Missouri has become the latest US state to pass a draconian measure to stifle and criminalize the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights.
Encouraged by Israel lobby groups and the Israeli government itself, politicians claim that refusing to purchase Israeli products and criticizing Israel’s human rights violations – or its state ideology Zionism – is tantamount to anti-Jewish bigotry.
Israel lobby groups hailed Parson’s move.
The law requires state contractors to sign an oath certifying that they are not engaged in boycotts of Israel or of Israeli products. It applies to contracts worth more than $100,000, but not to individuals.
Exactly two years ago, a similar bill failed to pass the Missouri state legislature due to sustained pressure by human rights advocates.
At the time, more than a dozen rights groups called the bill “constitutionally indefensible” and “a McCarthyite political litmus test on any company or nonprofit organization that wants to enter into a contract with the state.”
“Missouri tried twice to pass an anti-BDS law, attempts that were shut down by community organizing,” stated St. Louis-based activist Sandra Tamari.
Lawmakers have taken advantage of the current COVID-19 pandemic to rush anti-BDS legislation through state governments without public comment or debate, she explained.
“Shielding Israel from a grassroots human rights movement was their priority,” Tamari added.
Governor Parson’s anti-BDS law contradicts a Missouri state resolution, introduced in 2019, affirming that boycotts are protected political expression.
“Our efforts are producing results. 27 US states now have counter-BDS legislation. Let’s give a hand to all the governors and state legislators who supported this law. They deserve it,” Erdan said at a Jerusalem Post conference in New York.
Erdan recently left his position at the strategic affairs ministry to be the new Israeli ambassador to both the United States and the United Nations.
Anti-BDS laws blocked
Civil rights defenders are fighting these anti-BDS laws in federal courts.
“We disagree with the district court’s decision, which contradicts two recent federal court decisions and which would radically limit the First Amendment right to boycott,” Holly Dickson, ACLU Arkansas legal director, told the Associated Press at the time.
Human Rights Watch has noted that more than 250 million people live in US states that have passed these draconian measures.
According to a 2019 poll, Americans overwhelmingly reject such laws designed to penalize supporters of BDS, with more than 70 percent of respondents opposing laws that target BDS activism as an infringement on the constitutional right to free speech.