New Yorkers Disappointed by City Council’s Vote against BDS and Palestinian rights

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September 14, 2016
Contact: Naomi Dann| | 845-377-5745

New Yorkers Disappointed by City Council’s Vote in Favor of a Resolution Targeting Constitutionally-Protected Boycotts for Palestinian Human Rights

Today, the New York City Council passed Resolution No. 1058-A, condemning the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. The controversial resolution has been widely condemned by civil rights attorneys, community groups, and racial and social justice activists across New York City.

The Council’s resolution is the latest effort to curtail freedom of speech in New York around Israel’s abuses of Palestinian rights. In June, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order that received widespread criticism from civil rights attorneys and community groups banning the state from contracting with entities that abide by boycotts and divestment campaigns related to Israeli human rights abuses.

Boycotts and divestment are time-honored-tools used in support of social justice and human rights causes, including the US Civil Rights movement and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, both of which inspired the BDS movement, and are protected by the First Amendment.

Quotes for publication on New York City resolution:

Radhika Sainath, staff attorney, Palestine Legal, cooperating counsel, Center for Constitutional Rights:
“The New York City Council should stay out of the business of condemning non-violent human rights movements. Lawmakers’ actions carry weight. By passing this resolution, the City Council chills the speech of New Yorkers eager to be part of an international human rights movement. In the process, the City Council infringes on our constitutional rights and tarnishes our country’s rich history of civil and human rights boycotts.”

Linda Sarsour, Palestinian New Yorker, racial justice and civil rights activist:
“The New York City Council body was elected to work on, and legislate, issues that impact New Yorkers. Today the members have failed us by voting for a resolution that infringes on our First Amendment rights. As a city and as a country, we are in crisis. We are in a divided nation, political rhetoric and hatred creating wedges between communities.  The fact that members of the City Council decided to antagonize human rights activists when they should be focused on bringing New Yorkers together is irresponsible.”

Katherine Franke, Columbia Law Professor and Chair of the Board of Trustees, Center for Constitutional Rights:
“The use of boycotts as a tactic of political movements has a long history in the United States, the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 being two notable examples. Mayor de Blasio has twice boycotted the St. Patrick’s Day parade to protest its policy of prohibiting gay groups from marching openly, and is now boycotting the state of North Carolina to protest a transphobic state law. It would be absurd to argue that these boycotts were premised upon an animus toward the British, Southerners, the Irish, or North Carolinians, as they are clearly directed at state policies that violate civil and human rights. The same is true of the boycott of Israel: it does not target Jews, but rather takes aim at state policies that violate the human rights of Palestinians.”

Donna Nevel, board member of Jewish Voice for Peace
“By passing this resolution, the New York City Council members have shown they’re out of step with the growing number of people in the U.S. who do not support Israel’s policies towards Palestinians, and who do support the use of BDS as a tool to achieve freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians. Recent polls have shown that 49 percent of Democrats support economic sanctions over Israel’s illegal settlements, and sympathy towards Palestinians among millennials has tripled over the last decade. Council members have also wrongly painted Jewish constituents as a monolithic group, when in fact a growing number of Jews in the U.S. support BDS.”

Hani Ghazi,  Adalah-NY:
“We at Adalah-NY express deep concerns with the misleading language of the resolution that passed today. As U.S. voters and constituents of the New York City Council members, we expected our representative politicians to protect our right to free speech when we speak up for Palestinian human rights and not to side with corporations that profit from oppressing Palestinians. Regardless of the stance on the BDS movement, U.S. politicians should not be denying their voters and constituents their First Amendment protected right to free speech, including their right to call for boycotts and divestment initiatives.”

Jane Hirschmann, co-founder of Jews Say No!:
“This resolution, and similar ones nationwide, has been promoted by outside Israeli groups to distract people from the real issues at hand—Israel’s human rights abuses and blatant disregard for the law.  Boycotts have a rich history in our country and are constitutionally protected. It is deeply concerning to me that the New York City Council has bowed to this outside influence and made the decision to infringe on our first amendment rights.”


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 freedom, justice and 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.


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