Wednesday, June 8, 2016

In a direct attempt at suppression of First Amendment rights

As veterans and as members of Veterans For Peace, we have not forgotten our oath to protect the Constitution, but even if we were not  veterans, there are fundamental rights that any citizen would not want to see violated. The First Amendment comes to mind.

In a direct attempt at suppression of First Amendment rights, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order that would create a blacklist of groups, institutions, and businesses that support or advocate a boycott of Israel. It would also withdraw State funds from any organization or institution that in any way supports or endorses boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) as a tool in the struggle against Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.

The BDS movement, initiated in 2005 by Palestinian civil society, is now a global campaign using nonviolent means to place economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with international law; end the occupation of Palestinian land, including Gaza; grant full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel. and respect the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
For almost 70 years, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination through ethnic cleansing, colonization, racial discrimination, and military occupation.

The right to express solidarity and join the BDS movement is a fundamental right of all people. It is also a clear expression of the First Amendment.  All veterans took an oath to defend the Constitution and to stand for the right of free speech, and many died thinking they were protecting those rights for all people.

It is worth noting that the New York State legislature failed to pass similar legislation making it illegal to advocate BDS largely because of obvious questions about its constitutionality.

Unfortunately Gov. Cuomo has surrendered to pressure from the powerful Israeli lobby and is disregarding both the U.S. Constitution and the illegality of the Israeli occupation.

In a classic example of hypocrisy and doublespeak, turning a blind eye toward blatant Israeli discrimination against the Palestinian people, Gov. Cuomo stated that “this state will not stand for the politics of discrimination in any form . . . and will do everything in its power to end the hateful, intolerant campaign.”

How different from the great South African civil rights advocate, Desmond Tutu, who said, "I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces . . . Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government."

Bishop Tutu early on declared his full support for the use of boycotts and economic sanctions as a nonviolent means to compel Israel to alter its policies, noting their effectiveness in the successful struggle against South African apartheid. Veterans For Peace fully supports peoples right to free speech and also stands with Desmond Tutu and many other human rights advocates who support the international BDS campaign.  

Tarak Kauff
Veterans For Peace
Board of Directors
Managing Editor
Peace In Our Times

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