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US faith groups publish statement defending right to boycott Israel

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) rally in Washington, US [Elvert Barnes/Flickr]

US faith groups have published a statement in support of the right to boycott, asserting that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign is protected by the First Amendment.

The statement was backed by the Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee and dozens of other faith organisations.

“We are alarmed by legislation recently passed in a number of states penalising participation in the nonviolent, grassroots Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights,” the groups said, “and by similar legislation that is proposed in the US Congress.”

“As faith leaders, we have long used the nonviolent instruments of boycott and divestment in our work for justice and peace.”

Read: Israeli ministers advance new anti-BDS legislation

In recent years, a number of anti-BDS bills have been passed by state legislatures and governors across the US. Congress is also considering a federal-level anti-boycott law. The American Civil Liberties Union has warned that such measures are unconstitutional.

Mainline Christian denominations like the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ and the Mennonite Church USA, have all adopted boycotts and other economic tools in support of Palestinians.

Said Tarek Abuata, executive director of Friends of Sabeel North America, said: “We unequivocally oppose any attempts by our state or federal governments to deny us the opportunity to express our faith-inspired convictions that Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of longstanding official US policy and international law, its destruction of Palestinian homes, severe restrictions on Palestinian movement, and other human rights abuses are morally wrong and a major impediment to peace.”

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