No, Kansas, you can’t ban contractors from boycotting Israel

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(photo: The Kansas City Star file photo)

The Supreme Court ruled decades ago that boycotts are constitutionally protected speech. Nonetheless, Kansas passed a law requiring all those who contract with the state to certify that they are not boycotting Israel.

By Editorial Board | The Kansas City Star | Jan 31, 2018


“Speech, assembly, and petition . . . to change a social order. . . [are] on the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values.”
— US Supreme Court

“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.”
— US District Judge Daniel Crabtree


A federal judge in Topeka has ruled that Kansas cannot tell contractors what they can and cannot boycott. That would seem obvious to anyone familiar with free speech protections under the First Amendment.

But last summer, Kansas passed a law requiring all those who contract with the state to certify that they are not boycotting Israel.

Why? Continue reading

Jewish leaders: You fought for the right to boycott — now let people use it

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Ultra-orthodox Jews of the Naturei Kartra movement during a protest outside the Capitol Hill where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress in Washington, DC, on Mar 3, 2015. (photo: Getty Images)

Have your feelings about BDS, but respect the constitutional right to boycott that you so proudly fought for during the Civil Rights Movement.

By Elias Newman | Forward | Feb 5, 2018


[The] right to boycott went all the way to the Supreme Court during the Civil Rights Era, when a judge in Mississippi ordered an NAACP chapter to pay damages to white shop-owners after the chapter ran a successful boycott campaign. The NAACP appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, asking how their actions were any different from the the American colonists who refused to buy English-made goods during the American Revolution. A unanimous court overturned the Mississippi ruling, solidifying non-violent boycotts as “speech, assembly, association, and petition” protected by the First Amendment.


If you’ve ever been to a synagogue around MLK Day, you probably heard about the role Jews played in the Civil Rights Movement. Don’t get me wrong; I’m proud that white Jews joined Freedom Rides and marched with MLK, and I have deep respect for Rabbis in the South who risked their jobs to support bus boycotters.

The hypocrisy in all of this current celebration, however, is that Jewish leaders are taking credit for Civil Rights work while simultaneously mounting an assault on the American right to boycott — a constitutional freedom fought for during the Civil Rights movement by Blacks and their Jewish allies. Boycotts are protected under the First Amendment and were vital to ending segregation, forcing politicians and shop owners to integrate or go bankrupt. Yet today, when boycotts in the U.S. increasingly target Israeli human rights abuses, Jewish leaders have no problem unraveling Civil Rights protections by leading the political movement to boycott all boycotts.

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Lend your support: Join church leaders in denouncing anti-BDS legislation

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Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek is a Palestinian priest in the Anglican Church and founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem

Download and print this letter signed by over 400 Christian leaders to illustrate that Christian clergy across the nation oppose Anti-BDS legislation.

By Friends of Sabeel North America


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. . . .

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