Do New Yorkers have a right to disagree with U.S. foreign policy?
Should they be allowed to participate in the boycott of Canada over the clubbing of seals?
What about the boycott of Japan over whaling?
Or the boycott of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinian people?
If the New York State Legislature gets its way they might not!
Last week the New York State Senate passed an unconstitutional bill that bars the state from doing business with persons (including corporations and businesses) who exercise free speech rights by engaging in boycotts of about 52 “allied nations.”
The Constitution guarantees our right to criticize even US allies, and the Supreme Court has ruled that boycotts for political, economic, and social change are protected under the First Amendment.
While the bill would broadly insulate a number of countries, it is aimed at punishing Palestinian human rights advocacy and comes on the heels of other attempts to pass similar legislation targeted at the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which protests Israeli policies towards the Palestinian people.
Opponents of the BDS movement are so desperate to repress it, they are willing to pass legislation that infringes the First Amendment rights of a broad swath current and potential movements that might oppose actions our allies take.
While the Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation takes no position on international issues, we have consistently opposed legislation aimed at punishing political speech about the Middle East or seeking to infringe upon the right to boycott. The bill in question seeks to suppress political speech and thus strikes a blow to the right to dissent that we cherish at BORDC/DDF.
It has passed the State Senate and is headed to the New York Assembly. The situation could not be more urgent, please email your representatives to tell them that you value the First Amendment and they should too!