An official political blacklist. Yes, it’s really 2016.
The shift has been underway for years now: opponents of Palestinian human rights have de-emphasized actual debate about Israeli policies. Nowhere is this more clear than among those who oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Don’t get me wrong, they still try to slander Palestinian human rights activists as inherently anti-Semitic and wipe away increasingly shocking right-wing rhetoric from Israeli leaders. But they are rapidly shifting focus. Now, they are zeroing in on our most important tool: principled popular protest. In 2016 alone, more than 20 states have floated bills attacking the basic right to boycott.
On June 5, 2016, New York Governor Anthony Cuomo took this McCarthyite trend to a whole new level. He penned an executive order requiring New York state agencies to divest from businesses that respect the BDS call, and created an official blacklist of organizations that support the BDS movement.
These are all signs that we are actually gaining ground. Why this executive order? Because a legislative version failed. Why anti-BDS legislation in the first place? Because our movement is clearly gaining moral currency. Why not double-down supporting Israeli policies? Because they are increasingly obviously indefensible.
And that perfectly illustrates where things stand right now movement-wide. Fundamentally, we are pushing public opinion forward. But as we do, we better get used to fending off increasingly extreme, anti-democratic counter-attacks.
Ultimately, we should feel cautiously optimistic that the courts will throw this order out. But right now, we’re fighting. In Manhattan. In Albany. Even at Cuomo’s Westchester home. Eight JVP chapters are taking action, supporting a coalition that includes nearly every Palestinian human rights organization in the state – and heavy hitters in the civil liberties world, including the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Moreover, we have the media’s attention, with a presence in The New York Daily News, The Washington Post and The New York Times.
What happens in New York is going to determine whether or not these executive orders roll out nationally. So far, we’ve created a far greater political cost than Cuomo or his advisors anticipated.
Will that be enough to convince other Governors to step back? Only time will tell.