TGIF: Anti-BDS Laws Violate Our Freedom

TGIF: Anti-BDS Laws Violate Our Freedom

Americans’ free-speech and other rights are being violated by state laws aimed at stifling the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Movement against Israel’s illegal rule of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, both conquered over half a century ago. Twenty-eight states have enacted anti-BDS laws or executive orders that prohibit state agencies and state-financed entities, such as colleges, from doing business with any person or firm that hasn’t pledged never to boycott Israeli goods. 

Appropriately, these laws have come under fire as violations of both free speech and the right to engage in boycotts, which consist of peaceful decisions not to buy products of a particular origin.

The latest case to hit the news is concerns journalist and filmmaker Abby Martin and the state of Georgia. Martin explained the case in a January 11 tweet:

After I was scheduled to give keynote speech [about the media, not about BDS] at an upcoming @GeorgiaSouthern [University] conference, organizers said I must comply w/ Georgia’s anti-BDS law & sign a contractual pledge to not boycott Israel. I refused & my talk was canceled. The event fell apart after colleagues supported me.

This sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. To speak at a Georgia institution that gets state tax money (with a minimum honorarium), you must pledge never to boycott Israel. Here’s how the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law, which supports such laws, described Georgia’s situation:

Georgia’s State Senate passed an anti-BDS bill which states that “a company or individual seeking a procurement contract worth at least $1,000 with any state agency would have to certify playing no party in a boycott of Israel.” When making his claim for passage on the floor of the Senate, Senator Judson Hill cited companies like HP and Motorola as examples of companies that use Israeli technology, and stated that boycotting any products or companies that were developed in Israel goes hand in hand with discriminating against the people of Israel and the Jewish people as a whole. [Emphasis added.]

One would be hard-pressed to show that boycotting Israeli goods discriminates against all Jewish people. Many Jews support BDS and condemn Israel for its brutal mistreatment of the Palestinians. Sen. Hill merely repeated the pro-Israel smear that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism, which is patently absurd. As for BDS constituting discrimination against the people of Israel — perhaps it does (except for Israelis who oppose the occupation of Palestinian territory and support efforts to end it). But why don’t Georgians and other Americans have a right to do that? It’s a peaceful decision to not buy certain products, and it violates no one’s rights.

Martin’s exclusion from Georgia Southern is under legal challenge by her, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF).

At least one other legal challenge on this issue has succeeded on constitutional grounds, and similar laws are now in the courts. Regarding the successful case, MPN News reports,

In 2018, Bahia Amawi, a Houston-based children’s speech pathologist who worked with autistic, speech-impaired and other developmentally disabled children, lost her job after she refused to sign a similar document. Amawi had been at her job for nine years previously without a problem. CAIR took up Amawi’s case and managed to overturn every Texas boycott law on the grounds of their unconstitutionality and she is now free to return to work. They appear confident of a similar victory in Georgia.

Quoting a previous case, federal district Judge Robert Pitman ruled that the Texas anti-BDS law “threatens to suppress unpopular ideas” and “manipulate the public debate” on Israel and Palestine “through coercion rather than persuasion.” Judge Pitman added: “This the First Amendment does not allow.”

This issue ought to be a no-brainer. By what right does a state government require contractors, including speakers, to sign what is in effect a loyalty oath to Israel (or another other country)? That those laws have passed state legislatures and been signed by governors is more evidence of the influence — dare I say power? — the Israel lobby routinely wields in American politics. The lobby along with the Israeli government works overtime to destroy the BDS movement and discredit the activists who participate in it. (See my “The Art of the Smear — The Israel Lobby Busted.”)

To address an objection (which I’ve already seen), anti-BDS laws are nothing like antidiscrimination laws that prohibit state agencies and state-funded entities from contracting with firms that practice racial, ethnic, religious, or sex discrimination. As long as states exist (hopefully for not too much longer) they will surely tax everyone without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, or sex. Therefore, it is wrong for the state — or tax-financed entities — to discriminate in hiring, contracting, etc., on the basis of those incidental characteristics. The liberal principle of equality before the law demands such nondiscrimination. But one cannot move from that reasonable principle to other kinds of conditions on contracting, particularly conditions that infringe the right to free speech (say, advocating BDS) or peaceful action (say, boycotting for any reason).

Finally, a word about BDS itself. The movement aptly models itself on the effort to boycott, divest from, and sanction South Africa during its apartheid days. Israel has deprived the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip of their rights since the war of 1967. Gaza is a prison camp under a long-standing Israeli blockade, punctuated ever few years by full-blow military assault. Peaceful protesters in Gaza have been shot by Israeli military snipers from outside the prison fence, killing hundreds and wounding tens of thousands. The Palestinians in the West Bank have no rights and are subject to military surveillance and Jewish-only settlements and roads, as well as separation wall that snakes through the territory. It is naked apartheid in that Jews have full rights while Palestinians are treated like nonpersons. Meanwhile, Israeli officials, encouraged by the Trump administration, have been moving toward formal annexation of key parts of the West Bank. Thus, no mystery surrounds the selection of Israel for boycott and divestment. (The Palestinians inside Israel, 20 percent of the population, are treated no better than second-class citizens, which is not surprising since Israel bills itself as the state of the Jewish people everywhere, not the state of all its citizens regardless of religion or ethnicity.)

I have no problem with the B and the D, and I applaud those who refuse to do business with companies and individuals associated with the oppression of the Palestinians and who liquidate investments in Israeli firms. That’s a proper and peaceful exercise of their rights. But we advocates of liberty should draw the line at S — sanctions — because we should on principle reject the state’s power to impose sanctions on anyone. Sanctions punish people who don’t wish to boycott the targets. But the right to boycott logically entails the right not to boycott. Also, if the state has the sanction power, it will surely use it against targets we wouldn’t want targeted.

I propose a different S instead: Strip Israel of its $3.8 billion annual military appropriation.

TGIF — The Goal Is Freedom — appears occasionally on Fridays.

Episode 365: Who Is Benefiting From War In The Middle East w/ Ryan Dawson

Episode 365: Who Is Benefiting From War In The Middle East w/ Ryan Dawson

61 Minutes

PG-13

Pete invited Ryan Dawson to come on the show. Ryan is the host of The Anti Neo-Con Report which appears on his YouTube channel, Ryan Dawson, linked below. Pete mentions the main countries the US government is constantly fighting or threatening and asks Ryan to talk about who specifically is benefitting from these endless wars.

Ryan’s Youtube Channel

ANCReport.com

Ryan on Twitter

Trick or Treason by Robert Parry

Compromised by Terry Reed

Fool’s Errand by Scott Horton

Donate at the Libertarian Institute

Pete’s Link to Sign Up for the LP

Lions of Liberty Podcast

Link to Richard Grove’s Autonomy Course

TGIF: But Mr. Trump, Is Israel Lovable?

TGIF: But Mr. Trump, Is Israel Lovable?

Speaking before Sheldon Adelson’s Israeli-American Council the other day, Trump took a shot at Jewish Americans who he says don’t “love Israel enough.”

We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more,” Trump said. “We have to get them to love Israel more because you have people that are Jewish people, that are great people – they don’t love Israel enough. You know that.”

Typical of Trump, this is scatter-brained. He begins by talking about “the people of our country,” which sounds like everyone, but ends up focusing on Jews who “don’t love Israel enough.” In either case, Trump talks rubbish.

First off, observe that although Trump stands accused of fomenting anti-Semitism by such remarks, he actually turns the loyalty issue upside-down. He doesn’t say that some Jewish Americans are too loyal to Israel (presumably at the expense of America), which is what a classic anti-Semite would say, but that they are not loyal enough. Recall that he previously labeled Jews who vote for Democrats “disloyal.” Disloyal to whom? Disloyal to Israel! We know this because he’s criticized the Democratic Party for “defending [Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who sympathize with the Palestinians] over the State of Israel.” Trump’s critics seem to overlook this twist because it doesn’t fit their stock narrative.

But turning to the matter at hand, Trump now entitles us to ask: what’s so lovable about Israel anyway? The modern state was founded through a campaign of ethnic cleansing — violent expulsion of Arabs, that is, non-Jews, from their long-held properties — and outright massacres and terrorism. For the next couple of decades it subjected those who avoided expulsion to martial law. Then in 1967 it conquered the remainder of Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, creating new refugees. Since then Israel has denied the inhabitants of those territories all rights while the Israeli occupiers built privileged Jewish-only settlements and otherwise usurped the land it acquired through aggressive force — contrary to morality and international law. The West Bank today resembles apartheid South Africa. But things are even worse in Gaza, a small, crowded piece of land under blockade that dissenting Israelis call a concentration camp and others euphemistically refer to as merely the world’s largest open-air prison. Gaza consists largely of refugees from the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing and their families.

So, I ask again, what’s lovable about Israel? Is it because Israel calls itself the nation-state of the Jewish people (whether or not they live or want to live there) and Jews were treated horribly by Christian Europe, culminating in the monstrous Nazi Judeocide? That doesn’t make Israel lovable. It is accountable for its crimes against humanity in Palestine regardless of the atrocities Jews suffered elsewhere. Israel is not exempt from moral judgment.

As for Jewish Americans in particular not loving Israel enough, Trump has again stuffed his foot in his mouth, something so commonplace that most people don’t notice it. Like other Americans, Jewish Americans are not obligated to love Israel. How could they be? They are not part of a supposed Jewish national people — they are Americans with a particular private religious faith (unless they are secular). If they wanted to become Israelis, they would have done so.

Israel, despite what it claims, cannot be the nation-state of all Jews everywhere (even atheists with Jewish mothers); it is the state only of its own Jewish citizens/nationals. The 25 percent of non-Jewish Israeli citizens unfortunately are out of luck, but then it shouldn’t call itself a democracy. Jewish Americans have roots in many countries, yet no one would say they are obliged to love those places. 

We may ask: what does today’s state of Israel have to do with the Jewish creed, especially the universalism of the prophets? Little, really: Zionism was a secular movement that disparaged traditional and secularized Jews in Europe and America. Theodor Herzl et al. promised a new Jew in his own state, strong and hardy farmers and soldiers, unlike the frail bookish scholars and rootless “parasitic” financiers of the so-called “diaspora.” (It wasn’t a diaspora since the Judeans were not exiled by the Romans in 70 CE.) That’s one reason Zionism was a minority movement for a long time.

No one is clear about what it means to be a Jewish state. True, you have to be a properly credentialed Jew to get the benefits the Israeli state offers, but that only means having a Jewish mother (you may need a DNA test to prove it) or being converted by an approved rabbi. Jews and non-Jews may not marry each other, but that is not a religious injunction for Israelis; rather it’s a matter of secular (pseudo-)ethnic purity. It’s feared that Israeli children of interfaith marriages are less likely than other children to identify as Jewish — but then what would happen to the “Jewish people’s” state?

In fact, no Jewish national ethnicity exists to be kept pure, but many Israelis (who do constitute an Israeli ethnicity) don’t accept that. Nevertheless, Jews worldwide are of virtually every ethnicity, culture, language group, and color, and despite what Israel’s apologists say today, Hitler was wrong: there is no Jewish race (or gene or blood). Most Jews descend from the converts of many ethnicities — Judaism was a wide-ranging proselytizing religion roughly from 200 BCE to 200 CE (and later) — and most ancient Israelites, Judahites, Yehudis, and Judeans never left their homes, although many of their offspring converted to Christianity or Islam.

For the record, ancient kingdoms of Israel, Judah, Yehud, and Judea, according to the Old Testament, were no more lovable bastions of enlightenment than any other kingdom in the vicinity, what with their authoritarian monarchies, military conquests, genocides, Hebrew and gentile slave labor, animal and occasional human sacrifice, forced conversion of gentiles, suppression of religious pluralism among the Hebrews, and persecution and even capital punishment of sundry peaceful nonconformists, such as homosexuals and dissenters.

Moreover — and I wouldn’t expect Trump to know this — there is a long and honorable tradition of Jewish anti-Zionism. It goes back to the days of Herzl, though his idea of a “return” to Canaan originated earlier with non-Jews for perhaps less-than-honorable reasons. On different grounds, Orthodox and Reform Jews vehemently opposed Herzl’s movement. (See details on this and other matters discussed here in my book Coming to Palestine.) The Orthodox regarded the Zionists as charlatans because a “return” was not to occur until the Messiah appeared in order to redeem the sinful Jews; the Orthodox anti-Zionists did not regard any of the atheists running the Zionist movement as Messiahs — even if they had Jewish mothers.

The Reform shared that disdain for the Zionists and Zionism but on different grounds. First, they rejected the premise that the people around the world who profess Judaism constitute an exiled national people, race, or ethnicity. Judaism is just a religion, they said. Second, they objected to a country that would proclaim itself the nation-state of all the “Jewish people,” including Jews who don’t and won’t live there. This, they said, would harm the Jewish citizens of other countries and the non-Jewish residents of Israel. Third, they knew that Palestine was not a “land without a people,” and so they rejected the land theft and expulsion they knew would be required to make a Jewish state there. I would say the Reform were right. (The remnant of this movement resides at the American Council for Judaism.) 

So, Mr. Trump, I can’t see how Jewish Americans, who when surveyed rank justice high on their list social concerns, have an obligation to love Israel — or how this admonition from you, an enthusiast for Palestinian oppression, could possibly be taken seriously.

TGIF — The Goal Is Freedom — appears occasionally on Fridays.

Judaism, Zionism, and the Dual-Loyalty Charge

Judaism, Zionism, and the Dual-Loyalty Charge

Zionists, that is, Jewish nationalists, who hold that Jews qua Jews constitute something more than a religious community, open themselves up to the dual-loyalty charge. And that is exactly what the majority non-Zionist Jews warned against from the start.

As Joseph Levine writes:

It’s particularly ironic that Zionists should be making this charge [that dual-loyalty is an anti-Semitic trope]. When [Howard] Lovy (along with many others…) refers to the “ancient specter of Jewish disloyalty”, I take it he means in particular the standard anti-Semitic charge during the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe over the Emancipation of Jews from the ghettoes and their integration into civil European society as full citizens with full rights. Anti-Semites considered Jews a nationality, a people, a race, and as such they could never be truly assimilated into European society. The liberal democratic argument in response was to say that Jews can just as much be English, French, German, etc. as members of any other religious community. French Jews, on this view, are as legitimately considered full French citizens as French Catholics and Protestants. Judaism is a religion, not a nationality.

But of course Zionism was founded on the Romantic nationalist idea that Jews really are a people apart from other peoples, and so historically shared a general outlook on the question of the relations between collectives and individuals with the right-wing and anti-Semitic camps. Yes, we are a people apart, argued the Zionists, and that’s why we deserve to have a homeland and state of our own. That this position leads inexorably to worries about “dual loyalty” is evident from the response to Zionism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from leaders of the Jewish community throughout Europe and the US that the doctrine of Jewish nationhood is extremely dangerous for the position of Jews in these countries. They flat out rejected the Zionist-nationalist framework largely because it did rationalize the charge of dual loyalty. So, for Zionists and their supporters to now trot out this charge of anti-Semitism in the guise of “dual loyalty” is hypocritical and cynical.

So let’s have no more of this hypocrisy, okay?

Debate: Is US Aid to Israel too much?

Debate: Is US Aid to Israel too much?

What lobbying groups influence American foreign policy towards Israel?  Is the current system fair?  Does it help or hurt the safety of Americans?  Does Israel get too much military aid from the United States or not enough?

In this episode we’ll cover:
-AIPAC

-Iron Dome

Tune in to this comedy debate!

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