this week emailed ticket buyers to the event, informing them of the cancellation. In a separate message to participants, the owners cited a platform released this summer by a coalition of groups affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement that declared “Israel is an apartheid state” and denounced what it described as “the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”

The concert was scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 11, and would have been directed by the actress Tonya Pinkins (“Caroline, or Change”).

In the note to participants, 54 Below said that its owners and managers “strongly believe in and support the general thrust of the goals and objectives” of the Black Lives Matter movement.

It continued, “However, since announcing the benefit they’ve become aware of a recent addition to the B.L.M. platform that accuses Israel of genocide and endorses a range of boycott and sanction actions.”

The statement said, “As we can’t support these positions, we’ve accordingly decided to cancel the concert.”

The concert cancellation was reported by Playbill. The owners of 54 Below, through a spokesman, declined to comment further, and spokesmen for Black Lives Matter did not respond to requests for comment. Ms. Pinkins, in an email, said that many of the speakers and artists who had planned to participate in the 54 Below event would be at “The Meeting*,” hosted by Justin Sayre, at Joe’s Pub on Sept. 18; she said some would “give testimony,” and that the proceeds would benefit Black Lives Matter.

CODEPINK Petition to Veto California Anti-BDS Bill

CODEPINK, August 28, 2016

//

California’s AB 2844 is an attack on the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and protest. It is intended by its authors to create a blacklist of supporters of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns for Palestinian human rights. This is of urgent concern to Californians who will be immediately affected by the legislation, and also of relevance to all Americans given the rapid spread of these laws to multiple states, chipping away at our right to use boycott to advocate for political change.

Civil liberties groups, including the ACLU, National Lawyers Guild, and the Center for Constitutional Rights affirm that right to use economic boycotts in support of human rights and social justice causes is a protected form of free speech under the US constitution. A recent article in the LA Times explain how boycotts of Israel are a protected form of free speech.

The authors of AB 2844 have portrayed the legislation as an anti-discrimination measure. However, the purpose of the bill, as admitted to by its authors, is to stifle the nonviolent boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian human rights, even at the cost of the US constitution. As CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans says, “it is up to all of us to let California Governor Jerry Brown know that we do not want to support Israel’s policies of occupation and apartheid nor give up our right to freedom of speech and nonviolent protest.”

AB 2844 passed through the California Senate and is expected to pass the California Assembly in the next few days. At that point, Governor Brown will have only 12 days to sign or veto the bill. If Governor Brown does nothing, the bill will be approved by default. Join CODEPINK, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the rest of the Coalition to Stop AB 2844 in telling Governor Brown to veto AB 2844.

In peace,
Jodie, Sam, Marianna, Chelsea, Ariel, Alli, Medea, Nancy K. and the entire CODEPINK team


Dear Governor Brown,

We urge you to veto AB 2844, an unconstitutional and costly attack on Californians’ free speech and the movement for Palestinian human rights.

AB 2844 chills free speech by falsely associating legal and time-honored boycotts for human rights with unlawful discrimination, and by creating a vague new crime in the process. The bill could cost California taxpayers over $140 million (Department of Finance estimate) and unknown additional sums for fielding complaints and lawsuits.

Although the title and some of the content of AB 2844 have changed over time, its intent remains the same: to stigmatize and suppress protected political speech, especially advocacy for Palestinian human rights through the nonviolent tactics of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Stop this attack on Californians’ free speech. Veto AB 2844.

Continue reading

I’m Jewish, and I want people to boycott Israel

The country must be held accountable for its human rights abuses.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace
The Washington Post, June 24, 2016

In 2009, I was living in Tel Aviv during Operation Cast Lead. During that offensive, Israel killed about 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza. When small numbers of us went out into the streets to protest the war, we were often pelted with eggs or attacked by passersby. When I dropped my children off at their preschool, parents chatted as if nothing unusual was going on. When they asked me what was wrong, I would tell them I was deeply upset about what was happening just 40 miles away. Their response: awkward silence, or an angry defense of Israel’s actions.

The Old City walls of Jerusalem (EPA/JIM HOLLANDER)

I wanted to take concrete action to bring about freedom and full rights for Palestinians. So I embraced the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. The non-violent effort, started in 2005 by a broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations, is a call for solidarity from the international community until Israel complies with international law and ends its violations of Palestinian rights. It’s hard going though — the governor of my own state, New York, recently condemned BDS in a unilateral executive order.

Seven years later, there have been two more horrific assaults on Gaza. About 500 Palestinian children were killed in 2014. Even when there are no intensive bombing campaigns, Palestinians in Gaza live under siege. West Bank residents are severely curtailed by Israel’s matrix of control in the area, including checkpoints, administrative detention and home demolitions. Inside Israel, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship live in a system of unequal laws and rights. Outside of Israel, refugees cannot return home.

Of course, during this time there have been attacks on Israeli civilians too. These are a horrifying symptom of ongoing occupation and repression, as Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai pointed out after a recent attack in Tel Aviv killed four Jewish Israelis.

I believe that Israel won’t change its policies until outside pressure becomes impossible to ignore. BDS is a powerful way to encourage the state to act. And during my time with the movement, we’ve had growing success. Mainstream churches have divested from companies profiting from the occupation. Dozens of American campuses have passed divestment resolutions. More than 100 artists refuse to perform in Israel, and multinational corporations like G4S and Veolia have withdrawn from the Israeli market.

During this time, there’s also been a shift in public opinion. A 2015 Brookings Institute poll found that 49 percent of Democrats support imposing economic sanctions against Israel over settlement construction. A Pew poll released last month found that for the first time, liberal Democrats were more sympathetic to Palestinians than to Israelis. In May, the research firm Ipsos found that one-third of Americans support the boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel until it respects Palestinian rights.

But our efforts have been threatened here in the United States by a nationally coordinated, well-funded strategy financed by the Israeli government and advocacy organizations. Over the last year, 22 states have introduced or passed anti-BDS legislation. Many of these measures make it illegal for states to do business with companies that support BDS. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has escalated that strategy with a draconian executive order that would create a blacklist of companies and organizations that choose not to invest in Israel or that advocate for BDS. Cuomo’s executive order circumvented the state legislature, where opposition from supporters of Palestinian rights and free speech, including many members of Jewish Voice for Peace, had successfully stalled the anti-BDS legislation in committee.

This is wrong. It’s not discrimination to hold a state accountable for its violations of international law and human rights abuses. The state of Israel is not the same as the Jewish people.

Continue reading

US labor board affirms union’s right to boycott Israel

“As Americans who have a constitutional right to criticize our own government, we certainly have a right to criticize and, if we choose, boycott a foreign government that is heavily subsidized by US taxpayers.”

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 25 July 2016

The United Electrical Workers backed BDS in a vote of delegates at the union’s August 2015 national convention in Baltimore. (via Facebook)

The National Labor Relations Board has reaffirmed its dismissal of charges against the United Electrical workers union because of its support for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The NLRB is the US federal agency that enforces the country’s trade union legislation.

In August 2015, the 30,000-strong United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, known as UE, became only the second national trade union in the US to back BDS by a vote of delegates at its annual convention in Baltimore.

In October, Shurat HaDin, a lawfare group with ties to Israel’s Mossad spying and assasination agency, filed a complaint against the union, claiming that its support for BDS amounted to a violation of the law against secondary boycotts.

In January, the labor board dismissed the complaint, stating it had investigated and found “there is insufficient evidence to establish a violation” of the law.

Shurat HaDin appealed the dismissal, but on 26 May the labor board’s general counsel issued a letter that the union says reaffirms the earlier decision to throw the case out.

Victory for BDS

UE national president Peter Knowlton welcomed the decision in a press release on Friday.

Continue reading

Are state boycotts of the anti-Israel BDS movement constitutional?


An Egyptian wears a T-shirt with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) logo in 2015. The state of New Jersey is expected to pass legislation Monday, which would boycott companies that support BDS.(Amr Nabil/AP)

Aidan Quigley, June 27, 2016

The New Jersey state legislature is expected to pass legislation on Monday that will prevent the state from investing in companies that participate in the “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” movement against Israel, joining a growing number of states that already have similar regulations in place.

Supporters say the bill will strengthen the state’s relationship with Israel, while opponents of the bill say it – and similar legislation in other states – is unconstitutional and amounts to a restriction on free speech and the right to “peaceful political activity.”

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement was established by Palestinian civil society in 2005 and encourages a boycott of Israeli companies, divestments from organizations that support Israel and encouraging sanctions against Israel. The movement has seen support in Europe and in the United States, especially on college campuses, as The Christian Science Monitor reported last year.

State lawmakers who are pushing for the bill say it will send a strong message to those who oppose Israel.

Andrew Cuomo’s Anti-Free Speech Move on BDS

Alex Nabaum

As a Jew who has lived in Israel and has many relatives there, I feel that the government should not be dictating how I relate to the Jewish state and in what ways I voice my objection to its policies

DANIEL SIERADSKI, New York Times, JUNE 12, 2016

IN 1985, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo proposed that New York State divest of its billions of dollars in investments in companies that did business with South Africa “to demonstrate,” he declared, “the abhorrence of our residents to the pernicious system of apartheid.” An opponent of Mr. Cuomo’s plan, the state comptroller, Edward V. Regan, told The New York Times, “We’re not in the foreign-policy business.”

State Republicans blocked Mr. Cuomo’s efforts, and he ultimately settled for divesting personally from apartheid, withdrawing his personal funds from banks with ties to South Africa.

How times have changed.

Last week, Mario Cuomo’s son, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, signed an executive order essentially creating a blacklist of entities that boycott or divest from Israel or encourage others to do so, banning those companies from receiving taxpayer funding.

The movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, known as B.D.S., is a strategy intended to combat Israel’s nearly 50-year occupation of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza, a situation that three former Israeli prime ministers, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry, have warned would become akin to apartheid if allowed to continue.

I oppose Israel’s occupation and I want the Palestinians to have equal rights and self-determination. Still, I do not support a boycott that targets Israel as a whole. While I avoid buying products from companies that operate in Israeli settlements, I do so out of commitment to the two-state solution and my belief that the occupation endangers Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.

But I also believe that economic boycott is a legitimate form of political expression, one that the government has no business restricting by withholding state business.

Paradoxically, Mr. Cuomo has engaged in a type of boycott himself, issuing three executive orders banning nonessential travel by state employees to Indiana, Mississippi and North Carolina for discriminatory laws against L.G.B.T. people. Apparently, in Mr. Cuomo’s book, boycotts are acceptable against American states with discriminatory laws, but not against a foreign country that has systematically subjected millions of people to decades of oppression.

Documents from statehouses where anti-B.D.S. bills have passed, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, show that there is a concerted effort by advocacy groups, like the Israeli American Council, and even the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic sect, to promote anti-B.D.S. legislation in statehouses and in Congress.

While bills in other states have, for better or worse, gained legislators’ approval, Mr. Cuomo’s executive order is the first to be instituted without democratic ratification. After it became clear a bill with the same purpose would not pass the State Assembly, Mr. Cuomo decided he wanted to take “immediate action,” as he put it at the order’s signing, joking that the legislative process was often “a tedious affair.”

Continue reading

AIPAC Anti-BDS Legislation

AIPAC and their right-wing allies are coming for our right to boycott — and they’re trying to legitimize illegal settlements at the same time. Tell your Representative to stand for peace.

TAKE ACTION!

AIPAC is meeting this weekend in Washington DC, but we already know what’s at the top of their agenda: legislating away our right to organize.

Here’s how: they’re putting the full might of their organization behind a bill called “Combatting BDS.” It might sound like nothing, but this bill is a brazen attempt to silence and punish those of us who support boycotts as a way of fighting for human rights. We’re already taking on similar legislation, designed to throw a stumbling block in front of our movement, in dozens of state legislatures across the country — but now AIPAC is bringing the fight to Capitol Hill.

Click here to contact Rep. Mark Pocan and tell them you oppose AIPAC’s attacks on free speech.

AIPAC is bringing in activists from across the country, and next week they’ll be flooding DC with their foot soldiers, and delivering their message of fear and militarism to Congressional offices. They’ll be going door-to-door on Capitol Hill, pretending to speak for the whole Jewish community when they attack our movement for justice.

But I’m Jewish — I’m a Rabbi — and I support BDS. So do thousands of other Jews and allies across the U.S. and around the world. That’s why we’ve hired billboard trucks to take our message right to AIPAC here in DC, and to state capitols across the country where similar legislation is coming up.

And that’s why we need to make sure that our Representatives hear our message first.

Let’s beat AIPAC to it — click here to send a message to Rep. Mark Pocan and tell them to oppose the “Combating BDS” bill, and its attacks on free speech.

Continue reading