Anti-BDS Legislation is anti-First Amendment

And how you can take action!

August 26, 2016

Photo by McGill Daily (CC BY 2.0)
Photo by McGill Daily (CC BY 2.0)

TAKE ACTION: Ask CA Governor to veto anti-BDS Assembly Bill

Today, the California Legislature passed AB 2844 which will prevent California state government agencies from awarding contracts to companies that participate in a boycott of Israel. The intention of the bill is to silence the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement. It is now heading to the Governor’s desk.

Please voice your concern by requesting Governor Brown to veto AB 2844.

Here's how to contact the Governor:

  • Send an email from this form
  • Mail: c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173 Sacramento, CA 95814
  • Call his Sacramento office at (916) 445-2841

You can learn more about the bill here.


Created in 2005, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement became an international, non-violent approach using political, economic and social means to pressure the State of Israel to:

  1. end the occupation,
  2. recognize the human rights of Palestinians, and
  3. honor the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

Although originating abroad, the BDS movement is creating domestic shockwaves across the US political landscape.

Many millennials and students in colleges and universities have thrown their support behind the BDS movement. In 2015, at least 15 U.S. university student governments passed BDS-related resolutions. However, these students have been met with fierce opposition from anti-BDS players like Sheldon Adelson, Adam Milstein, Haim Saban and David Horowitz. Horowitz’s new campaign includes blacklisting students and professors that support the BDS movement. When the Vassar Student Association considered a resolution to join the boycott, the Vassar College administration threatened to withdraw all student government funding—almost $1 million.

In 2015, Adelson and Saban convened a private summit in Las Vegas to counter the BDS movement at colleges and universities which led to the Maccabee Task Force (MTK). Embarking on a multi-college tour this fall, the MTK aims to shut down the BDS movement on college campuses by presenting a positive image of the state. BDS opponents have created websites that aim to blacklist student activists and professors. Ironically, higher education is supposed to breed an environment of a marketplace of ideas to freely discuss topics without fear of retribution or punishment. The tactics of the anti-BDS movement have proven to be anti- First Amendment rights and protections. When external influences determine that students are not allowed to engage in healthy debates on these issues, then we must consider the anti-BDS movement as a threat to our First Amendment and create constitutional arguments for their encroachment on the rights of American citizens.

New York Governor issues executive order

States have become battlegrounds for BDS supporters and opponents. More than ten states have passed anti-BDS legislation including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issuing an executive order. Under California Assembly Bill (AB) 2844, introduced by Assembly member Richard Bloom, the state would refuse to do business with entities involved in BDS activities. Since its introduction, AB 2844 has been amended to require companies to verify that they do not violate state law while boycotting a sovereign nation, namely Israel.

In his New York Times op-ed, Eyal Press cautioned that, under the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, “American officials will be obligated to treat the settlements as part of Israel in future trade negotiations.” The US House and Senate introduced two bills, the "Combating BDS Act of 2016", which will allow local and state governments to divest assets and prohibit investment in any company tied to the BDS movement.

When the US government sanctions and admonishes Israel’s neighbors for human rights abuses while handing the State of Israel a pass on their human rights abuses and international law violations, then we are complicit in violating the human dignity and self-determination of Palestinians. For example, under the Arms Export Control Act, the President has the authority to regulate the import and export of weapons and international governments receiving those weapons from the US must use them for “legitimate self-defense.” Military actions sanctioned by the Israeli government have proven to be overwhelmingly disproportionate to the point where members of Congress and human rights organizations have warned that we may be in violation of the Act. These conditions have transformed a foreign policy issue into a domestic issue. It determines how our elected officials vote on issues pertaining to the Middle East and ignores promoting broader American interests such as democracy and human rights to all nations in the Middle East, including Israel.

Why BDS matters

Boycotting is a fundamental right that Americans have used throughout history especially when US foreign funding does not comply with American values. Activists within the Civil Rights Movement used boycotts to demand legal protections for their rights. When farm laborers refused to work for low wages, the Delano grape strike and consumer boycott was launched.

As Americans, we have the inalienable right to boycott, strike and protest. When those rights are under threat, it is imperative we mount a campaign to ensure justice is delivered here and abroad.



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