WFS Panel Discussion 7/22/16

Part 1 Alan Levine

Part 2: Donna Nevel

Part 3: Questions and Answers

History of BDS

Boycotts were there at the birth of our nation, symbolized by chests of tea thrown into Boston Harbor to protest colonial tyranny. Slave produced super and rum were boycotted before the Civil War as a way to end slavery.

The Twentieth Century saw many more boycotts of products, targeting racism, labor abuses, and apartheid. There was the Anti-Nazi boycott of German goods in the 1930's called by Jewish War Veterans of America. There were the bus boycotts of the Civil Rights Era, the grape and lettuce boycotts to end the toxic spraying of insecticides in the 1960's, and the boycotts targeting products from apartheid South Africa in the 1980's.

More recently, we have seen the use of boycott and divestment by New York State officials and the World Jewish Congress in 1997 to pressure Swiss banks to pay more in Holocaust reparations. This summer, Governor Cuomo declared that New York State would join the boycott of North Carolina for its discrimination against the Transgender community.

Some of these boycotts were more successful than others. But as Jewish War Veterans president Rabbi Stephen Wise said in 1933, "We must speak out, and if that is unavailing, at least we shall have spoken." Boycotting governments that practiced racism was seen as a moral imperative, regardless of the eventual outcome.

Unfortunately, our NYS Legislature and Governor are reacting to the current boycott of Israeli products in the worst way possible, by trying to pass laws and issuing executive orders criminalizing human rights campaigns for Palestinians who are suffering under the illegal Israeli occupation. Such actions are an attack on our First Amendment rights, as well as a betrayal of this country's long history of using boycotts to advocate for progressive change.