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News :: Palestine
Over 60 Massachusetts Organizations Protest Anti-Boycott Legislation
05 Apr 2016
Plan to Deliver Open Letter to Commonwealth Senators and Representatives Tuesday Morning

Over 60 organizations across the Commonwealth have formed the Massachusetts Freedom to Boycott Coalition, including groups representing Muslims, Christians, Jews, American Indians, students, professors, labor unions, lawyers, and LGBTQ communities; as well as advocates on human rights, peace and justice, anti-racism, housing, criminal justice reform, corporate accountability, civil liberties, and climate change.

The Coalition released a letter asking Massachusetts lawmakers to oppose any bill that would legislate against Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) strategies for justice in Palestine/Israel. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston has announced plans to submit such legislation.

“Since at least 1902–with the action led by Jewish women against Kosher butchers charging exorbitant rates for meat in New York–the boycott has been a crucial tactic by which Americans have voiced their conscience and contributed to positive social change,” said Jeffrey Melnick, Professor of American Studies at University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a member of Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine. “Today I stand with all who want to protect a time-honored American approach to political protest which has made such a difference, in New York, in Montgomery, and in Cape Town.”

While the bill’s text is not yet available, its intention is similar to that of dozens of other anti-boycott bills introduced into state legislatures across the country: to curb a growing movement for leveraging consumer and constituent power to persuade Israel to comply with international law and to respect Palestinian human rights.

“These coordinated, nation-wide efforts to stop activists from doing our peaceful, legitimate BDS work show that when it comes to speaking out on Palestine, there is a free speech exception,” says Noah Habeeb of Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine. “The good news is, you only have to shut down the conversation when you think you’ll lose it – and that means we are winning.”

“Anti-BDS legislation often contains objectionable language that erases the distinction between Israel and the Occupied Territories,” says Susan Nicholson of Massachusetts Peace Action’s Working Group on Palestine/Israel. “By erasing this distinction, Massachusetts lawmakers would place themselves in opposition to nearly five decades of unbroken US policy opposing settlements.”

Representatives of these groups will deliver letters to Massachusetts lawmakers tomorrow (Tuesday, 3/15) mid-day, following a State House briefing by Israeli activist Jeff Halper at 11:00 AM in room 348.

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