Palestinian demonstrators on a sand plateau during clashes with Israeli forces last Friday east of Gaza City. Residents of Gaza are mounting a series of protests called the Great Return March. (Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)
Today, Mitch Jeserich is in conversation with Sunaina Maira, Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Davis, and author of the book Boycott!: The Academy and Justice for Palestine. She explains the whys and the wherefores of the boycott movement against Israel, and other historic boycotts as the one against South Africa and the one against grape growers in California during the 1970s.
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.
A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that a Kansas law designed to punish people who boycott Israel is an unconstitutional denial of free speech. The ruling is a significant victory for free speech rights because the global campaign to criminalize, or otherwise legally outlaw, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement has been spreading rapidly in numerous political and academic centers in the U.S. This judicial decision definitively declares those efforts — when they manifest in the U.S. — to be a direct infringement of basic First Amendment rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The enjoined law, enacted last year by the Kansas legislature, requires all state contractors — as a prerequisite to receiving any paid work from the state — “to certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel.” The month before the law was implemented, Esther Koontz, a Mennonite who works as a curriculum teacher for the Kansas public school system, decided that she would boycott goods made in Israel, motivated in part by a film she had seen detailing the abuse of Palestinians by the occupying Israeli government, and in part by a resolution enacted by the national Mennonite Church. The resolution acknowledged “the cry for justice of Palestinians, especially those living under oppressive military occupation for fifty years”; vowed to “oppose military occupation and seek a just peace in Israel and Palestine”; and urged “individuals and congregations to avoid the purchase of products associated with acts of violence or policies of military occupation, including items produced in [Israeli] settlements.”
A month after this law became effective, Koontz, having just completed a training program to teach new courses, was offered a position at a new Kansas school. But, as the court recounts, “the program director asked Ms. Koontz to sign a certification confirming that she was not participating in a boycott of Israel, as the Kansas Law requires.” Koontz ultimately replied that she was unable and unwilling to sign such an oath because she is, in fact, participating in a boycott of Israel. As a result, she was told that no contract could be signed with her.
In response to being denied this job due to her political views, Koontz retained the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the commissioner of education, asking a federal court to enjoin enforcement of the law on the grounds that denying Koontz a job due to her boycotting of Israel violates her First Amendment rights. The court on Tuesday agreed and preliminarily enjoined enforcement of the law.
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).
Iyad Burnat interview by the Jersey Palestine Solidarity Campaign (JPSC)
Many of you know Palestinian activist Iyad Burnat, co-founder and President of the grassroots organization, Friends of Freedom and Justice (FFJ) in the West Bank village of Bil’in. Iyad and Bil’in’s heartfelt brand of peaceful resistance were the subject of the 2011 Academy Award-Nominated Documentary “5 Broken Cameras” and have continued to reach more people through the speaking tours of Iyad and his fellow villagers around the world and the visits of people from around the world to Bil’in. Like other West Bank villages, towns and cities, Bil’in is under siege by the Israeli military occupation with its continuous land seizures, and Iyad has been actively working to develop a model of non-violent resistance to the Occupation since 2005, when a nearby Israeli settlement expanded into Bil’in’s fields.
FFJ is now working to establish a “Palestinian Center for Non-Violent Action” (https://www.ffj-bilin.com/); a place where people from all over the West Bank and the world can come to learn the theory and practice of non-violent social change. The Center will include a museum, library, classrooms, learning and play spaces for children, spaces for arts and crafts, a visitor’s center, and guest rooms for visiting instructors and activists from around the world.
FFJ has made an initial down payment of $14,000 for the land on which to build the Center, but recent developments have delayed FFJ’s efforts to raise the remaining $30,000 needed by February to secure the property. Like other activists in the Palestinian peaceful resistance, Iyad and his family have come increasingly attack through harassment, threats, arrests and shootings. His eldest son, Majd, recently underwent surgery for injuries suffered from a shooting by Israeli forces, which caused extensive nerve damage to his leg, rendering him unable to walk unaided. His middle son, Abdul Khaliq, was recently shot, imprisoned, and is now awaiting trial. His youngest son, Mohammed, witnessed the arrest. The fate of the Center is hanging in the balance.
The purchase of this land and construction of Center are a positive answer to the systemic and brutal violence to which Palestinians are subjected to on a daily basis. Iyad, Bil’in and all Palestinians seeking to resist occupation nonviolently need our support.
Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry had for months refused to divulge the list
Blacklisted American organizations: ■ American Friends Service Committee
■ American Muslims for Palestine
■ Jewish Voice for Peace
■ National Students for Justice in Palestine
■ US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) Executive Director Yousef Munayyer said, “We wear this designation as a badge of honor. When Israel, which aims to portray itself to the world as liberal and democratic, blacklists activists dedicated to nonviolent organizing and dissent, it only further exposes itself as a fraud.
Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Dr. Johan Galtung will discuss alternatives to the one-state, two-state solutions for Israel-Palestine.
A sociologist and mathematician by profession, Galtung is recognized as the ‘founding father’ of peace studies and conflict transformation as a scientific discipline. He founded the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (1959), the world’s first academic research center focused on peace studies, as well as the influential Journal of Peace Research (1964). He is currently the president of the Galtung-Institut for Peace Theory & Peace Practice.
In addition to being a frequent Nobel Peace Prize nominee, he is also winner of the Right Livelihood award, which is the alternative Nobel. He has negotiated with many heads of state, inspired the idea of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe – the OSCE, and has helped resolve many conflicts from families to nations to regions.