On Monday, June 27, the New Jersey State Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill targeting companies that sign on to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (or BDS) that is pressuring Israel to provide Palestinians with basic human rights. Modeled by pro-Israel lobbying organizations in similar fashion to the executive order issued by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the bill would establish a de facto blacklist of offending companies. It is the latest attack on a nonviolent grassroots movement by powerful forces seeking to deaden the impact of Palestine solidarity activism.
As the bill advanced in the legislature, Rania Mustafa, the executive director of the New Jersey-based Palestinian American Community Center, told AlterNet, “We’re American and we have the right to boycott and we have the right to free speech and that’s what makes this country beautiful. So we are very saddened by [the bill’s passage] because of the fact that we definitely think it is against the First Amendment and against free speech. If people want to boycott Israel it should be their choice, there shouldn’t be a law making that illegal.”
Mustafa said that supporters of the bill claim its prohibition is only limited to businesses and doesn’t infringe on any citizen’s First Amendment rights. “But at the same time,” she explained “who is it but people who run businesses? And if they feel a certain way, and if they don’t necessarily want to support a certain company for personal reasons they should have the full right to do so.”