I just came across a news item today about a city in Texas requiring Hurricane Harvey relief contractors to sign a form promising not to support any boycott against Israel. I realized upon doing a bit of reading on the issue that 17 other US states now make it mandatory to support Israel or at least not to support the boycott of Israel. So these states are basically making it illegal to have a political opinion that the right-wing government in Israel doesn’t like.
It is important that I add that this is not about all Israelis or everyone in Israel. It is not about Jews or the Jewish people. It is the same with South Africa under apartheid. People who were boycotting South Africa didn’t hate all the Afrikaner or White South Africans. They just hated the government and its policies. So this is the same thing here. People opposed to the BDS against Israel argue people are picking on Israel in a world with many bad actors. This is hilarious because even when apartheid was happening in South Africa, there were other bad actors in the world. This did not mean boycotting South Africa was picking on South Africa or was mean-spirited.
They also argue that it is a form of antisemitism, which is basically parroting the views of the rightwing Israeli administration. This can’t be further from the truth. You can support the Jewish people, which I do, but still, support BDS. BDS isn’t against Jews but against the policies of the Israeli government against the people of Palestine which include Jews, Arabs, Muslims, and Christians. There have been many reports saying Gaza will be uninhabitable in a short period of time due to the Israeli blockade and intermittent bombing. Anyway, I have absolutely no problem with people who decide to boycott or to not boycott. It is their political decision and in a free society, people should have the choice to decide whatever they want to support without economic or criminal sanctions. Which is what the various states are trying to do or are already doing in the US.
Basically, the whole thing takes two forms and has taken two directions as well. First, they tried to pass the legislation in the US Congress and many representatives and senators blocked it because of hue and cry by free speech activists and the ACLU. They have not given up though. They are still trying to pass it in the Senate as as much as 5o senators have been known to support that bill. But given the roadblocks in the national debate, they took a different route. They target the states.So they took a second direction which is reaping success through the states. They have succeeded in the states because there is less scrutiny at the state level and less fanfare when these bills are sneaked in and passed. It is also easy and cheap to bribe state officials to pass these bills. So they have succeeded so far in passing the law in 17 states. This cuts across the entire country from the south to the north and from liberal states like New York to conservative states like Texas.
The legal routes it is taking are as follows. In the Congress version that was defeated, you could be fined as much as $200k for violating the Mandatory Israeli support Bill. I think New York’s version has a similar provision. I remember the debate, not sure if it was included in its final form in New York though. So you can get in jail if you fail to pay up for violating this bill. The second legal route is an economic one where you will be refused government contracts if you have a history of supporting BDS or you will be required to sign a promised support for Israel before you can be given the contract. This is basically what the city of Dickinson in Texas did with the Hurricane Harvey Relief contracts. Because this is obviously illegal and undemocratic, the ACLU, Texas came out in opposition to this. Op-Eds in the New York Times and the Intercept alongside other news organizations have covered this already. But the reason why more and more states since 2015 have been doing this is because government action almost anywhere in the world, not just the US is done for special interests. This is why the illegal laws keep getting passed. In this case, the organization called AIPAC is the one behind the scenes pushing these laws. AIPAC is a lobby (bribery) organization representing the Israeli government.
The last state to pass this law was Maryland yesterday October 23rd, 2017. Just to be clear, everyone can have an opinion and position on Israel and the BDS movement. What is illegal is government mandating a political position. They are criminally and economically punishing people for a political position they don’t like. This is completely illegal because they are spending taxpayer resources to discriminate against taxpayers. You can support whatever you want, the government should not have the power to mandate what you can and cannot support.