Mia Ackerman’s bill: hot air from Tel Aviv

Mia Ackerman is doing the bidding of our local branch of the Israel lobby by promoting a bill, H7736, that is engineered to scuttle the efforts of those who would like to boycott Israel.

Anyone who is still apologizing for Israel following the recent pograms in Gaza, Bibi Netanyahu spiting the most powerful schwartze in the world by speaking to Congress last year as a cheap dig at the Iran nuclear deal, and the recent declarations by mainstream Israeli political and military figures that the polity is lurching towards fascism is either totally deluded by hasbara, the Israeli brand of propaganda that has hypnotized America for three decades, a neoconservative, or three degrees below Hannibal Lecter in terms of taste and morality. Whereabouts Mia Ackerman falls on that line is yet to be discerned, mostly because I find her gaudy red, white and blue accoutrements while doing the dirty work of a foreign government so bourgeois, particularly when I am funding it as a taxpayer.

Let us just get it out of the way at the outset, the new anti-BDS bloviating is just one in a long line of nonsense efforts by the Israelis to distract people from discussion of what the rest of planet earth has been saying for literally half a century about how awful they are to the Palestinians. Last year’s fashion was the Iran deal, before that it was the “new anti-Semitism”, and before that it was the plight of Soviet Jewry. These days the Lobby is in quite a bind due to the fact that the quasi-fascist political player that is an actual threat to minorities, the Donald, is bankrolled by that Gargamel impersonator Sheldon Adelson, the Israeli newspaper magnate and casino king. OOPS!

Here are the comments delivered by Steve Brown of the Rhode Island ACLU this week:

The ACLU certainly appreciates the state’s interest in not conducting business with entities that engage in discriminatory activities prohibited by law. However, we are deeply concerned about the breadth of the language in this bill, which goes far beyond state objections to entering into contracts with businesses that, for example, discriminate in their individual hiring practices based on an applicant’s person’s race, religion or other protected status. By focusing on discrimination against “public entities” of foreign states, this bill instead potentially chills the legitimate free speech activities of contractors.
This legislation bars most businesses from receiving a state contract if they are engaged in a “boycott of any person, firm or entity based in or doing business with a jurisdiction with whom the state can enjoy open trade, and/or the boycott of any public agencies, entities or instrumentalities of the jurisdiction with whom the state can enjoy open trade.” With certain exceptions, a boycott is defined as refusing “to deal with a person, firm or entity, or a public entity of a foreign state, when the action is based on race, color, religion, gender, or nationality of the targeted person, firm, entity or public entity of a foreign state.”
We wish to note a few important underlying premises that form the foundation for our position in opposition to this legislation. First, as noted above, we believe the state clearly has a legitimate interest in requiring contractors to abide by employment-related anti-discrimination laws. At the same time, boycotts “to bring about political, social, and economic change” through speech, assembly and petition are unquestionably protected by the First Amendment. NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co, 458 U.S. 911 (1982). In addition, the government generally cannot punish contractors based on their political beliefs, associations and activities. See, e.g., O’Hare Truck Service v. City of Northlake, 518 U.S. 712 (1996); Agency For International Development v. Alliance For Open Society International, Inc, 520 U.S. ___ (2013).
The concern we have with this legislation is its attempt to bar doing business with contractors who boycott “public agencies” or “public entities of a foreign state.” It is unclear to us how one discriminates against a “public entity of a foreign state” based on its race, religion, nationality, etc. For example, was a decision to boycott South African goods during apartheid an inappropriate boycott based on “nationality”? By failing to make any clear distinction between a boycott based on a foreign entity’s policies and one based specifically on the race or nationality of the entity’s inhabitants, this legislation could have a chilling effect on legitimate, constitutionally protected politically-motivated boycotts. Contractors unwilling to risk the loss of business with the state could easily fear that a broad reading of this law could disqualify them if they engage in policy-related boycotts with a foreign entity, and thus improperly discourage them from doing so.
For these reasons, the ACLU of Rhode Island opposes H-7736.

Nonetheless, I do have a level of critique of the BDS organization while totally supporting well-devised boycotts of Israel. As a tactic, it is perfectly acceptable, boycotting buses worked fine for Martin Luther King so I see them as good enough for me.

But the BDS organization is flawed for two very simple reasons.

The first is one of targeting. For those who are unclear, America’s economy is symbiotic with Israel in a fashion unlike any other. For example, any person who is on Medicaid via the Affordable Care Act is required to take generic prescription medications, that is an industrial norm that defines the entire medical system.

And pray tell where might these low-cost generics be engineered? Israel!

Now BDS has previously targeted things like the Soda Stream company, who were producing their wares in the Occupied Territories, and that was effective. But it was also able to put low-wage Palestinian laborers out of work, something documented by Jaime Stern-Weiner previously. It is one thing to stop buying a seltzer carbonator and have a flat drink. It is another thing entirely to hurt your own pocket book and privilege when you take on an industrial complex that sends not just money but capital into the pockets of Israelis. This is not meant to diminish the BDS activists, they are wonderful people, but if you want to really impact Israel it means impacting yourself just as badly, our economies are inter-connected in a way that South Africa never was.

The second is ideological. The BDS organization intentionally has a platform that calls for a single-state solution that would essentially mean Israel ceases to exist. Leaving aside the moral identity issues therein, just consider the implications of this from a logistical police standpoint.

The consequences for the Palestinians are dire. When one recognizes that a single state would be aligned with the West and its neoliberal financial structures whereas an independent Palestinian state would be able to ally with China, which is known to create much more amenable loan and finance packages via the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS network, you can quickly envision the ethnic cleansing of Palestine transitioning from an overt form, demonstrated vividly by home demolitions, to covert forms, such as via gentrification of historic Palestinian neighborhoods.

Right now we as taxpayers are the major enablers of the Occupation. We send millions of dollars to Israel yearly to subsidize their illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. We can and should demand this cease to occur. The International Court of Justice, the United Nations, and the whole of the international community, including the European Union and Russia, have desired to see the settlements cease getting American support. The international consensus is based around a two-state settlement based on the pre-June 1967 borders, nothing more or less. Even Iran supports this and has publicly said so in the UN! Unfortunately the Palestinian Authority is politically neutered and unable to raise support for a movement to oppose the annexation wall.

The other most immediate site of agitation is the demand that the illegal, immoral, depraved, and sickening blockade of Gaza be lifted immediately, zero modifiers. Everyone from the EU to the UN to Bernie Sanders has said this is a non-negotiable and must occur as soon as humanly possible. Every sane human being who has been to Gaza since Operation Protective Edge has said that it is a complete disaster zone still due to the blockade, no reconstruction has been done. Mothers are literally being forced to give their children poisoned water to drink. The protest banners write themselves at this point. Unlike the West Bank, there is a potential international and domestic political movement that would be able to achieve that victory.

I am very aware that there are readers who might be still ensnared by hasbara and be prone to protests about “Hamas rockets” (they are described by Dr. Finkelstein as firecrackers) or something like that. I would highly commend to them the new documentary film The Occupation of the American Mind, produced by Media Education Foundation, which features a plethora of anti-Occupation Jewish journalists and activists who thoroughly defenestrate all the nonsense in a fashion that would only fail to convince a Clinton.

Let’s end the identity games, the blasphemy against the God of three religions, and the depravity of these crimes against a people who were getting victimized by colonialism when my great-grandfather was an infant a century ago!

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Andrew Stewart is founder of the Rhode Island Media Cooperative (http://rimediacoop.org/) which you can join for free today!

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