WASHINGTON, DC, October 11, 2017 – The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights welcomes the American Civil Liberties Union’s landmark lawsuit, filed today, challenging an anti-boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) law in the state of Kansas for its violation of the First Amendment. The Kansas law punishes individuals for supporting Palestinian rights through BDS campaigns against Israel and corporations profiting from its human rights abuses of Palestinians.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Kansas math teacher who was denied payment for participating in a government training program after she refused to sign a certification that she is not engaged in boycotting Israel. Under the law, state contractors are required to sign a statement affirming that they do not engage in boycotts – a constitutionally protected right. The math teacher stated that she could not sign the certification in good conscience, and was told that she would not receive payment without signing. According to the ACLU, “The state of Kansas is penalizing our client, and others like her, because it disapproves of her political beliefs, associations, and expression,” a blatant violation of the First Amendment.
The Kansas anti-BDS law is part of a series of measures advanced by pro-Israel interest groups, on both the state and federal level, aimed at repressing the movement for Palestinian rights. The measures attempt to criminalize time-honored, nonviolent tactics of boycott, and create an atmosphere of intimidation calculated to chill expression and activism. A bill currently being considered by Congress, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.720 and H.R.1697), provides for significantly greater draconian penalties than those specified in the Kansas law. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act seeks to imprison US persons for 20 years and fine them $1 million for advancing the goals of or even furnishing information related to a boycott of Israel or Israeli settlement products called for by an international organization. Stepping up to oppose this anti-BDS bill as well, the ACLU stated that it “would impose civil and criminal punishment on individuals solely because of their political beliefs about Israel and its policies,” which is “in direction violation of the First Amendment.
“It is unfortunate that there are lawmakers in the United States who would deny the rights of Americans just to ensure that Israel can continue to deny the rights of Palestinians,” said US Campaign Executive Director, Yousef Munayyer. “Fortunately, the American Constitution and its central pillar, freedom of expression, continue to stand in the way of those who seek to chill speech and repress activism. From the Montgomery Bus Boycott to South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, boycotts have been integral to the movements for justice that have made this country and world a freer, more just, and more equitable place.”
He continued, “We are grateful for organizations like the ACLU that are taking a principled stand against those who seek to strip our constitutionally protected rights to engage in boycott, divestment and sanctions to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and its denial of Palestinian rights.”
The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) is a national coalition of hundreds of groups working together for freedom, justice and equality. Founded in 2001 as the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, USCPR has been a leading player in the movement for Palestinian rights in the United States. The coalition is bound by commonly shared principles on Palestine solidarity as well as anti-racism principles.
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