Doubling up on boycotts

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.

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Eugene Fitzpatrick
2 years ago
The Editors' commentary on the BDS issue initially engenders a false symmetry between Cuomo's action and that of the movement for Palestinian rights, both considered with a certain flippancy and with a resultant mockery of the very worthy efforts being made by social justice advocates to oppose Israel's rape of Palestine. My indignation is mitigated however by the Editors' straightforward labeling of Cuomo's action for what it is, an unabashed trashing of the First Amendment. My plea is that America magazine will continue to give strong unambiguous support to suffering Palestine.
Ciaran O'Donnell
2 years ago
As a friendly suggestion, the ACLU should perhaps sue the state of New York if it thinks that the constitution has been violated instead of just politely chiding :) The ACLU has previously defended Planned Parenthood's rights for exactly the same principle, so they could use exactly the same arguments. It would be interesting to see what the courts would come up with. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2016/05/25/3781482/ohio-abortion-constitution/
Eugene Fitzpatrick
2 years ago
You raise a good point Ciaran. Will the ACLU send out their heavy hitters and take on Cuomo on what I'd expect to be a slam-dunk or will it wimp out under pressure from Brooklyn and Tremont Avenue and remain aloof. I'll give them 30 days to decide before I move into indignation mode. Regardless, it's nice to run into a fellow American-Irishman taking up the banner for Palestine, an uncommon event in my many decades experience in the justice for Palestine movement.

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