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.

Thirty-five years ago the Supreme Court affirmed that non-violent boycott activities are protected free speech. The Wisconsin Constitution forbids any law that restrains or abridges our liberty of speech. The governor’s order falls short of these requirements.

Joel Garb, Black Earth

© Copyright 2017 Madison.com

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

Trump taps head of anti-Palestinian group for Education Civil Rights

Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, 27 October 2017

Growing waves of legislation intend to silence and punish boycott activists in the US. (Stephen Melkisethian, Flickr)

In a troubling move for students and Palestine rights activists, the Trump administration has tapped Kenneth Marcus as the top civil rights enforcer at the US Department of Education.

He will lead the department’s Office of Civil Rights.

Marcus is the head of the Brandeis Center for Human Rights, an Israel advocacy group that has for years worked to smear Palestine solidarity activism as anti-Semitism. It has no affiliation with the better known Brandeis University.

Since 2010, Marcus’ key strategy has been to file civil rights complaints with the Office of Civil Rights claiming that universities were failing to protect Jewish students by not cracking down on the Palestine solidarity movement, especially the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

The tactic was unsuccessful. But now, Marcus himself will be in charge of investigating such complaints.

Marcus’ appointment comes just weeks after Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rolled back regulations aimed at protecting victims of campus sexual assault.

Abuse of civil rights law

Marcus previously served as the Office of Civil Rights’ top enforcement officer from 2002-2004, under President George W. Bush, and has held other government jobs.

He is author of the strategy Israel advocacy groups have used to instigate federal crackdowns on Palestine solidarity activism by filing complaints under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The act obligates administrators to ensure that there is no discrimination based on race or national origin in institutions that receive federal funding.

In 2010, the Obama administration expanded its interpretation of the law to include religion, opening the way for complaints alleging that Palestine advocacy harms Jewish students.

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Palestinian Authority arrests human rights activist Issa Amro

Michael Schaeffer and Omer-Man, +972, September 5, 2017

Palestinian authorities reportedly arrested Amro, an activist with Youth Against Settlements, for criticizing the PA in a Facebook post. Amro, who is also facing charges in Israeli military court for his political activism, has been recognized by the EU and UN as a human rights defender.

Palestinian nonviolent Issa Amro. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian nonviolent activist Issa Amro. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian security forces arrested human rights defender and well-known Palestinian activist Issa Amro in the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday. The arrest was reportedly related to a Facebook post published by Amro, in which he criticized the Palestinian Authority for arresting a journalist a day earlier.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently signed an “Electronic Crimes” decree, effectively curtailing the little free speech that existed for Palestinians under Palestinian law, and which was believed to target online dissent against the PA, particularly on social media. The new law was roundly criticized by rights groups in Palestine and around the world. Israel also regularly arrests Palestinians for posts on social media.

The Palestinian Preventative Security Service (PSS) summoned Amro, who has been declared a “human rights defender” by the EU and UN, for interrogation about his critical Facebook post on Monday and arrested him at midday.

Amnesty International put out a statement Monday calling for Amro’s immediate release, saying it was “outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online.”

“Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty. “Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech.”

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also published a statement Monday expressing concern at Amro’s arrest and urging his release.

Last month, Palestinian security forces arrested a large number of journalists in what appeared to be a campaign targeting members of the press working for outlets affiliated with political rivals of Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas’s party.

Amro was reportedly able to make a phone call at the time of his arrest to a colleague at Youth Against Settlements, the Hebron-based group he co-founded, during which he sounded a defiant tone.

“All my writings on social media are part of the freedom of opinion and expression stipulated by the Palestinian Basic Law and are protected by all international laws and conventions,” Amro said, according to a press release Youth Against Settlements sent out on Monday night. “My arrest will not affect my defense of human rights and the rights of journalists to exercise their work freely and without pressure from the government.”

Amro has not been heard from since.

The Palestinian security forces are not the only ones targeting Amro for his defiant politics and activism. Amro is also currently on trial in an Israeli military court, where almost all of the 18 charges are related to his political activity and nonviolent action. Under Israeli military law, there is no legal avenue for Palestinians to protest or demonstrate politically. Amro’s activism, much of which is the basis for his current charges, has been reported by +972 here, here, here and here.

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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.”

In the face of growing opposition, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has withdrawn her sponsorship of the bill, while her Massachusetts colleague, the prominent progressive Elizabeth Warren, has said she won’t back it either.

“He’s better than this”

But despite the pushback, the unconstitutional measure is still garnering support. Jewish Voice for Peace, which has been campaigning against the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, sent out an action alert this week noting that Illinois congressman Bobby Rush has signed on as a cosponsor of the bill.

Rush, a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panther Party during the civil rights movement, “has supported Palestinian human rights in the past, most recently signing on to a congressional letter in support of Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro,” the JVP alert states. “He’s better than this.”

The bill currently has 252 House sponsors and 48 in the Senate.

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