Wednesday, June 8, 2016

McCarthyism is wrong

Whatever your views on Israel/Palestine . . . , McCarthyism is wrong                                                                      
Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 157, which he signed on Sunday, June 5, should be of concern to each and every one of us. This executive order threatens the rights of Americans to take collective action to address injustice by using boycott as a form of free expression and as a powerful means of protest. Furthermore, the creation of the related discriminatory “blacklist,” which the New York Office of General Services will post on its website and update semi-annually, is blatantly dangerous.
Thankfully, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects our right to free speech. This means we are allowed to express, be exposed to, and receive a wide range of facts, opinions, and viewpoints – even when the ideas are unpopular.  Under this umbrella of free speech, Americans have the right to boycott, and we have a long history of using boycott as a tactic to achieve justice.  Let’s remember that before the American Revolution, colonists boycotted British goods (think, “no taxation without representation”?) and that, since then, American citizens (and corporations) involved in social justice movements have used boycotts for issues ranging from Animal Rights, Testing, and Welfare; to Civil Rights; to Environmental Health/Integrity; to Human Rights; to LGBTQ Discrimination; to Labor and Worker Rights; to . . .   
We can look back to the Montgomery Bus Boycott of the Civil Rights era to fight segregated buses; to Cesar Chavez’s boycott of grapes to fight the toxic spraying of insecticides; to the boycott of South Africa to end apartheid; to the more recent fast-food worker boycotts to raise the minimum wage; and to peoples/corporations current refusal to do business with North Carolina for its recent banning of local LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances and its requirement that transgender people use public bathrooms that match their birth certificates. The list goes on.
However, Governor Cuomo’s shameful signing of Executive Order No. 157 against institutions and companies that support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), an international, grassroots, nonviolent movement to gain freedom, equality, and justice for Palestinians, goes against this history. Perhaps the only good news here is that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution still guarantees our right to advocate for change, to organize against injustice, to engage in boycotts, and, yes, to advocate for BDS. 
To learn more, go to
The #RightToBoycott is a constitutionally protected form of political free speech. 
We will not be silent.

Helaine Meisler

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