Join 200 Others and Sign the Letter on BDS to Sen. Murphy

(scroll down for the 200 names)

To add your name to the effort send an email to

johntfussell@gmail.com  make the Subject: Endorse Letter Opposing SB 170

 

February 23, 2017

Senator Chris Murphy

136 Hart Senate Office Bldg.

Washington, D.C.  20510

 

RE:     Senate Bill 170 “Combating BDS ACT of 2017”

 

Dear Senator Murphy,

 

We are disappointed to see that Senator Blumenthal signed on with Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Ted Cruz and 14 other Senators as a co-sponsor of the above referenced bill.  We are asking that you oppose this legislation.

 

This profoundly flawed legislation supports initiatives that infringe upon our First Amendment right of dissent.  As Americans and supporters of BDS we have every right to oppose the ongoing human rights abuses that Israeli policies inflict upon the Palestinian people, and to do so without state action imposed to discriminate against such dissent.

 

BDS is a nonviolent peace and justice movement that seeks freedom, justice and equality for the people of Israel and Palestine. It is a response to a 2005 call from Palestinian civil society for boycotts to be imposed against Israel until it complies with three demands concerning its ongoing treatment of the Palestinian people.  The BDS movement specifically calls for the following actions by Israel:

 

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestine refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

 

The rights to boycott and hold dissenting views are sacred threads of our democratic fabric that have served to protect the human family. The civil rights boycotts in the South were necessary strategic pressures in our nation’s ongoing struggle to overcome the discriminatory vestiges of slavery. Likewise, boycott, divestment, and sanctions strategies have been heralded as tools to stop exploitation of farmworkers, end Shell Oil’s violations in Nigeria, protest Nestle’s marketing of infant formula in impoverished communities, and assist the international effort to topple racist South African Apartheid. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution gives citizens the right to criticize the policies of our government, as well the policies of foreign governments.

 

The U.S. Constitution forbids the use of state power to chill political speech.  The BDS campaign is aimed at pressuring Israel to change its policies.   The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that boycotts to “bring about political, social and economic change” are a form of political speech protected by the First Amendment.[1]  The First Amendment protects BDS speech and conduct. In addition, the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits any state from abridging freedom of speech or of the press.[2]

 

Legislation that denies BDS proponents state contracts, funding, or investments simply because of the content of their democratic advocacy contravenes First Amendment protections.[3]  There is a significant First Amendment distinction between government speaking, e.g., deciding not to invest in corporations profiting from apartheid, which is permissible, and government restricting citizens’ speech merely because of the content.  In the first instance, the government is simply stating its views and exercising a permissible form of marketplace participation.  In the second instance, it is using state power, e.g., the threat of withdrawing funding, in order to pressure citizens to stifle or alter their message.  As noted by Chief Justice Roberts in his 2013 majority opinion: “The relevant distinction that has emerged from our cases is between conditions that define the limits of the government spending program – those that specify the activities Congress wants to subsidize – and conditions that seek to leverage funding to regulate speech outside the contours of the program itself.[4]   Senate Bill 170, if enacted only serves to support state initiatives aimed at stifling BDS in contravention of the First Amendment.

 

We, and many of your constituents believe that Israel and its U.S.-based support lobby have constructed walls of despair rather than bridges of hope. They have paved a path of obstruction and destruction that has rendered the “two-state solution” (to which it pays lip service) obsolete by establishing Jewish-only settlements within the remaining 22% of historical Palestine territory, including East Jerusalem.  This territory was internationally acknowledged as the future Palestinian State, but what remains are diminished Bantustan cantons rather than a contiguous landmass for the establishment of a state.  Israel would never tolerate such treatment of the Jewish people as it has imposed on the Palestinian people.  The lobby’s uncritical support of Israel has only cemented the conflict, emboldened the Israeli right wing, and created a state-imposed apartheid-like separation of peoples.  A just peace will never emerge from such conditions.

 

Secretary of State John Kerry observed in the waning hours of the Obama presidency that Israel’s illegal settlements impede peace.[5]  Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor to President Gerald Ford, and Thomas R. Pickering, former Undersecretary of State and Ambassador to the U.N. and Israel, recently wrote in The Washington Post: “The permanent disenfranchisement of millions of people . . . keeping the Palestinians separate and unequal . . . does not conform with American values.”[6]  But U.S. dollars continue to pour to Israel even as it disregards the warnings of its most loyal international supporters.

 

Of course, the Israel lobby disagrees with the above characterization and chooses instead to frame the ongoing tragedy in terms that blame the Palestinians for their oppression and displacement.  Meanwhile, the settlements expand, the separation wall extends, and the creeping apartheid of which former President Jimmy Carter warned becomes a tragic reality.[7]  The BDS movement is civil society’s nonviolent response to this ongoing Middle East tragedy.  It is purely political speech in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela.

 

Boycott, divestment, and sanctions as urged by the BDS movement constitute political speech as much as that of the civil rights and anti-Apartheid movements. The attempts urged by the Israel lobby to silence the BDS movement is an effort to broadly target political speech, an impermissible affront to the First Amendment.

 

When the Israel lobby demands legislation that utilizes the exercise of state power to demonize and/or discriminate against BDS proponents, it undermines the very First Amendment rights that protect their own speech.  The Israel lobby is entitled to its opinions.  It is not entitled to employ state power to discriminate against and ostracize its critics.  A law that seeks to use state power to chill BDS is unconstitutional.  We urge you to reject such affronts to our First Amendment Rights, and work to make certain that Senate Bill 170 does not become law.  This is not complicated.

 

Sincerely,

  1. Attorney John Fussell,
  2. Mike Winterfield, West Hartford
  3. Mongi Dhaouadi
  4. Rev. David W. Good, Lyme
  5. Corinne Good, Lyme
  6. Win Heimer, West Hartford
  7. Dan Durso, Director, Our Revolution CT Team, Glastonbury
  8. Dave Roche, Bristol
  9. Debra Cohen, Wethersfield
  10. Jerry Brown, West Hartford
  11. Shelly Altman, Chairperson Jewish Voice for Peace- New Haven
  12. Marva Beckford
  13. Carol Lambiase
  14. Ana M. Lachelier, West Hartford
  15. Rose Brown
  16. Joseph P. Toner, F.S.T. Business Manager- Iron Workers Local 15, President-Hartford / New Britain Building Trades Council
  17. John Bengtson
  18. Florence Grieb
  19. Fred Louis
  20. Kim McClain
  21. Bill Westervelt
  22. June Pinkin
  23. Omar Scott Antar
  24. Frederick T. Crosby
  25. Josh Perlstein, Faculty, CCSU
  26. Ashley Malloy
  27. Mary Ann Duval
  28. Dominque Duval Johnson
  29. Brian Steinberg, Hartford
  30. Jeremy Zeedyk
  31. Mary Hunt
  32. Bobby Berriault, New Britain
  33. Karim Ahmed
  34. Lynn Fulkerson
  35. Jim Hopkins, Bristol
  36. Patricia Hopkins, Bristol
  37. Stanley Heller, Executive Director Middle East Crisis Committee
  38. Ali Ashakabai
  39. Peter Marcuse, Waterbury
  40. Francis Marcuse, Waterbury
  41. Khaled Allabadi, West Hartford
  42. Nina Sakun, Hartford
  43. Mary Tomasetti, Westbrook
  44. Thomas Connolly, West Hartford
  45. Lynn Johnson
  46. Rev. Rebecca Crosby
  47. Henry Lowendorf, New Haven
  48. Attorney Peter Goselin
  49. Vanessa Banti, New Haven
  50. Elizabeth Viering, Stonington
  51. Attorney Peter Viering, Stonington
  52. Mami Nishimune, West Hartford
  53. Attorney Margaret P. Levy, West Hartford
  54. Nicholas Westbrook, Old Lyme
  55. Annie McCarty, Old Lyme
  56. Ghoufran Allababidi
  57. Barbara Benjamin Haines, Essex
  58. Angelica Harter
  59. Attorney Richard Harter
  60. Attorney Joe Cipparone
  61. Rev. Carleen R. Gerber, Lyme
  62. Bayan Mansour
  63. Luke Ford
  64. Maryam Bint Fareed
  65. Kaniz Koli
  66. Steven Schrag, Waterbury
  67. Shehtaaj Lilaporia
  68. Henry Clifford, Essex
  69. Nina M. Stein, 380 Hitchcock Road, Waterbury CT 06705.
  70. Aasiyya Ahmedd
  71. Zeinab Badr
  72. Usra Qureshi
  73. Marrium Qureshi
  74. Eda diBiccari, 99 Hedgehog Lane West Simsbury 06092
  75. Susan Bramhall, New Haven
  76. Robert Gelbach, Hamden
  77. Catherine Jackson, New Haven
  78. Ellen Rubin, New Haven
  79. Thomas Buckley
  80. Martha Renn, Old Lyme
  81. Bill Slivinski, Old Lyme
  82. George Rawitscher, Storrs
  83. Beth Angel, East Hampton, Jewish Voice for Peace
  84. Sadu Nanjundiah, Prof. Physics, CCSU, New Britain
  85. Emily Fisher
  86. Sana A. Khan
  87. Rev. Steven Jungkeit, Old Lyme
  88. Ahlam Shalout
  89. Mark Shekleton
  90. Evan Frtiz
  91. Stephen Fournier, 74 Tremont St., Hartford, 06105
  92. Stephen Vincent Kobasa, New Haven, CT​
  93. Dick Tilton
  94. Elaine Tilton
  95. Ruth B. Moynihan
  96. Susan Hewes, MPH, Windham
  97. Mary Lee Morrison, Hartford
  98. Virginia Tomassetti, Westbrook
  99. Laura Keith
  100. Mark Keith
  101. Patricia Nuelsen, New Haven
  102. Asmaa Abdelati
  103. Riddhi Thaker
  104. Reem Elazazy
  105. Ranea Al-Tikrit
  106. Madiha Shafqat
  107. Abigail Cipparone, Old Lyme
  108. Joseph Pandolfo, 183 Perry Hill Rd., Ashford, 06278
  109. Saniya Pathan
  110. Gretel Diglio
  111. Mary Snyder
  112. Evan Griswold, Old Lyme
  113. Lynn Coville, Westbrook
  114. Menna El-fouly
  115. Diana Abouchacra
  116. Anna Andrews
  117. Zaida Berrios
  118. Norman Momowetu Clement, New Haven
  119. Chris Garaffa, Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition – Connecticut
  120. Timothee Goselin, New Haven
  121. Maria A. Gutierrez, New Haven
  122. H. Bindu Vanapalli, MD, MPH
  123. Caryn A. Jensen
  124. David H. Amdur
  125. Carina A. Bandhauer, PhD.
  126. Laura Lillian Best, Black Social Justice
  127. Megan Fountain
  128. Peggy Myers, Hamden
  129. IV Staklo, Student, Univ. of New Haven
  130. Roger Benham, Willimantic
  131. Laura Rozza, Hartford
  132. James Bhandary-Alexander, Attorney
  133. Sarah Tracy-Wanck
  134. Karen Grossi
  135. Joelen Gates
  136. Nancy Parker
  137. Elaf Al-Wohaibi
  138. Maheen Rahman
  139. Anyssa Dhaouadi
  140. Sue Frost, Old Lyme
  141. Jeff Howard
  142. Richard Nolan
  143. Gary Gralton
  144. Cindy Moeckel, 79 Amidon Rd., Asford, CT 06278
  145. Jane Fried
  146. Christopher Lawrie
  147. Farhha Feroz
  148. JoAnne Bauer Ph.D., Hartford
  149. Paul Hammer, New Haven
  150. Mohammad Ahmed
  151. Yanil Teron
  152. Ron S. Friedman, West Hartford
  153. Jannat Khan
  154. Evan Fritz
  155. Rubayet Lasker
  156. Deeba Khatri
  157. Jade Rade
  158. Sara Umair
  159. Shaheera Khan
  160. Sawera Hussan
  161. Yasmeen Allam
  162. Gresa Kukaj
  163. Eric Stamm, 206 Oxford St Hartford 06105.
  164. Randy McMahon, Willimantic, Connecticut 06226
  165. Claire Connelly
  166. Bill Shortell, New Britain
  167. Fred Behringer, Old Lyme
  168. Julie Martel, Old Lyme
  169. Shelley Ramrattan
  170. Benjamin B. Page
  171. Edmund Smith
  172. Celine Sullivan
  173. Kathy Cooper
  174. Leila Bowen
  175. Alli Van Leer, New Haven
  176. Ralph Jones, Ruling Elder Member First Presbyterian Church, New Haven
  177. Brooks Blauser, Milford
  178. Diana Heyman, West Hartford
  179. Frank O’Gorman
  180. Liz Aaronsohn, We Refuse to Be Enemies
  181. Marie McCain
  182. David Lacoss, Manchester
  183. Joseph Baxer
  184. Barbara A Bacewicz
  185. Showing Up for Racial Justice, New Haven
  186. Annie Munro
  187. Joseph Wasserman
  188. Talat Azimi, Storrs
  189. Jacob Werblow, Ph.D., West Hartford
  190. 191. Brenda Boughan
  191. Marissa Mcfadden
  192. Judy Benton
  193. Tulay Luciano
  194. Joshua Blanchfield, Hartford
  195. Elaine Wiatr
  196. Clark Peters, Groton
  197. Gerard Ferrari
  198. Angie Parkinson
  199. Attorney Leon Rosenblatt, West Hartford
  200. Lucy Rosenblatt, West Hartford
  201. Lynn Mason, New Cannan
  202. Steven Fry, New Cannan
  203. Matthew Byanyima
  204. Hannah Simms
  205. Julia Rosenblatt
  206. Dave Rozza
  207. Simon DeSantis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]  See, NAACP v. Clairborne Hardware Co., 485 U.S. 886, 911-912 (1982)

[2] United States Constitution, Amendments I and XIV

[3]  Regan v. Taxation with Representation of Washington, 461 U.S. 540, 545 (1983), citing Perry v. Sinderman, 408 U.S. 593, 597 (1958); see also, Federal Communications Commission v. League of Women Voters, 468 U.S. 364 (1984); Legal Services Corporation v. Velazquez, 531 U.S. 533 (2001); Rumsfield v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, 547 U.S. 47, 59 (2006).

[4] U.S. Agency for International development et al v. Alliance for Open Society International Inc. et al, U.S. Supreme Court, 133 S. Ct. 2321, 2328 (2013)

[5] Kerry Rebukes Israel, Calling Settlements a Threat to Peace – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/28/us/politics/john-kerry-israel-palestine-peace.html;

www.time.com/4619064/john-kerrys-speech-israel-transcript/

[6] Speaking truth to our ally Israel – The Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/20ec9648-cecb-11e6-a87f-b917067331bb_story.ht

[7]  Carter, J., Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, Simon & Schuster (2006)