Today Maryland's junior Senator Chris Van Hollen (D) held a discussion with Professor Shibley Telhami at University of Maryland's Hoff Theater in College Park, MD.
After the discussion with Professor Telhami, questions were taken from the audience. One audience-member asked Senator Van Hollen if he supported Senator Ben Cardin's Israel Anti-Boycott Act which could jail boycotters of Israel for up to 20 years. Van Hollen stated very clearly that he did not:Read more
On July 19th, I became aware of Maryland Senator Ben Cardin's bill that seeks to jail BDS activists for 20 years.
Since then I have been contacted by numerous outraged people who want to fight back against Cardin's deeply authoritarian and un-American bill.
We are starting to do so. We will be holding a teleconference at 8pm tomorrow 7/23/2017 to strategize. If you want to participate on this conference call, please sign-up with your email address here, confirm the sign-up by following the instructions that will be emailed to you, then I will email you details of the conference call.
Last Monday was Sine Die, the final day of the Maryland General Assembly’s annual legislative session. We are pleased to announce that the Anti-Boycott Bill SB739/HB949 has officially died! The legislation never even received a single vote in any committee. For the third consecutive year, legislative attacks on supporters of Palestinian human rights failed decisively.
This outcome was not due to any back-door negotiation from insiders in the legislature or because of lobbyist efforts. It was mainly due to legislators (especially Democratic legislators) being convinced that this bill was unconstitutional or they simply disagreed with it's intent. This convincing was largely done by a grassroots statewide movement -- including YOU.
During the hearings on the Zirkin/Kramer anti-Boycott bills (SB739/HB949), supporters of the bills repeatedly mentioned the name of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement co-founder Omar Barghouti.
Omar Barghouti responded with a letter directly addressed to members of the Maryland General Assembly. Read his full letter here.
Today the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has released a statement saying that the Zirkin/Kramer Anti-Boycott Bill is unconstitutional.
While we take no position on the underlying boycott, we do oppose the bill, as it is inimical to democratic principles. The bill penalizes a point of view deemed unacceptable by government officials. It would allow the state to assume the role of censor in matters of political controversy.
It is well-accepted that boycotts are fully protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, 458 U.S. 886, 907-915 (1982) (holding politically motivated boycott of white businesses to be constitutionally protected expressive conduct, and rejecting imposition of tort liability on organizers and participants). Yet SB 739 directs the state to retaliate against individuals and entities that participate in a boycott of Israel, simply because the state disagrees with the boycott. Such a directive by the state violates the First Amendment.
Read their full letter here.