Kansas Doesn’t Even Try to Defend Its Israel Anti-Boycott Law

Brian Hauss, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, November 30, 2017

 

Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall dividing the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis reads, Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock

Kansas officials are scheduled to appear in court tomorrow to defend a state law designed to suppress boycotts of Israel. There’s just one problem: The state quite literally has no defense for the law’s First Amendment violations.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in October against a law requiring anyone contracting with the state to sign a statement affirming that they don’t boycott Israel or its settlements. We represent Esther Koontz, a math teacher who was hired by the state to train other teachers. Together with members of her Mennonite church, Esther boycotts Israel to protest its treatment of Palestinians. After she explained that she could not in good conscience sign the statement, the state refused to let her participate in the training program.

The law violates the First Amendment, which protects the right to participate in political boycotts. That right was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1982, when it ruled that an NAACP boycott of white-owned businesses in Mississippi during the civil rights movement was a protected form of free expression and free association. But despite long-held consensus around the right to boycott, we were still pretty surprised when Kansas didn’t even try to argue the law is constitutional.

We asked for a preliminary injunction, which would immediately halt enforcement of the law and allow Esther to do the job she was hired for. In its response brief, Kansas doesn’t mention the First Amendment even once, even though the entire case turns on the myriad ways the law violates First Amendment rights. Instead, the government relies on a couple half-baked procedural arguments in an attempt to convince the court to leave the law in place for now.

First, Kansas argues that a preliminary injunction isn’t necessary because Esther could always receive monetary damages at the end of the lawsuit, should she win. But courts have long recognized that the government can’t use money damages to buy off the loss of First Amendment rights.

The government’s other argument is that the Kansas secretary of administration would have given Esther a waiver, had she sought one, exempting her from the requirement to refrain from boycotting Israel. But the government can’t neutralize legal challenges to blatantly unconstitutional laws by making one-off exceptions for the people who happen to file lawsuits. Even if Esther could have gotten a waiver, that wouldn’t help other Kansans affected by the law.

The Kansas law isn’t an aberration. Some two dozen states have laws or executive orders on the books designed to chill boycotts of Israel. (Two such executive orders, in Maryland and Wisconsin, were issued just this past October.) A similar law in Texas came under scrutiny when a municipality interpreted it to condition hurricane relief on a commitment not to boycott Israel. A separate federal bill threatens heavy sanctions against people who participate in certain international boycott campaigns against the country.

These laws share a common goal of silencing one side of an important political debate about a decades-old conflict. They simply can’t be squared with the right to free political expression. That must be why Kansas didn’t even bother trying.

February 20, 2018
Film: The Occupation of the American Mind

Madison Central Library
201 W. Mifflin Street, Madison
7:00 pm

Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison presents a showing of the film The Occupation of the American Mind. Co-sponsored by MRSCP.

Israel’s ongoing military occupation of Palestinian territory and its repeated invasions of the Gaza strip have triggered a fierce backlash against Israeli policies virtually everywhere in the world — except the United States.

The Occupation of the American Mind takes an eye-opening look at this critical exception, zeroing in on pro-Israel public relations efforts within the U.S. Narrated by Roger Waters and featuring leading observers of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the film explores how the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces, often with very different motives, to shape American media coverage of the conflict in Israel’s favor.

The Occupation of the American Mind provides a sweeping analysis of Israel’s decades-long battle for the hearts, minds, and tax dollars of the American people — a battle that has only intensified over the past few years in the face of widening international condemnation of Israel’s increasingly right-wing policies.

For details and updates check Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison.

Backlash in New Orleans: vote to rescind BDS resolution set for Thursday


Dear Friend,

Last Thursday, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a historic human rights resolution!

The resolution, developed by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee (NOPSC), calls on the city to avoid contracting with or investing in corporations that consistently violate human, civil, or labor rights— including Israel.

Now Jewish establishment groups are crying foul, saying the resolution unfairly targets Israel, and pushing feverishly for the council to revoke its original vote.

And it looks like the entire council is caving.

Click here to tell the New Orleans City Council they had it right the first time. Say yes to human rights here, in Palestine, and everywhere, and yes to the Human Rights Investment Screening Resolution (R-18-5).

Before last week’s vote, Council President Jason Williams said the resolution “specifically recognizes the city’s social and ethical obligations to take steps to avoid contracting with or investing in certain corporations, namely those that consistently violate human rights, civil rights, or labor rights.”

Does he now believe Israeli corporations should be exempt? Does he really think the city has social and ethical obligations to all people except Palestinians?

No matter where you live, we can make a difference speaking out as Jews and as people who love justice. Saving this historic resolution has turned into a truly uphill battle. A re-vote is planned for Thursday, and we have to make sure the City Council hears us.

Support NOPSC by telling the New Orleans City Council: don’t align yourselves with human rights violators in our name. Align your values and your investments, and uphold R-18-5.

If this resolution can withstand the backlash, it will stand as a powerful precedent in the ongoing struggle for Palestinian and truly universal human rights.

Tell New Orleans City Council you support R-18-5 now.

Thank you,
Chana Rose Rabinovitz
JVP New Orleans

Open Letter to Women’s March L.A. from Women for Palestine

Open Letter to Women’s March L.A.:
Women for Palestine Calls for Genuine Intersectionality

Women 4 Palestine L.A., January 17, 2018

We embrace and applaud the intersectional analysis that marks today’s social movements, and decry the absence of this perspective in outreach for the Women’s March Los Angeles.

In a shocking move, you announced that a “Special Guest” speaker at WMLA 2018 is Scarlett Johansson, who is unabashedly a supporter of Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. She served as a spokesperson, and indeed, was the face of the advertising campaign of SodaStream, whose factory was in a settlement built illegally on land stolen from Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. As a result, she was forced to step down from her role as an ambassador for the humanitarian group Oxfam after working with the charity for eight years.

Johansson’s unapologetic support for Israel’s abuses of Palestinians confirms that she fully deserves the praise Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heaped on her in his speech to the Israel lobby group AIPAC in Washington, several years ago. Netanyahu said Johansson should be “applauded” for opposing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights. Regardless of her claims to not be “political,” Johansson is now seen by Palestinians and their supporters as a defender of apartheid Israel.

While there are a host of OTHER examples that can be cited, here we want to focus on the impact on those of us who actively support the indigenous rights of the Palestinian people, especially in light of the recent international attention on women and child political prisoners, including 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, the young Palestinian Rosa Parks.

Once again, grassroot feminists who promote Palestinian human rights are concerned that a hostile environment is promoted by the organizers of WMLA — whether inadvertently, or not — by the choice of featured speakers, major donors, and major partners.

The organizers of the Women’s March LA are well aware of the issues the “Women 4 Palestine” contingent faced at last year’s “Women’s March LA.” We were verbally abused with racist remarks, and bullied, to the point that some of us are reticent to return out of concern for our personal safety. Our concerns were brushed off by your organizers, in fact one of you accused one of our members as being anti-semitic when she posted an announcement for our Women’s Rally to Free Ahed and All Palestinian Child Prisoners.

We also object to tone set as a result of the key role played by The National Council of Jewish Women LA, especially as a major organizer and donor to the local Women’s March. When Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, said that “we didn’t want it to become an Israel-bashing fest…We got assurances that the march is not anti-Trump and not anti-Israel,” it was clear that they were determined to silence the voices of critics of Israel and supporters of Palestinian rights.

“We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights.” – Mission Women’s March Mission. Apparently that does not include Palestinian Human Rights.

Renowned Black feminist poet, June Jordan’s poetry embodies the intersectionality of Black and Palestine liberation. “I was born a Black woman / and now / I am become a Palestinian / against the relentless laughter of evil / there is less and less living room / and where are my loved ones / It is time to make our way home.”

Last year’s Women’s March, DTLA looked like it was covered with a fresh coat of snow studded with pink caps. In no way did it reflect the wonderful diversity of Los Angeles County. Unfortunately, we never heard that was a concern for WMLA’s leaders, either before the march when several of us raised these issues, OR afterwards. What a shame and missed opportunity.

It’s well past time to be genuinely intersectional, inclusive, transparent, and welcoming of marginalized people, including the Palestinian community, an approach exemplified by the International Women’s Strike, which mobilized thousands of women in March of 2017 for gender, economic and social justice, while also centering the “Decolonization of Palestine,” anti-imperialism, and an end to gendered state violence. IWS organizers are once again mobilizing for March 2018 International Women’s Day marches and strikes.

In that spirit we invite you to join us, when many of us will participate in the International Women’s Day March & Rally 2018-Organized by AF3IRM, in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, March 3rd, 2018, noon to 3pm. This march is convened and led by transnational/women of color, but all people are welcome.

Women for Palestine L.A.

Sign this petition at change.org


(List in formation; affiliations listed for identification only)

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The Palestinian Right to Jerusalem Is an International Law that Cannot Be Taken Away

Position Paper: A Grant of Recognition from those who do not own to those who do not deserve

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), December 7, 2017

Baflour Declaration Recurs
In a dangerous precedent that violates the international law, on Wednesday, the US President, Donald Trump, declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the American Embassy will be removed to it, signing an order of this.  The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the irresponsible statements by the US President and emphasizes that Jerusalem’s legal status as part of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) codified in the international law according to the resolutions adopted by the UN and International Court of Justice (ICJ) and recognition of an overwhelming majority of the world’s States. 154 States voted in favor of recognizing the state of Palestine on the territory occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem.

PCHR believes that the declaration represents granting recognition from those who do not own to those who do not deserve as if the history repeats itself to bring out a new “Balfour Declaration in the centennial of the old declaration but by an American tongue this time.  PCHR stresses that the Palestinian right to Jerusalem is an international law that cannot be changed by political statements and measures, adding that the declaration convicts its issuer, making him a criminal at the international level and a big shame to the free world.

PCHR emphasizes that Trump’s declaration explicitly violates the international law, Security Council Resolutions, and Geneva Conventions, and constitutes two crimes.  The first crime is a crime of aggression against the Palestinian State as the declaration supports and upholds the annexation of lands using force.  The second crime is a war crime as the declaration is considered as a complicity in the Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, including Jerusalem.

In his comment, Lawyer Raji Sourani, PCHR’s Director, said that, “This decision is an explicit call for imposing the rule of jungle and de facto policy in addition to completely flouting the international law and UN’s role… This declaration also gives political legitimacy for the Israeli crimes and affects the history, present and future of the Palestinian people.”

This development came in light of the current US administration’s systematic policy of denying the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and attempting to close down the Palestinian cause.  This policy started with supporting the settlement expansion, which was explicitly expressed by the American administration in many events, through being deliberately silent to condemn it or through frankly speaking that settlements belong to Israel and denying they are an occupied territory. In addition, the huge pressures practiced by the US on the UN Bodies, Intentional Criminal Court (ICC) and the Palestinian leadership to deprive the Palestinians of resorting to the International Justice.  This was a position expressed by the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, when she said that, “the days of Israel bashing at the UN are over.”  And finally, the Us Administration’s aggression on the Palestinian territory came to end practically the Peace efforts and the two-state solution.

It should be mentioned that 13 States had embassies in Jerusalem until 1970s without recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  However, the US was not among those States as it only had a Consulate in Jerusalem that refers to the US Embassy in Tel Aviv.  Those 13 States then moved their embassies from Jerusalem to other cities in Israel, especially following the Security Council’s Resolutions No. 476 and 478, which both condemn Israel’s attempted annexation of Jerusalem.

It is noteworthy that the US Congress recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 1995, and the US President recommended in his decision at that time to issue an official declaration to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.  Since then, the US Presidents continued to delay the embassy move until today when the US President Trump dared to issue the declaration in violation of the international law and disregard for the international peace and life of many innocents that would be endangered due to provoking feelings of millions of Muslims and Christians around the world.

Explicit Violation of UN Resolutions

The Security Council issued 12 resolutions that emphasize Jerusalem is a territory occupied by the Israeli authorities.  Eight of them stipulate that all measures and changes in the legal status of the city are not lawful and the Israeli forces shall be withdrawn from it.  The four other resolutions call upon Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem. The first of them was the Security Council’s Resolution 242.

Of those resolutions directly relevant to Jerusalem is the Security Council’s Resolution 476 in 1980 that Calls upon Israel to withdraw from the occupied territory, including Jerusalem, emphasizing any change to the status and character of Jerusalem has no legal validity.

In the same year, Resolution 478 was adopted to condemn Israel’s Basic Law which declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s “complete and united” capital, constituting a violation of international law and not affecting the continued application of the Geneva Convention on the City as an occupied territory.  The Resolution also condemned all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of Jerusalem are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.

One of the latest and most prominent resolutions condemning settlements in the oPt, including Jerusalem, was Resolution 2334 in 2016, which states that Israeli settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity” in addition to undermining the peace process and two-state solution.  The Resolution also calls upon all States to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.  It is noteworthy that this Resolution passed in a 14–0 vote by members of the UN Security Council with the US abstention.  This Resolution is considered the fifth of its kind affirming and condemns Israel’s commission of the settlement activity crime.

In its Advisory Opinion on the Annexation wall in 2004, the ICJ affirms that the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including Jerusalem, are occupied territories according to the international law.  On this basis, the ICJ’s Resolution came to affirm that the wall has no legal validity as it cuts off parts of the Palestinian territory.

The General Assembly also adopted many resolutions affirming that Israel has no right to Jerusalem as it is an occupying power. The first of these resolutions was Resolution 303 in 1949, which condemns Israel’s declaration of Jerusalem as its capital.

following the Israeli Six Day War in 1967 on the Arab countries and occupying part of them, including the Gaza Strip and West Bank, The General Assembly adopted Resolution 2253 which denounces the application of the Israeli Law in East Jerusalem.  Following this, Resolution 1536 was adopted in 1981 to consider any change to the status of Jerusalem is illegal.

The UNESCO also adopted many resolutions relevant to the status of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque.  The latest was in 2016 affirming that al-Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram Al-Sharif is an Islamic heritage, including the Buraq Plaza (Western Wall), and Jewish people has no right to it. The Resolution also condemns all Israeli changes and encroachments in the archeological sites there, considering al-Aqsa Mosque as an integral part of the internationally protected human heritage.

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Israel and the US are trying to prevent publication of a ‘blacklist’ of companies doing business in the West Bank

Israel West BankBusiness Insider/Julie Bort

Josef Federman, Josh Lederman, Jamey Keaten, Business Insider, November 27, 2017

  • Israel and the Trump Administration are working “feverishly” to prevent a database of companies that operate in Israel’s West Bank settlements from being published.
  • Dozens of major names are expected to appear on the list, including 100 local companies and 50 international companies, mostly from the US and Europe.
  • The UN’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, ordered the compilation of the database in March 2016.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Weeks ahead of the expected completion of a U.N. database of companies that operate in Israel’s West Bank settlements, Israel and the Trump Administration are working feverishly to prevent its publication.

While Israel is usually quick to brush off U.N. criticism, officials say they are taking the so-called “blacklist” seriously, fearing its publication could have devastating consequences by driving companies away, deterring others from coming and prompting investors to dump shares of Israeli firms. Dozens of major Israeli companies, as well as multinationals that do business in Israel, are expected to appear on the list.

“We will do everything we can to ensure that this list does not see the light of day,” Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Danny Danon, told The Associated Press.

The U.N.’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, ordered the compilation of the database in March 2016, calling on U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein to “investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on Palestinians.”

The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements, built on occupied land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state, to be illegal. Israel rejects such claims, citing the land’s strategic and religious significance, and says the matter should be resolved in negotiations.

Israeli officials say that about 100 local companies that operate in the West Bank and east Jerusalem have received warning letters that they will be on the list. In addition, some 50 international companies, mostly American and European, also have been warned.

The companies have not been publicly identified, but one official said they include Israeli banks, supermarkets, restaurant chains, bus lines and security firms, as well as international giants that provide equipment or services used to build or maintain settlements. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

The only company to confirm receiving a warning letter has been Bezeq, Israel’s national telephone company. Bezeq’s chief executive, Stella Handler, posted a copy of the letter sent by Zeid’s office in September on her Facebook page. It accused Bezeq of using West Bank land for infrastructure, providing phone and Internet services to settlements and operating sales offices in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Handler angrily wrote that Bezeq provides service to all customers, regardless of race or where they live.

“The council’s bias against Israel is so extreme that it has lost all relevance in the world,” she wrote. “We will not cooperate with a move that is all in all anti-Israeli propaganda.”

But hours later, Handler removed the post, saying she had done so at the request of the government. The Israeli official confirmed the government has asked companies not to speak about the issue. Bezeq declined comment.

Israel has long accused the United Nations, and particularly the rights council, of being biased against it.

Israel is the only country that faces an examination of its rights record at each of the council’s three sessions each year. Some 70 resolutions, or about quarter of the council’s country-specific resolutions, have been aimed at Israel. That is nearly triple the number for the second-place country: Syria, where hundreds of thousands have been killed in a devastating six-year civil war.

Israeli leaders and many non-governmental groups also complain that some of the world’s worst violators of human rights, including Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Congo and Cuba, sit on the council.

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