Protest of Israel’s occupation under attack

Lawmakers are working to sabotage peaceful campaign supporting Palestine

The author, a Chico resident, is coordinator for the Chico Palestine Action Group and serves on the board of the Chico Peace and Justice Center.

An alarming trend is afoot in reaction to the increasingly effective global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign supporting justice for Palestinians. BDS is a nonviolent resistance strategy urging consumers and entities such as corporations and churches not to do business with Israel until Israel ends its military occupation of Palestine, ends illegal settlements, ends its blockade of Gaza, and ends its violent oppression of millions of innocent Palestinians.

Promoted by Israel, an “anti-BDS campaign” is being waged in federal and state governments and on college campuses, threatening our constitutional right to free speech and to conduct nonviolent, lawful protest.

Opponents of the BDS campaign equate criticism of Israel with perpetuating hatred of the Jewish people. This is false. The BDS demands address ending oppression of a people by their occupiers, and have nothing to do with Judaism or anti-Semitism.

Lobbyists representing Israel are promoting legislation that prohibits governmental bodies or state-sponsored entities from contracting with organizations that boycott or divest from firms that benefit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine, denying businesses the right to make the economic or political decision to observe BDS. (Hillary Clinton opposes BDS). Illinois became the first state to pass such a law, and more than a dozen other state Legislatures, including California’s (Assembly Bill 2844), plus the U.S. Senate, are weighing similar legislation. The Israeli lobby is so strong that many legislators fear reprisal if they oppose it.

Anti-BDS is also being promoted on numerous U.S. college and university campuses, including University of California attempting to establish regulations that penalize students and groups that support BDS or criticize Israel’s repressive policies, again naming such actions as anti-Semitic.

The situation in Palestine is urgent. Right now, about 25 acres of Gaza, including farm land and beaches, are being flooded by the collapse of a sewage reservoir in Gaza—one of many devastating results of the Israeli blockade. BDS is the only active global nonviolent campaign to end the occupation of Palestine and the Gaza blockade.

BDS and our right to free speech must not be stopped.