A letter to Washington State legislators.
“The court has rightly recognized the serious First Amendment harms being inflicted by this misguided law. . . . This ruling should serve as a warning to government officials around the country that the First Amendment prohibits the government from suppressing participation in political boycotts.”
— Brian Hauss, ACLU attorney
To the Honorable Representative:
As Washington residents and Washington organizations, we are disturbed at ongoing attacks on our First Amendment right to boycott. In the Washington State Legislature, two measures from 2017, HJM 4004 and HJM 4009, both condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, have been reintroduced into the House Judiciary Committee during the 2018 legislative session. Though these measures appear not to be moving forward, we are concerned that similar anti-boycott language might be inserted into final legislation during this busy session.
HJM 4004 and 4009 radically mischaracterize the BDS movement. BDS is a grassroots campaign to gain equal rights for Palestinians and to pressure Israel to abide by international humanitarian law. While BDS is modeled after the South African boycott and thus calls for broad boycotts against Israeli institutions, nothing in it calls for discrimination against individuals solely because of their national origin, religion, or ethnicity.
Attacks on BDS and our right to boycott are part of an orchestrated campaign to curb criticism of Israeli policies. These attacks are impacting citizens directly. In Dickinson, Texas, victims of Hurricane Harvey were originally required to sign that they would not boycott Israel before they could receive federal aid. In Kansas, a long-time teacher was barred from a training position with the Kansas Department of Education for following her Mennonite church’s call to boycott Israeli goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements. To maintain his state contracts to provide legal services to incarcerated individuals, an Arizona lawyer has been forced to sign a statement indicating that he does not participate in boycotts of Israel.
These anti-boycott measures are not standing up to legal and other scrutiny. In Dickinson, Texas, the City Council had to reverse its position on aid to individual hurricane victims after a national outcry about how the Texas anti-BDS law was being applied. The ACLU has mounted lawsuits on behalf of the Kansas teacher and Arizona lawyer who have been negatively impacted by anti-BDS legislation in their respective states. On January 30, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the Kansas anti-BDS law that calls for contractors to certify that they are not engaged in boycotting Israel, saying that “the Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.”
Brian Hauss, ACLU attorney, stated, “The court has rightly recognized the serious First Amendment harms being inflicted by this misguided law. . . . This ruling should serve as a warning to government officials around the country that the First Amendment prohibits the government from suppressing participation in political boycotts.”
Whatever your views on Israel, Palestine, or the BDS movement, we respectfully urge you not to support or vote for any anti-boycott measures or language that serve to threaten our right to take collective action against injustice. From the boycott of British tea in 1773 to the boycott of segregated buses in 1956 and beyond, boycott campaigns have a long and proud history in social justice and civil rights movements in the US.
We respectfully ask that you refuse to sign, sponsor, endorse or vote for any form of anti-BDS or anti-boycott legislation. Please stand firm in support of our constitutional rights and freedoms.
Thank you for your consideration.
Free Speech Washington
Northwest Regional BDS Coalition
Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice
Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights – University of Washington (SUPER-UW)
American Friends Service Committee – WA
Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites
Council on American-Islamic Relations of Washington State (CAIR)
Episcopal Bishop’s Committee for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land
Evergreen Students for Justice in Palestine
Freedom Socialist Party
The International Trauma Treatment Program
Jewish Voice for Peace – Seattle
Jewish Voice for Peace – Tacoma
Kairos Puget Sound Coalition
Northwest Detention Center Resistance
Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace
Pacific Rim Solidarity Network (PARISOL)
Palestine Solidarity Committee – Seattle
Race & Climate Justice – Seattle
Seattle Black Book Club
Seattle Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (Seattle CISPES)
Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC)
Stop Veolia – Seattle
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Antioch University – Seattle
Vancouver for Peace
Veterans for Peace – Rachel Corrie Chapter 109
Voices for Palestine
Washington Fair Trade Coalition
Whatcom Human Rights Task Force
Whatcom Peace and Justice Center