An op-ed by the Editorial Board of the New York Times has warned of an attack on freedom of speech “in the name of helping Israel”.
The piece comes in the context of efforts by pro-Israel politicians to include anti-boycott legislation in an upcoming package of spending bills that Congress must pass by midnight Friday.
As summarised by the Editorial Board, “it is a legislative proposal that would impose civil and criminal penalties on American companies and organisations that participate in boycotts supporting Palestinian rights and opposing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.”
The aim, the op-ed notes, “is to cripple the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as B.D.S., which has gathered steam in recent years despite bitter opposition from the Israeli government and its supporters around the world.”
The Editorial Board described the legislation as part of “a widening attempt to silence one side of the debate”, and “a larger, ominous trend in which the political space for opposing Israel is shrinking”.
The op-ed also defended the right of Palestinians to boycott: “They are criticised when they resort to violence…Should they be deprived of nonviolent economic protest as well? The United States frequently employs sanctions as a political tool, including against North Korea, Iran and Russia.”
The paper pointed to a recent case involving Bahia Amawi, an American citizen of Palestinian descent “who was told she could no longer work as an elementary school speech pathologist” in Austin, Texas, “because she refused to sign a state-imposed oath that she ‘does not’ and ‘will not’ engage in a boycott of Israel”.
Amawi has filed a lawsuit, arguing that the Texas law “chills constitutionally protected political advocacy in support of Palestine”.