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.
Here are some highlights of our collective actions to defeat SB739/HB949:
- Legislative Contact: State legislators from all across Maryland collectively received hundreds of emails, calls and visits from their constituents urging them to oppose the Anti-Boycott Bill. Some legislators were even faced with irate voters at their offices or town-hall meetings complaining about their support for this unconstitutional legislation.
- Lobby Night in Annapolis: While we scheduled a lobby day on very short notice, we were still able to get over a dozen people to drive out to Annapolis to meet with their legislators. We dropped off literature packets to all members of the committees of jurisdiction. These packets explained clearly the goals of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement and explained why a rapidly growing community supports it.
- Testimony in Committees: We had nearly 20 activists testify at each bill hearing (February 28th in the House of Delegates, March 1st in the Senate). We were parents students, faith leaders of all religious backgrounds. Two constituents shared very personal tragedies caused by Israel's occupation. With each person getting three minutes to testify, we had ample time to deliver a robust “Occupation 101 teach-in” which was an opportunity that we couldn’t have otherwise had with our legislators.
- Media: Not only did we get media coverage, but it was favorable coverage. We had this from the Baltimore Sun.Baltimore Jewish Times ran a story which featured our ally Jodie Zisow-McClean. And we had at least ten letters to the editor published. We are anticipating articles soon in the Huffington Post and Mondoweiss.com about our efforts.
- Legislators: We had a number of legislator friends who worked on preventing this legislation from getting a vote. Our greatest gratitude goes to Delegate Jimmy Tarlau who was outspoken about his opposition to the Anti-Boycott Bill. Delegate Tarlau powerfully rebutted Delegate Ben Kramer during a radio debate on the Marc Steiner Radio Show.
- We Became a Community: Some of us Freedom2Boycott activists had been working on this issue over the past three years, while others joined this year. Some spent hours in Annapolis giving testimony while others posted Facebook, made calls or sent money to pay for our website. It all made a difference. And we have evolved into an engaged an highly effective community.
With so many challenges to social justice today, it is important to acknowledge and take time to celebrate those victories in which we have made a difference.
But we also know that a lot of resources will continue to be invested towards attacking the BDS movement for Palestinian human rights. We will continue to remain in touch if there are other threats to our right to boycott. Meanwhile, please know that your contributions are immensely appreciated!