Thursday, January 26, 2017

Anti-BDS in a "Blue Bubble"

Oregon Governor Kate Brown
I thought I was immune.  I thought that living in the Pacific Northwest, where my two Senators, four of my five Congresspersons, my Governor and my state legislature were all Democrats would protect me and the rest of my fellow Oregonians from the crazy conservativism that hit the USA with the election of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named (still can't bring myself to say his name!).  I was wrong.

Last week I learned that an anti-BDS bill had been introduced in the state legislature of neighboring Washington state.  A few days later, I learned the Jewish Federation of Oregon was "shopping" a similar bill to the Oregon State Legislature, looking for a representative to introduce it.  I also learned the American Jewish Committee was circulating a "Governors Against BDS Letter," seeking the signatures of all 50US Governors.

Following is the letter that I wrote to my state legislators (with a similar letter going to the Governor):
Oregon State Senator Ginny Burdick

Dear Senator Burdick –

I write to ask you, first, to not put forward or sponsor a bill that would make BDS (Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions) against companies complicit with the illegal Israeli Occupation of Palestine illegal and, further, if such an unconstitutional bill should come before the Oregon State Senate to oppose it vigorously!

Why would the State of Oregon even consider such a ludicrous, undemocratic piece of legislation, you may well ask!  Well, as I’m sure you are aware, other states have not only considered such “anti-BDS” bills, they have passed them (20+ states have already passed some form of “anti-BDS” law), and the trend appears to be growing. 

Notwithstanding that such legislation is a clear violation of First Amendment/Free Speech rights, state legislators – emboldened by the new wave of conservatism that is sweeping the USA and aided by groups such as the Jewish Federation (which is the group we are told has drafted a bill for which they are seeking sponsorship here in Oregon) – are seeking to take away our rights as citizens to peacefully protest injustice.

Such bills are sometimes cloaked in the guise of protection from “anti-Semitism,” but there is nothing anti-Semitic about BDS.  The current BDS movement is aimed at the Israeli government and at companies (often American companies such as Caterpillar and Motorola) who are complicit in an occupation that has been going on for 50 years in violation of international law.

As you know, it was BDS that is credited with doing away with apartheid in South Africa, and BDS has been successfully utilized to stop injustice in the US (Civil Rights and farm workers to name just two). 

I spent an extended period of time as a human rights observer in Palestine several years ago, and can personally vouch for the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinian people.  I would be happy to meet with you and to share why I believe that we in Oregon (and, indeed, across the globe) should do everything we can to bring justice to this tiny piece of real estate. 

But even setting aside that issue, the question for us as Oregonians is why should we even be wasting our time on undemocratic, unconstitutional legislation (that will almost certainly be targeted by the ACLU), when there are so many pressing problems right here that we should be spending our time and energies on?

Thank you for your attention 

Operating under the belief that snail-mail letters gain more attention than e-mail, I posted these letters yesterday.  I'll keep you posted!

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