Americans have a constitutional right to boycott Israel


Growing numbers of Americans and the civil society institutions to which they belong are supporting economic action against Israel. (photo: Mike Groll / AP)

Growing numbers of Americans and the civil society institutions to which they belong are supporting economic action against Israel as a moral and nonviolent way of showing their disapproval of Israel’s oppression.

By Josh Ruebner | Al Jazeera | Mar 15, 2018

It should be a no-brainer that Americans can boycott whomever or whatever they choose without risking governmental punishment. After all, the Supreme Court ruled that states have no “right to prohibit peaceful political activity” such as a boycott, which is an “expression on public issues” that “has always rested on the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) concluded its annual policy conference last week with a lobbying day on Capitol Hill. High on its legislative agenda was advocating for bills that would penalise Americans for engaging in their First Amendment-protected right to boycott for Palestinian rights.

AIPAC conference attendees pressed their elected officials to support the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD). The original, draconian version of this bill, unveiled at last year’s AIPAC conference, proposed to jail individuals for 20 years if they advanced an international organization’s call for a boycott of Israel, or even of products from its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

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Knesset bars Israeli lawmaker from overseas trip sponsored by JVP


Israeli Lawmaker Youseff Jabareen (right) in the Knesset, 2016. (photo: Olivier Fitoussi / Haaretz)

Yousef Jabareen of the Arab Joint List requested to fly abroad for a series of lectures funded by Jewish Voice for Peace, but was refused.

By Jonathan Lis | Haaretz | Mar 14, 2018

“The committee’s decision constitutes a harsh blow to my freedom of political activity as an elected official. Without funding from the group extending the invitation, I will of course not be able to travel, due to the large travel expense and the round of lectures that is planned. This is activity that is a fundamental and integral part of my role as an opposition Knesset member.”
— Yousef Jabareen, Israeli Knesset member

For the first time, the Knesset Ethics Committee has decided to bar an MK [Member of the Knesset] from traveling abroad on a trip subsidized by an organization that supports a boycott of Israel.

Knesset member Yousef Jabareen of the predominantly Arab Joint List party was informed on Tuesday by committee chairman Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) that the committee had decided to refuse his request to fly abroad for a series of lectures in April to be funded by Jewish Voice for Peace. The group appears on a Strategic Affairs Ministry list of groups supporting BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

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How Stephen Hawking supported the Palestinian cause

Scientists Move Hands Of Nuclear "Doomsday Clock" Forward

Stephen Hawking. (photo: Getty Images / CNBC)

The late renowned scientist will be remembered not only for his work, but his support for Palestine.

By Al Jazeera | Mar 14, 2018

“I accepted the invitation to the Presidential Conference with the intention that this would not only allow me to express my opinion on the prospects for a peace settlement but also because it would allow me to lecture on the West Bank. However, I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.”
— Stephen Hawking, May 3, 2013

Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned scientist who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 76, was known not only for his groundbreaking work but also for his support for Palestine.

Hawking, who had motor-neuron disease, made headlines in May 2013 when he decided to boycott a high-profile conference in Israel where he was scheduled to speak. The physicist was working at the Cambridge University in the UK at the time.

The Presidential Conference, an academic event held in Jerusalem, was being hosted by the late Israeli President Shimon Peres. In a letter Hawking sent to the organizers on May 3, he said the “policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.”

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Israel urges Irish bank to close account of NGO supporting BDS


A London branch of the Allied Irish Bank (photo: International Business Times)

The move is part of a growing effort by Israel to force closure of bank accounts of organizations supporting BDS.

By Benjamin Weinthal | The Jerusalem Post | Mar 9, 2018

“I call on Allied Irish Banks to join the many institutions, leaders and citizens who are uniting to reject the discriminatory and antisemitic boycott movement against Israel, including by disassociating itself from any BDS-linked accounts.”
— Gilad Erdan, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister

The Israeli government is pushing for the closure of scores of accounts provided by the Dublin-based Allied Irish Banks that fund the promotion of anti-Israel boycotts.

AIB, one of the Big Four commercial banks in Ireland, hosts Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign accounts, an organization based in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland that wages an aggressive BDS campaign targeting the Jewish state.

In January, the Israeli government included the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in a list of 20 BDS organizations whose representatives are not permitted to enter the Jewish state.

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Washington court dismisses lawsuit over boycott of Israeli products


(photo: Olympia Food Co-op)

The 7-year lawsuit is part of a growing effort to suppress the BDS movement.

By Press Release | Center for Constitutional Rights | Mar 9, 2018

“Taking a stand for economic and social justice is at the heart of the co-op’s mission. Given Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights, we would have failed in this mission had we not approved a boycott.”
— Grace Cox, former Olympic Food Co-op board member and defendant in the lawsuit

Today, a Washington State court ended a seven-year litigation battle against former volunteer board members of the Olympia Food Co-op over their decision to boycott Israeli goods. The lawsuit was first filed in 2011 by five co-op members seeking to block the co-op’s boycott and to collect monetary damages against the board members. Two of the five members pulled out of the case, and none of the defendants originally named in the case remains a board member of the co-op. The court granted the motion for summary judgment from the former board members, who were represented by Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel, finding the plaintiffs had no standing to bring a case because they failed to show the co-op was injured.

“We are pleased that the court has dismissed this meritless lawsuit. It is a relief and a vindication for our clients, and a victory for everyone who supports the right to boycott,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Deputy Legal Director Maria LaHood, who argued today.

Lawyers say the lawsuit is part of a broad and growing pattern of suppressing activism in support of Palestinian rights, a phenomenon that CCR and Palestine Legal have documented and called the “Palestine Exception” to free speech. CCR and Palestine Legal report the widespread use of administrative disciplinary actions, harassment, firings, legislative attacks, false accusations of terrorism and antisemitism, and baseless legal complaints. Between 2014 and 2016, Palestine Legal responded to 650 such incidents of suppression targeting speech supportive of Palestinian rights.

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Cambridge University apologizes for censoring BDS event


Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University. (photo: David Iliff)

University officials had threatened to cancel event on BDS unless Palestinian academic was replaced as chair.

By Shafik Mandhai | Al Jazeera | Mar 6, 2018

“[The University’s decision] portrayed Dr. Salih in a manner that does not befit a respected academic with more than 15 years’ experience of chairing meetings in a balanced and scholarly way. We therefore would like to apologize to Dr. Salih for removing her as a chair, and we recognize that there was no evidence to support the view that she would not ensure a democratic debate, allowing all views to be expressed.”
— Cambridge University statement

The University of Cambridge has apologized to a Palestinian academic, whom it prevented from chairing a talk on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement in November last year.

Ruba Salih from the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) in London was stopped from moderating the event organized by pro-Palestinian activists and replaced by the university’s own choice, apparently over concerns about her neutrality.

The decision sparked anger among activists, who saw it as yet another example of a university attempting to shut down or disrupt debate on Israel and the BDS movement.

Hundreds of academics and students also signed an open letter condemning the university’s conduct.

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Israel slaps entry ban on Norway’s largest labor union


Norway’s largest alliance of trade unions has fully endorsed the Palestinian call for BDS. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler / ActiveStills)

A routine matter of racial profiling by Israeli authorities has spiraled into a diplomatic attack on Norway’s largest labor organization.

By Ryan Rodrick Beiler | The Electronic Intifada | Mar 5, 2018

“Unless and until LO rectifies the shameful boycott resolution and puts an end to its discriminating practices against the only Jewish state, its leaders should not expect getting a business as usual treatment from Israel,”
— Raphael Schutz, Israeli ambassador to Norway

Mohammed Malik, a Norwegian citizen with Pakistani heritage, had joined a trade union study tour organized by the Palestine Committee of Norway, but was stopped for questioning by officials at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on 17 Feb. While all other members of the delegation were allowed to continue on their trip, Malik spent the night in detention before being deported and issued a lifetime entry ban.

During Malik’s interrogation, Israeli agents discovered that he was a member of the Norwegian Food and Allied Workers Union. He was questioned about his union affiliation and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions’ (LO) policy toward Israel.

“My name was obviously the reason I was taken aside in passport control,” Malik told a LO-affiliated newspaper. “But they deported me because I am a [trade] unionist. I was thrown out because I am affiliated with the LO.”

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