Congress’s Anti-Boycott Act Threatens More Than Free Speech

Churches for Middle East Peace, July 28, 2017

In The News

Democratic Senators Rethink Bill Criminalizing Support for Israel Boycott [Roll Call]
Roll Call reports, “Democratic senators are thinking twice about the proposed Israel Anti-Boycott Act after an outcry by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which considers it a ‘serious threat to free speech.’ While Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the bill’s lead author, said that the ACLU had misinterpreted the piece of legislation, he expressed his intention to ‘make it clearer.’ The act targets the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, an international effort to boycott businesses in Israel and occupied Palestinian territories in order to pressure Israel to comply with international law and stop the further construction of settlements.”

This Piece of Pro-Israel Legislation Is a Serious Threat to Free Speech [The Washington Post]
“The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is designed to stifle efforts to protest Israel’s settlement policies by boycotting businesses in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. … Whether one approves or disapproves of the BDS movement itself, people should have a right to make up their own minds about it. … By using their power in the marketplace, consumers can act collectively to express their political points of view. There is nothing illegal about such collective action; indeed, it is constitutionally protected,” write the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Legal Director David Cole and National Political Director Faiz Shakir.

Read The Small Print. How Nearly 200 Congressmen Could’ve Signed on a Bill Criminalizing Free Speech And Legitimizing Israel’s Occupation Of Palestine [Huffpost]
Political consultant Marilyn Katz writes, “Hidden behind the benign language of the [Israel Anti-Boycott Act] legislation … are laws that would criminalize even speaking out about a boycott while legitimizing Israel’s 50-year occupation of the West Bank ― an occupation considered illegal by the world, and condemned even by the United States.”


J Street, a Reliable Foe Of BDS, Urges Congress to Oppose Israel Anti-Boycott Act For Now [The Intercept]
“J Street, founded in late 2007 to promote a two-state solution, opposes the Israeli occupation and general treatment of the Palestinians, but also has refused to endorse the Palestinian-led nonviolent boycott movement. Its activists regularly find themselves at odds with left-wing groups such as Jewish Voices for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine who view BDS as the best way to end the occupation of the Palestinians. Thus J Street often lobbies in favor of anti-BDS legislation. However, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act is a step too far for even these reliable opponents of BDS,” reports The Intercept.

Israel Anti-Boycott Bill Does Not Violate Free Speech [The Washington Post]
Northwestern University School of Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich writes, “The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is a minor updating of a venerable statute that has been at the center of the U.S. consensus on Israel policy — the laws designed to counteract Arab states’ boycott of Israel by barring Americans from joining such boycotts. … Current law prohibits U.S. entities from participating in or cooperating with international boycotts organized by foreign countries. These measures, first adopted in 1977, were explicitly aimed at the Arab states’ boycott of Israel, but its language is far broader, not mentioning any particular countries.”

Jewish, Muslim & Christian Leaders Denied Entry to Israel for Supporting Palestinian Human Rights [Presbyterian News Service]
“Five leaders on an interfaith delegation to Israel/Palestine were refused permission to board their plane in the United States, in what appears to be an implementation of Israel’s travel ban on supporters of Palestinian rights and Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS). … ‘I am part of a Jewish, Muslim and Christian delegation of committed, nonviolent peacemakers whose plan is to meet with those in both Israel and Palestine who are working every day for a Just Peace in the Holy Lands,’ [stated] Rick Ufford-Chase, Moderator of the 216th General Assembly, PC(USA) and member of the Activist Council of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. ‘At this time when tension and violence are rising once again, the work we are doing to build trust and work for a viable peace is more important than ever, and I stand ready to go the moment the State of Israel gives us permission to fly,’” reported Presbyterian Peace Fellowship in a statement released Monday.


I’m The First Jew Banned From Israel For Supporting BDS [The Forward]
Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbi Alissa Wise was one of five members of an interfaith delegation refused permission to board a flight to Israel at the Israeli government’s request. Wise writes that she “became a rabbi for one core reason: to build toward justice and liberation for all people by organizing with Jews in deep partnership with directly impacted communities across borders and faiths. Our delegation planned to spend 12 days in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories, meeting with Palestinian and Israeli grassroots activists and faith leaders and visiting our respective holy sites.”

CMEP is organized to educate and give witness to principles of peace and justice in the Middle East on behalf of its religious constituencies by advocating public policy positions approved by the CMEP board. CMEP’s policy position seven states: “In order to defend free speech and religious liberty,  uphold the right of churches and organizations to find appropriate and various ways to end unjust practices and policies that violate international laws and conventions, including exerting economic leverage on commercial and government actors.”

Churches are standing up!

, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, 23 Jul 2017

Have you heard the news? In the last several weeks alone, more than 35 local, regional, national, and international church bodies have taken bold actions in support of Palestinian rights!

A flurry of churches — 17 and counting — have declared themselves HP-free across the country in denominations including American Baptist, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Presbyterian, Church of the Brethren, Quaker, Catholics, and others, as Friends of Sabeel – North America announced this week. The global Boycott HP Campaign campaign continues to escalate pressure on HP until it responds to these key questions and commits to ending its role in Israel’s abuses of Palestinian rights. Are you part of a church? Learn how your congregation can become HP-free. It’s easier than you think!

These principled churches have brought local congregations into the larger snowball of regional, national, and international churches taking action. Brace yourselves… there are a lot of them!

  • July 10 – The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada affirmed the rights of Palestinian children and called for withholding U.S. military aid to Israel with a nearly unanimous vote!
  • July 7 – The World Communion of Reformed Churches, with a membership of 80 million Christians worldwide called for solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and rejected any use of the Bible to legitimize injustice.
  • July 6 – The Mennonite Church voted by approximately 98% to institute a policy against investment in Israel’s military occupation!
  • July 2 – The United Church of Christ (UCC) General Synod (national) passed with 79% a resolution in defense of Palestinian children, having already passed divestment in 2015.
  • June 10 – The Minnesota Conference of the UCC voted 144 – 5 to divest its $8 million in investments from companies involved in the occupation.
  • May/June – Fifteen United Methodist Annual Conferences — representing thousands of congregations — adopted a total of 23 resolutions this year supporting the HP boycott, excluding investment in occupation, opposing anti-BDS legislation, and more.

That’s a lot to take in! After you’ve caught your breath, take a moment to thank the Disciples, Mennonites, and UCC so they know what broad support they have in this time.

A stone cross appears on a Palestinian building near the Israeli separation wall dividing the West Bank town of Bethlehem, April 29, 2014. (credit: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

The Palestinian Christian community has long — through the Kairos Document — called on churches to support their struggle for collective liberation, a sentiment recently echoed by the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine’s letter to the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement. Learn more on the Palestine Portal.

At a time when Palestinian rights advocacy is under severe repression, churches are not backing down. We know that those defending Israel’s occupation malign boycotts, divestment, and sanctions as tools for social change for one simple reason: they work.

This week, Ha’aretz reportedForeign Companies Wary of Operating Jerusalem’s Light Rail Because It Traverses ’67 Border.” Following billions of losses in contracts following boycott and divestment campaigns, the multinational Veolia divested of its contracts with Israel in 2015, and other companies are shying away from the same contracts precisely because of the political and economic cost. Together, our work is taking the profit out of occupation.

P.S. The US Campaign has supported one church win after another, year after year. But we still have so much work to do. We need you by our side to keep taking the profit out of occupation and changing hearts and minds across the country. Please invest in more wins with a donation to the US Campaign today.

 

Update April 21-24, 2017
Juan Cole Programs

April 21, 2017
WORT 89.9 FM
A Public Affair: Juan Cole On The Middle East
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Listen to the program

Professor Juan Cole will be Esty Dinur’s guest on A Public Affair, WORT’s daily hour-long talk program, for a wide-ranging discussion of issues, wars and prospects in the Middle East.

April 24, 2017
“Paganism and Muslim Peace-Building in the Mecca Period”
206 Ingraham Hall
UW-Madison [Map]
12:00 to 1:00 pm

UW Middle East Studies Program presents Juan Cole (Professor of History at the University of Michigan) speaking on “Paganism and Muslim Peace-Building in the Mecca Period (610-622): What does the Qur’an Say?”

Later Muslim accounts posit an essential enmity between Muslims and pagans in the Hejaz, leading to the wars of the 620s. These Umayyad and Abbasid accounts have influenced the interpretations of contemporary scholars. A close examination of Qur’anic texts from the Meccan period, however, reveals a consistent and strongly held option for peace. It will be argued that the sanctuary status of Mecca as a holy city made this experiment in peace theology possible.

April 24, 2017
“ISIL/Daesh and the Fate of Iraq in the Age of Trump”
Elvehjem Building L150
7:00 pm [Map]

In his second talk of the Day, Juan Cole will address the future of Iraq with a focus on the policies and approaches the new Trump administration may take in combating ISIL.

For more info please contact: Névine El Nossery, Director of the Middle East Studies Program, elnossery at wisc.edu


Juan Ricardo Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger and essayist, and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He writes Informed Comment, Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion, which includes “The Map: The Story of Palestinian Nationhood Thwarted”. In 1973, Juan gifted his extensive comic book collection to Northwestern University; Stan Lee of Marvel Comics attended the opening.

March 29, 2017
Islamophobia in America with Reza Aslan

Aslan Slider Image

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017
7:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Location: Wisconsin Union Theater
Cost: Free

Reza Aslan is an internationally renowned writer, commentator, professor, producer, and scholar of religions. His books, including his #1 New York Times Bestseller, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, have been translated into dozens of languages around the world. He is also a recipient of the prestigious James Joyce Award.

In addition to his role as a Consulting Producer on the acclaimed HBO series The Leftovers, Aslan is also the host and Executive Producer of two other original television programs: Rough Draft with Reza Aslan (premiered on Ovation), and CNN’s new documentary series, Believer. He also served as an Executive Producer on the ABC drama, Of Kings and Prophets. His book Zealot has been optioned by Lionsgate and producer David Heyman with a script penned by Oscar nominated screenwriter, James Schamus.

In 2006, Aslan co-founded BoomGen Studiosthe premiere entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Middle East—which has provided an array of targeted services ranging from strategic messaging to grassroots marketing to publicity and social media outreach, to producers, studios, and filmmakers—including Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Netflix’s The Square, Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Weinstein Company’s Miral, Discovery and TLC’s All American Muslim, and National Geographic’s Amreeka.

Aslan’s first book, International Bestseller No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, has been translated into seventeen languages, and was named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade by Blackwell Publishers. He is also the author of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age (originally titled How to Win a Cosmic War), as well as editor of two volumes: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalties, Contentions, and Complexities.

Aslan’s degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University (Major focus: New Testament; Minor: Greek), a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University (Major focus: History of Religions), a PhD in the Sociology of Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. An Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a member of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues; Narrative Four, which connects people through the exchange of stories; PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world; the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Levantine Cultural Center, which builds bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world through the arts.

Aslan is a tenured Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside and serves on the board of trustees for the Chicago Theological Seminary and The Yale Humanist Community, which supports atheists, agnostics, and humanists at home and abroad. A member of the American Academy of Religions, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the International Qur’anic Studies Association, Aslan’s previous academic positions include the Wallerstein Distinguished Professor of Religion, Community and Conflict at Drew University in New Jersey (2012-2013), and Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Iowa (2000-2003).

Born in Iran, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, author and entrepreneur, Jessica Jackley, and their three sons.