March 11, 2019

ZOA’s Klein Letter in LA Jewish Journal: Anti BDS Legislation Doesn’t Stop Freedom of Speech.

Defending Israel

Dan Schnur is right that the legislation sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) is constitutional and necessary (“The Right to Punish Free Speech,” Feb. 15).

The Rubio-Manchin bill enables local and state governments to withhold money from those who advocate the destruction of Israel and shields such governments from retaliation from would-be boycotters. Contrary to the argument proffered by proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, this in no way inhibits freedom of speech and accordingly does not merit opposition on such grounds.

The BDS movement, as admitted by its originators like Omar Barghouti, seeks the eventual elimination of Israel, not mere change of any particular government policy. It seeks to achieve this by harming the Israeli economy and producing the ostracism and diplomatic isolation of Israel.

To this end, BDS activists are free to defame Israel as much as they choose; their First Amendment rights aren’t endangered. However, BDS activists seem to believe that freedom of speech equals immunity from criticism or consequences, one of which via this legislation would be the withholding of government contracts from them or their associates.

As Schnur correctly observes, “elected officials who disagree with their animosity for Israel are just as entitled [as BDS activists] to express their disagreement — in writing, in speeches, and in votes for anti-BDS legislation. Which is what courageous pro-Israel leaders will continue to do.”

Morton A. Klein, National President Zionist Organization of America