Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The basic racism in our political system

The Woodstock Town Board is discussing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions issue that is confronting state governments around the country. The right to express moral outrage at economic and social injustices has never been more under attack than it is today, when the NYS legislature and Governor are attempting to outlaw BDS.

How different this effort is to the use of boycott and divestment by state officials to pressure Swiss banks to do the right thing in 1997. A collaborative effort by NYC Comptroller Alan Hevesi, NY Comptroller Carl McCall, and the World Jewish Congress pressured Swiss banks to pay much more in Holocaust reparations. Hevesi was also the head of the US Comptroller's Association, with $30 trillion in pension investments. Soon officials from many states threatened to withdraw funds, leading to a settlement of $1.25 billion from Swiss banks that profited from genocide.

Now the NY State Legislature wants to criminalize the very same economic pressure to do the right thing for millions of Palestinians living under brutal Israeli occupation. Where did all the moral indignation go? Is the suffering of Palestinians somehow less compelling than the suffering of others? Instead of using pension funds as a moral weapon against racism and injustice, our legislature and governor are criminalizing such boycott and divestment, making it illegal for institutions or NGO's funded by the state to implement any form of BDS. 

This is a free speech issue, and a moral issue that explores the basic racism in our political system.

Fred Nagel

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