NY Community Groups held City Hall Press Conference Ahead of Controversial Hearing

September 8, 2016
Contact: Donna Nevel | denevel@gmail.com

NY Community Groups held City Hall Press Conference Ahead of Controversial Hearing

September 8, 2016 – Representatives of New York City community organizations and civil rights attorneys testified at city council hearing and at a press conference to express their opposition to a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which holds Israel accountable for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.

“New York City Council should stay out of the business of condemning non-violent human rights movements,” said Palestine Legal staff attorney Radhika Sainath. “Lawmakers’ actions carry weight. By passing this resolution, New York City Council will chill the speech of New Yorkers eager to be part of an international human rights movement. In the process, the City Council will infringe on our constitutional rights and tarnish our country’s rich history of civil and human rights boycotts.”

“An increasing number of Jewish New Yorkers, like myself,  are deeply concerned by Israeli policies including the nearly 50 year-old military occupation of The West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza through a brutal combination of separation walls, checkpoints, and illegal Jewish-only settlements,” testified Pam Sporn, a leader in the Jewish Voice for Peace New York City Chapter. “ I strongly oppose the proposed this City Council initiative, Resolution 1058-A, which attempts to chill the free speech of all New Yorkers to advocate for change in Israeli policies through support for the growing BDS movement for Palestinian human rights.”

Hani Ghazi, of Adalah-NY testified that, “As American voters and constituents of New York City council members, we expect our representative politicians to be on our side and to protect our right to free speech when we speak up for Palestinian human rights rather than siding with corporations that profit from oppressing Palestinians. This resolution, 1058-A,  falsely accused the BDS movement of simply attacking the people of Israel for no reason, when actually the BDS movement calls on targeting corporations that profit from policies of injustice by the government of Israel.”

The Freedom to Boycott NYS coalition, an alliance of New York and national organizations that support the right to use boycott as a tool to achieve equality for Palestinians, organized a press conference ahead of the hearing. Speakers at the press conference included representatives from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No!, Adalah New York, Palestine Legal, the National Lawyers Guild, American Muslims for Palestine and the US Palestinian Community Network among others.

Boycott and divestment campaigns have a long history as strategies used by movements to achieve social change, and are protected by the First Amendment. Despite the fact that state and federal governments have begun legislating against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, support for pressure on Israel over rights abuses is growing: a 2015 poll found that 49% of Democrats support economic sanctions over Israel’s illegal settlements.

New York City Council’s resolution is the latest in an effort to curtail  freedom of speech in New York. In June, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order that received widespread backlash from civil rights attorneys and community groups banning the state from contracting with supporters of the BDS movement.

Testimony presented at the hearing by representatives of the Freedom to Boycott coalition are available upon request.


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