Over the past few days a committed group of activists have formed this organization because we recently read an article in the Jewish Times saying that there will be a joint effort by the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRCGW) to hinder peace activists in Maryland and around the world who seek to hold Israel accountable for its occupation through the global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign. They will try to do this by introducing legislation in the Maryland General Assembly:
BJC executive director Art Abramson said the council is working with local delegates on an anti-BDS bill, which is expected to be this coming year’s major policy issue for the council.
“We think that we will be able to provide some sort of legislation that will make it very difficult for those who want to deal in business [and who] promote boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel to operate in our state,” Abramson said. He added that he thinks legislation can move forward now that the BJC and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington are united in their positions.
In 2014 BJC teamed up with Maryland State Delegate Ben Kramer to introduce a bill that would cut-off state funding to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) because a handful of its professors were members of an organization that decided to boycott Israel. At the time an ad-hoc coalition activists joined together to defeat the bill. During that debate both Delegate Kramer and former Delegate Luiz Simmons accused BDS of being an anti-Semitic movement. However the MGA killed their bill. Instead toothless language was inserted into the budget bill expressing the MGA's opposition to BDS. Language accusing the BDS movement of anti-Semitism was not adopted.
The same organization (and some of the same legislators) are going to try again to attack the BDS movement next January. We hope they will fail again. We re-constituted the organization that fought the 2014 anti-BDS bill and renamed it Freedom2Boycott in MD. As we did in 2014, we will show members of the MGA that BDS is the absolutely appropriate response to Israel's occupation of Palestine and myriad violations of international law.
The political climate in 2016 will be far different than 2014. Firstly, many of the legislators are now already well aware what BDS is, and our opponents hackneyed tactics to smear critics of Israel as anti-Semitic. Secondly, Israel's occupation of Palestine has become more entrenched, more brutal and more permanent. Legislators have seen headlines about Israel attacking UN Refugee Shelters in Gaza, Prime Minister Netanyahu memorably racist election-day warning that "Arabs are voting in droves" and the Israeli governments brazen campaign to join Republicans in fighting President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran.