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.
Today, several of us F2Bers travelled from all around the state (and some from other states!) to Annapolis to testify against Delegate Ben Kramer's anti-Boycott Bill in the House of Delegates. Here's a shot of us standing in the rotunda of that building after the bill hearing. That's the seal of Maryland on the floor. It's a Ploughman and a Fisherman. Cool, huh?
F2B Testifiers. From left: Saqib Ali, Maria Baroody, Paul Verduin, Courtney Peterson, Melinda Thompson, Unknown, Susan Kerin, Unknown, Betsey Cunningham, Shelley Cohen Fudge, Sami Alqasem, Kareem El-Hosseiny, Zachary Flaugher, Chip Gibbons, Taher Hazerallah
We felt the hearing went well for our side. It took nearly 3 hours total. Watch some of the highlights (and lowlights!) below:
- House Bill 949: Tuesday February 28th 1pm or later. (Room 241, Taylor House Office Building, 6 Bladen St, Annapolis, MD 21401)
- Senate Bill 739: Wednesday March 1st 2:30 pm or later. (Room 3 West, Miller Senate Office Building, 11 Bladen St, Annapolis, MD 21401)
- You should arrive in Annapolis at least 30 minutes before the hearing.
- You must bring your drivers' license with you to pass through the security checkpoint. Without your driver's license you won't be allowed to enter the building.
- The hearings start at 1pm and often stretch for hours. They are unbounded. They frequently go till 6pm. We don't know when our bills will be called. So you will probably have to wait a very LONG time. Be prepared for that. Bring a book or a tablet/laptop. They have free, public Wi-Fi.
- After all that waiting, you will be given only 2 minutes to testify. Make it worth it. :) It's best to have some prepared bullet points to guide your testimony. We should coordinate with each other so that we get all our points across.
- Park your car at this nearby hourly parking garage: 25 Northwest St, Annapolis, MD 21401
As the Maryland General Assembly debates the Zirkin/Kramer Anti-Boycott Bill (SB739/HB949), I wanted to provide you legal analysis of the constitutionality of these bills.
In the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Jewish Council's Howard Libit and the Jewish Community Relations Center of Greater Washington's Ron Halber assert that: “government determines how taxpayer dollars are spent, and BDS supporters are free to engage in any personal actions they wish.” But is this really true? Does the government have the right to spend our tax dollars as it sees fit even if it infringes the rights of ordinary citizens like us? Of course it does not.
Here is why:
The Supreme Court has ruled it is unconstitutional to discriminate against political dissenters in the disbursement of public benefits and in contracts.