Condemning all efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the people of Israel
This morning, LP Director Brooke Goldstein testified at New York’s City Hall in support of a City Council resolution in opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign to bankrupt and delegitimize the State of Israel. The hearing was designed to be an open forum for the free exchange of ideas, but BDS protestors attempted to silence the testimony of anyone presenting facts or opinions inconsistent with their own views. Armed security officers were forced to eject protestors one by one to prevent the hearing room from devolving into utter chaos, as dozens of protestors screamed things like “Zionists are terrorists,” “F*ck Israel,” “F*ck Zionism” and “Free Palestine.” Their silencing tactics were entirely unsuccessful, leaving the councilmembers shocked and appalled, and the only outcome of their menacing disruptions was their own loss of opportunity to testify.
None of the individuals providing testimony in support of the resolution could finish a single sentence without a disruption, and five minutes’ worth of testimony took more than an hour as protestor after protestor had to be escorted out. Ultimately, Goldstein and the other supporters of the resolution were able to successfully complete their remarks. Goldstein reminded the protestors how ironic it was that, while holding signs that said “Free Speech,” they rabidly refused to respect her First Amendment rights, and demonstrated a complete inability to engage in respectful or productive dialogue. Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Chairman Stephen Greenberg commented to the councilmembers that the vitriolic displays they were witnessing by pro-BDS protestors are exactly what Jewish and pro-Israel students face on American campuses every day — but unlike in the Council chambers, on campuses, our children are not protected by armed security.
The Lawfare Project sincerely thanks councilmembers Andrew Cohen, Rory Lancman and Helen Rosenthal, and the New York City Council, for facilitating this crucial conversation and demonstrating a profound commitment to the safety and security of Jewish, pro-Israel, and pro-democracy Americans. The disgraceful behavior of the pro-BDS participants proved the entire point of the hearing and the resolution, and painted a very clear picture of the bigoted, vengeful soul of the BDS movement.
Read Goldstein’s testimony below
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Good morning. My name is Brooke Goldstein, I serve as Director of The Lawfare Project, a legal think tank and litigation fund dedicated to combatting lawfare – the abuse of the law as a weapon of war against Israel, the United States and the West. We are pleased that the New York City Council is interested in learning about the bigoted and discriminatory activity being propagated and undertaken by the BDS movement and its members and proponents. As you may already know, discrimination against persons, products and corporations based on ethnicity and national origin is not only illegal under New York’s Human Rights Law, but it is a position that is antithetical to the guarantees of freedom and fairness that exist in the State of New York and the United States of America.
For those who are unfamiliar with the history of BDS, the boycott and divestment strategy aimed at bankrupting Israel and Israeli businesses was conceived and initially implemented by the Arab League prior to Israel’s independence in 1948. It is is a reflection of pure hatred against the Jewish people and their state, and a rejection of the Jewish people’s right to self-sovereignty. Many Arab League countries have continued these commercially discriminatory practices with the same stated objective to this day, and the corporate “blacklist” has grown to include a vast and diverse variety of international businesses targeted solely because of their national origin. The modern BDS movement is a vengeful derivative of the Arab League boycott, but the two campaigns are synonymous in their motives and goals: they incite economic warfare against a principal U.S. ally, in hopes of destroying of the world’s only Jewish state.
While it cannot be said that every BDS advocate feels hatred against Jews, the movement is inherently and undeniably anti-Semitic at its core. That’s why, when President Carter signed the federal Export Administration Act into law and made participation in the Arab League boycott illegal, he said its purpose was to “end the divisive effects on American life of foreign boycotts aimed at Jewish members of [American] society.” Other federal laws, including the Ribicoff Amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976 and the Sherman Antitrust Act, have also been applied to prohibit and penalize discriminatory commercial activity against Israel and Israelis. U.S. federal law and policy is crystal clear that participation in boycotts against U.S allies, whether they are Israeli, or Chinese, or Jordanian, or Canadian, are intolerable and illicit.
BDS activities are not only illegal on the federal level. The Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia state legislatures have recently passed near-unanimous resolutions condemning the BDS movement and exposing it for the anti-Semitic, anti-peace initiative it truly and openly is. State laws have been or are being enacted in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and South Carolina, outlawing BDS activity, and anti-BDS bills have already been introduced in several other states. Some states have created policy boards tasked with identifying corporations who engage in BDS-inspired boycotts; recognized corporations in these states will be banned from state contracts and state investment in public pension funds. Other states – like New York – have anti-discrimination statutes on the books, which include private rights of action for individuals and corporations that face commercial discrimination based on ethnicity or national origin. In the coming months, dozens more U.S. state legislatures will consider anti-BDS legislation, and the U.S. Congress will consider federal bills in both the commercial and anti-discrimination contexts. So while radical BDS activists continue to attempt to advance this repugnant movement, the national trend in the United States is toward condemning, and often outlawing, BDS activity. The expectation is that discriminatory commercial conduct, specifically that conduct being advanced by BDS proponents, will soon be prohibited and penalized in every U.S. jurisdiction, and hopefully by the federal government as well.
Here in the great state of New York, boycotts undertaken on account of the victim’s protected class have long been outlawed. In fact, the New York Court of Appeals noted in a 1995 decision that New York’s own Anti-Boycott legislation “found its impetus in the Arab boycott of Jewish businesses (and) was draft[ed] more broadly to prohibit not only boycotts imposed by foreign entities, but any business tactics . . . which are driven by ‘religious or racial bigotry’ . . . .” Section 296(13) of New York State’s Human Rights Law provides that: It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any person to boycott or blacklist, or to refuse to buy from, sell to or trade with, or otherwise discriminate against any person, because of the race, creed, color, sexual orientation and national origin, [and other protected categories]. Courts have steadfastly affirmed that section 296(13) must be read broadly to include and prohibit discrimination in all forms of commercial activity and business practices, and that a finding of liability is justified when it can be shown that the “defendant engaged in a pattern of conduct that commercially disadvantaged only members of a protected class.” Boycotts of only Israeli companies, irrespective of claimed motivation, undeniably satisfy this criterion. It is irrelevant under the law whether the impetus is bigotry, or supposed protest of the Israeli government.
While BDS proponents typically claim they are acting to demonstrate disagreement with the Israeli government, these claims are disingenuous and transparent. BDS proponents are free to criticize Israeli policies – as Israelis do every day in one of the world’s most active and dynamic democracies. However, targeting or discriminating against a person or company because of their ethnicity or national origin is entirely unacceptable. One would not boycott a restaurant owned by a Chinese man to protest the Chinese government’s policy, nor would one refuse to purchase from an African American retailer to declare condemnation of the government of Sudan. That is discrimination and it is illegal in New York State, pure and simple.
And yet, the BDS movement targets individuals and corporations because of their Jewish ethnicity and Israeli national origin-as well as secondary and even tertiary businesses that engage commercially with Israelis-ostensibly to protest the Israeli government. Tellingly, the BDS movement singles out the Jewish state, and only the Jewish state, in its so-called human rights advocacy. This is racism, pure and simple.
Claims of victimization by the individuals perpetrating this discriminatory conduct are baseless and absurd, as are the First Amendment arguments they repeatedly assert in their attempts to slow the nationwide progress in legislating against commercial discrimination. Advocacy of a boycott or of the BDS movement’s more general goals is not prohibited, nor could it be prohibited anywhere in the United States under the First Amendment. However, when advocacy is combined with action, and it crosses the line from protected speech to prohibited commercial conduct, there are clear violations of law – especially in New York. Ironically, it is the BDS movement and its proponents that operate to undermine our liberal democratic values of freedom of speech and association each time they rabidly disrupt presentations and events on American campuses featuring Israeli politicians, innovators, artists and academics.
While the right of BDS proponents to advocate for boycotts is and must be protected, there is nothing unlawful or unconstitutional in exposing the nature of their message or declaring that the action they are encouraging is illegal. According to the Office of Anti-Boycott Compliance at the U.S. Department of Commerce, there are specific actions that may be penalized and prohibited, and these are precisely the actions that BDS calls upon businesses to undertake. For example, Agreements to refuse or actual refusal to do business with Israeli companies; Agreements to discriminate or actual discrimination against persons based on race, religion, sex, or nationality; and Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about business relationships with Israeli companies – are all illegal, so clearly, the central message of BDS is the promotion of unlawful activity, and anti-Zionism.
Zionism is the civil rights movement of the Jewish people: a movement to re-establish Jewish sovereignty in the historic national homeland of the Jewish people. Zionism is as legitimate as every other civil rights movement, and in fact it has informed and influenced various other minority groups in their quests for equality and social justice. Anti-Zionism means denying the basic civil and human rights of the Jewish people, and it is indistinguishable from anti-Semitism. Moreover, anti-Zionism is racism – and this is what the BDS movement is about.
The BDS movement supports a radical and jihadist Islamist movement, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, who aim not to just to destroy the Jewish state, but to oppress their own people in the process. The reason why the Palestinian Authority and Hamas use their own children as human shields is so that naïve people, such as those in support of the BDS movement, misdirect their human rights advocacy. If the BDS movement actually cared about human rights violations against Muslims, they would be protesting the gender, race, and religious apartheid occurring in every single Muslim majority state in the world. But they don’t care about these issues, they are silent in the face of the brutal practice of female genital mutilation of young Muslim girls, they are silent as the Palestinian Authority indoctrinates innocent Muslim children to become suicide bombers and child soldiers, and they are silent as Palestinian Arab political dissidents are killed by Hamas. And silence in the face of these evils sends the green light to these Islamist terrorists to continue killing innocent Arabs with impunity.
Because of the unequivocally, unapologetically bigoted nature of the BDS campaign, it is entirely appropriate – in fact, laudable – that the New York City Council is considering a resolution denouncing the movement and its message. The Lawfare Project stands firmly behind Resolution 1058 and is available anytime for questions or comments.