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URGENT: Don't Let Congress "Combat BDS"!

by Josh Ruebner, Policy Director
February 11th, 2016

Tell Congress: Nope. It's Our #Right2BDS

This is outrageous. Yesterday, Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Reps. Robert Dold (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) introduced the "Combating BDS Act of 2016."

These bills seek to authorize state and local governments to divest from entities that support the Palestinian civil society-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Call and write your Members of Congress today to tell them that you support BDS as a nonviolent means to achieve Palestinian freedom, justice and equality, and ask them not to cosponsor S.2531 and H.R.4514.

While these Members of Congress believe they can authorize state and local governments to penalize nonprofit organizations and corporations which support BDS, there's one major flaw in their legislation: what they're "authorizing" is unconstitutional!

The Supreme Court has ruled that boycotts and related activities to bring about political, social, and economic change are political speech, occupying "the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values."

Congress can't "authorize" state and local governments to shred our Constitutionally-protected right to political speech.

Contact your Members of Congress today to demand they uphold the First Amendment and not cosponsor the Combating BDS Act.

This legislation is part of a concerted campaign to try to quash the BDS movement through heavy-handed, McCarthy-style blacklisting in state legislatures throughout the country. Together with member groups in states such as New York, Virginia, and Indiana, we're pushing back against this blatantly unconstitutional legislation.

While we are taking this rash of anti-BDS legislation at the federal and state levels very seriously, we also recognize that this frantic, unconstitutional assault on BDS is a sign of our collective power to win BDS campaigns in churches, labor unions, academic organizations and student governments.

BDS has become mainstream in the United States. Israel and its supporters can't defeat the struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality on its merits so they are resorting to what they do best: engaging in top-down attempts to try to silence those who oppose Israel's apartheid rule.

Even if they succeed in getting anti-BDS legislation passed, we want to remind everyone loudly and clearly: no legislature can take away our First Amendment-protected right to engage in BDS campaigns.

Rahul Saksena of member group Palestine Legal stated it best in Salon: "The best way to fight these bills is to organize more BDS campaigns and use these bills as an opportunity to raise public support for Palestinian freedom."

And also to tell our Members of Congress that they cannot pass laws to "authorize" state and local governments to penalize entities for exercising their First Amendment right to political speech.

Thanks for taking action.


Josh Ruebner
Policy Director

PS: Read David Palumbo-Liu's important article in Salon, "BDS's 'South Africa moment'?: As states pass resolutions condemning BDS, it's more important than ever to fight for Palestinian freedom."