Massachusetts activists defeat anti-BDS bill

Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, Jun 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler / ActiveStills)

Anti-BDS measures have passed in more than 20 states, and federal legislation is pending in Congress.

By Nora Barrows-Friedman | Electronic Intifada | Feb 13, 2018

“By asking the state legislature to pass a bill that strikes at free speech, [supporters] forced legislators to choose between supporting Israel’s occupation and supporting free speech.”
— Cole Harrison of Massachusetts Peace Action

Activists in Massachusetts successfully pressured state lawmakers to stop a bill on February 8 that would have classified the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights as “discrimination.”

The bill requires anyone who enters into a contract with the state worth more than $10,000 to pledge that they will not refuse to do business with any person based on the person’s “race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

It has no chance of being passed this session as a key committee declined to advance it.

The campaign to defeat it was successful, Elsa Auerbach of Jewish Voice for Peace – Boston told The Electronic Intifada, “after the legislators understood that the framing of the bill was deceptive and posed a threat to the constitutionally protected right to free speech.”

The bill was endorsed by by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston (JCRC), a communal organization that has an active Israel lobby wing.

Though the bill’s wording did not explicitly mention the BDS movement, the JCRC assured its supporters it would extend to the Palestinian rights campaign and prevent the state from awarding contracts “to those who boycott Israeli businesses and goods” manufactured in Israel, claiming the boycott is discriminatory against the “national origin” of Israeli business owners.

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