New York lawmakers, seemingly baffled by the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian freedom, are despairing for the good old days of McCarthyism, when speech was suppressed and activists’ livelihoods endangered with the simple creation of a blacklist.
In January, the New York State Senate overwhelmingly voted to resurrect McCarthyism by passing a bill aimed at suppressing BDS in the United States and abroad. The bill proposes prohibiting the state from contracting with or investing in individuals, companies, and organizations that abide by boycott campaigns related to Israel’s abuses of Palestinian rights and violations of international law (including in the occupied territories). While the bill targets boycotts against a broader list of “allied nations,” it is clear from the official memo accompanying the bill and from lawmakers’ public comments that the bill’s true target is BDS.
If passed by the New York State Assembly and signed into law by Governor Cuomo, this bill would also require New York State to create and maintain an online list of human-rights activists, organizations, and companies that engage in, promote, or encourage others to support BDS. “Such list, when developed and published,” the text of the bill states, “shall be posted on the website of the office of general services.” The blacklisting police will be back—tucked away in some state building in Albany no doubt—monitoring our #BDS tweets.
New York is not alone. A wave of anti-BDS legislation has been introduced, and in some cases passed, in Congress and in state legislatures across the country, including Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, California, Indiana, and Virginia.
For nearly half a century, Palestinians in the occupied territories have lived under a repressive and discriminatory Israeli military regime that denies them the most basic of rights, including the right to self-determination, the right to move freely in their own land, and the fundamental right to due process. At the same time, there are now approximately 650,000 Jewish-Israeli settlers living on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, in violation of international law and official US policy, and despite near universal international condemnation. These settlers enjoy full rights of Israeli citizenship, while Palestinians living nearby are ruled by what amounts to an Israeli military dictatorship. The relentless expansion of Israel’s settlement enterprise and the massive apartheid wall Israel has been erecting on Palestinian land have exposed the Israeli leadership’s disdain for a two-state solution.
Meanwhile, Palestinian citizens of Israel—those who remained in what became Israel following the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when approximately 750,000 Palestinians were uprooted or expelled from their homes in order to establish a Jewish-majority state in 1948—suffer from widespread, systematic and institutionalized discrimination. And millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants—many still living in refugee camps today—are denied the right to return, a right guaranteed under international law.