Join Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, Dr. Monica Burnett and FOSNA Executive Director Tarek Abuata, for this Lenten webinar. Speakers will address issues on the ground in Palestine, introduce a new educational Biblical resource for congregations, and provide ideas for advocacy stemming from Palestinian Liberation Theology.
These bills attack a non-violent, time-tested, and constitutionally protected approach to achieving peace. The First Amendment protects more than “speech”: the Supreme Court has long recognized that it also protects expressive conduct.
“As Christian leaders we have long used the non-violent instruments of boycott and divestment in our work for justice and peace. These economic measures have proven to be powerful tools for social change, from strengthening labor rights for farmworkers to ending apartheid in South Africa. Observing the success of these efforts, Palestinian civil society issued a call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in 2005 to advance Palestinians’ long-denied rights to freedom, justice, equality, and self-determination. In 2009, Palestinian Christians included a call for boycott and divestment in their landmark document, “Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth.” Christian denominations around the world have responded by divesting from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation and its persistent settlement expansion — both of which are illegal under international and U.S. law. . . .
Israeli governmental policy proponents, fearing the growing BDS movement, have launched a well-funded campaign to suppress BDS. During the last two years, “anti-BDS” bills have been introduced in the U.S. Congress and several state legislatures. Legislation introduced in New York, California, Florida, Iowa and other states would prohibit investing in or contracting with organizations that boycott Israel and “its territories.” These laws may threaten public funding for social services such as soup kitchens and homeless shelters provided by churches that have passed BDS resolutions. . . .
Esther Koontz decided not to buy consumer products made by Israeli companies and international companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories — as a result, the state of Kansas refuses to contract with her.
“The court has rightly recognized the serious First Amendment harms being inflicted by this misguided law, which imposes an unconstitutional ideological litmus test. 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
The American Civil Liberties Union won an early victory today in its federal lawsuit arguing that a Kansas law requiring a public school educator to certify that she won’t boycott Israel violates her First Amendment rights.
A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law while the case filed in October proceeds. It is the first ruling addressing a recent wave of laws nationwide aiming to punish people who boycott Israel.
The law, which took effect on July 1, requires that any person or company that contracts with the state submit a written certification that they are “not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel.” The ACLU is also currently fighting a case filed in December against a similar law in Arizona.
As faith leaders, we have long used the nonviolent instruments of boycott and divestment in our work for justice and peace. These economic measures have proven to be powerful tools for social change. . . . Anti-BDS legislation is an extremely grave attack on free speech that threatens the use of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions for other peace and human justice causes.
We are members of faith communities in the United States whose congregations or denominations have adopted resolutions to boycott products made in Israeli settlements—built on occupied Palestinian lands in violation of international law and longstanding official U.S. policy—or have implemented a screen to divest from companies that profit from the 50-year-old Israeli military occupation of Palestine. These resolutions affirm our commitment to a just peace for all Palestinians and Israelis.
We are alarmed by legislation recently passed in a number of states penalizing participation in the nonviolent, grassroots Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights and by similar legislation that is proposed in the U.S. Congress. In August, the Kansas State Department of Education used the state’s anti-BDS legislation to bar a member of the Mennonite church, a math teacher and curriculum coach in Wichita, Kansas, from participating in a program to train other math teachers.
This is a dangerous precedent that threatens to extend repression of Palestinians living under Israeli military rule by muzzling the right of Americans to free speech.
Accordingly, the ACLU has filed suit against the Kansas Commissioner of Education in defense of this school teacher and her right to boycott.