Support Our First Amendment Right to Boycott on behalf of Palestinian Rights 2019 Action of Immediate Witness

WHEREAS, the movement for Palestinian human rights has grown stronger in recent years with student groups, faith groups, unions and academic associations all supporting Palestinian justice, and in many cases calling for boycotts of and divestment from corporations complicit in violation of Palestinian human rights;

WHEREAS, this growth in support for Palestinian rights has led to a backlash from those who are threatened by criticism of Israel, a backlash that has included legislation aimed at intimidating or even criminalizing participation in boycotts directed at changing Israeli behavior;

WHEREAS, divestment is a type of boycott the legislation seeks to bar;

WHEREAS, since 2014, over 100 measures targeting the use of boycotts in support of Palestinian rights have been introduced at local, state and federal levels;

WHEREAS, twenty-seven states have adopted laws prohibiting such boycotts, and members of Congress have proposed similar bills, the most extreme of which call for prison sentences of up to twenty years and fines of one million dollars; (see Palestine Legal: Anti-Boycott Legislation Around the Country);

WHEREAS, this massive effort to pass anti-boycott legislation is disturbing given that the US Supreme Court held in 1982 that boycotts are a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment (NAACP vs Claiborne Hardware),

WHEREAS, federal courts in Kansas, Arizona and Texas have recently declared certain anti-boycott laws unconstitutional;

WHEREAS, the proponents of this anti-boycott legislation are not really concerned about the constitutionality of the laws because they know that cases on appeal often take years to reach the Supreme Court, and that in the meantime, their legislation will serve to frighten those wishing to support Palestinian human rights with the time-honored, non-violent and constitutional means of boycotts;

WHEREAS, while the anti-boycott efforts are directed today at supporters of Palestinians, tomorrow they could be directed at supporters of farm workers, Black Americans, indigenous people, immigrants, LGBTQIA people or prisoners; and

WHEREAS, broad opposition to these anti-boycott laws should be based on their unconstitutional, anti-democratic character and separate from one’s views concerning how to support Palestinians;

THEREFORE, the General Assembly 2019 calls on the UUA and UU organizations to oppose anti-boycott laws by reaching out to their representatives at state and federal levels; and on Unitarian Universalists to sign UUJME’s petition calling on Congress to oppose anti-boycott legislation (see Petition in Support of Our First Amendment Right of Free Speech!) or collect signatures via a paper version paper version and mail them to the indicated address.