On June 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York announced an executive order banning state agencies from doing business with firms associated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which boycotts Israel’s companies and products because of its policies toward Palestinians. “If you boycott Israel,” said Mr. Cuomo, “New York will boycott you.” With so many campaigns to financially punish nations, companies and even individuals with controversial views, counter-boycotts seem inevitable. Will there now be a triple boycott by the B.D.S. movement against New York over Mr. Cuomo’s boycott against boycotters?
The confusion over who is shunning whom is almost comical, but as the American Civil Liberties Union says, “creating a government blacklist that imposes state sanctions based on political beliefs raises serious First Amendment concerns.” The executive order targets firms that “promote others to engage in any activity” that the government of the State of New York characterizes as economic pressure against Israel. This seems to open up the possibility that a firm could lose a state contract just for appearing sympathetic to the B.D.S. movement, even if it does not actually participate in that boycott. This is dangerously close to imposing a gag rule on anyone who wishes to do business with New York. If the state wishes to show its support for Israel, it should do so in ways that do not threaten free speech.