Freedom to boycott is the issue
We need to recognize that the basic issue raised by the Israel Anti-Boycott Bill (S. 720) is not opposition to Israel’s policies — a topic for another day — but it is the freedom to boycott in general (“Pro-BDS group continues protest,” Aug. 3).
Why should this freedom be selectively recognized?
Americans are of course free to boycott U.S. products and services (as in the Montgomery bus boycott, the grape and lettuce boycotts and the Jewish boycott of the Ford Motor Co. in 1927) — so why should we be forbidden to boycott the products and services of another country? It is irrelevant that in this case the other country is Israel.
Opposing boycott bill
By not distinguishing between boycotts of Israeli settlements and those of Israel in general, this bill would criminalize efforts to economically target the settlement construction that is jeopardizing the chance for a two-state solution (“Pro-BDS group continues protest,” Aug. 3). The bill thus encourages Israel’s drift away from the possibility of a secure, democratic Jewish state.
Even J Street, the moderate pro-Israel and pro-peace group which opposes BDS in general, has voiced opposition to this bill, saying, “Trampling free speech is not the way to oppose BDS”.
Voicing ideas through boycott
Regardless of where one comes down on substantive issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict, all of us should be concerned about a bill that would repress a First Amendment protected right (“Pro-BDS group continues protest,” Aug. 3) that the Supreme Court has upheld to express our political view throughout boycotts. I personally supported the grape boycott and the anti-apartheid boycott. Under the First Amendment, a boycott to express my support for Palestinian rights is equally protected. Shocking that any Democrat would support such a bill — and the argument that the ACLU is wrong in its analysis is truly
In his report “Pro-BDS group continues protests” (Aug. 3), the reporter one-sidedly quotes arguments of protesters that Israel Anti-Boycott Act would illegally silence free speech, without citing a single voice from the other side of the dispute. Thus, a filling-in is in order.
The bill is directed against companies and other organizations that boycott Israel or do business with such boycotters. In no way would it limit the freedom to protest against the act itself or punish private customers for not buying any Israeli products. The Anti-Boycott Act is also legal because no law prevents United States government from protecting its allies (such as Israel) by punishing their adversaries. Protesters are entitled to their opinion, but so are the voters who elect and authorize their government to serve the best interests of the country.
Intolerance is the issue
Contrary to BDS claims, no one is silencing them. They can boycott whomever and say whatever they want. The issue is intolerance. Arabs and Muslims see Israel as an affront to their hegemony over the region and their exclusionary religious beliefs, which turn to murderous rage when they don’t get what they want. Many Christians see Israel as the latest excuse to demonize Jews, reminiscent of their religious intolerance over the last 1,500 years. Finally, many Jews see Israel as an opportunity to present themselves as morally superior, even as they ignore the far greater oppression and killing around the world and as they live in countries with far greater histories of war, death and intolerance.
There’s more to Sam
I was happy to see your excellent article about Sam Seeman (“Sam Seeman’s Century,” Aug. 3). One thing you did not mention is that he was the main impetus behind the creation of the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association (MWPHA), the local arm of the American Public Health Association. MWPHA works to improve health care services in the Greater Washington area, and Sam has always been our inspiration as we work to protect access and affordability of health care for everyone in need.
Former board member,
Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association,