by Stanley Heller, Middle East Crisis Committee
Imagine if your business or group supported Cesar Chavez grape boycott your state government put you on a blacklist, and you would be forbidden all state contracts and any pension fund investment. Or maybe state authorities punish you because you refused to buy Nestle products in the ’70s when it was dressing up saleswomen as nurses and pushing baby formula on women in the poorest countries in defiance of all good health sense. Imagine if when Macy’s and Woolworths boycotted Nazi German goods in the ’30s they would be sanctioned. What if the states did something similar to groups demanding action against Sudan because of what its government did in Darfur?
Senate Bill #170 proposes just that in regard to one boycott, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law. It was proposed by Florida Sen. Rubio and has 28 cosponsors including CT Senator Blumenthal. It goes beyond boycotts. It punishes any “entity” that advocates “sanctions” so it could be triggered if a group called for a cut-off of cluster bombs to Israel. If passed SB #170 would be an outrageous violation of free speech and a very bad precedent for trade unions who use the weapon of boycott to support striking workers. An effort is being made to persuade CT Senator Chris Murphy to oppose the bill. Labor lawyer John Fussell wrote a terrific letter to Murphy about #170 and 194 CT residents signed on to a similar letter opposing #170 that was hand-delivered to him at his town meeting in West Hartford. Email him through his website or even better call his office in DC at (202) 224-4041. For details see www.TheStruggle.org.
Far from punishing people for advocating BDS, state governments should support it. A few years ago Connecticut’s Treasurer reported that the state had $32 million invested in State of Israel Bonds or stocks in Israeli companies.