I wrote an article two years ago about an attempt by some of Israel's supporters to pass a blatantly unconstitutional New York State bill that would punish supporters of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.) The bill failed back then, but its supporters are at it again.
The State Senate has passed a bill that will penalize corporations, nonprofits and individuals who boycott countries on a list of "allied nations" by making them ineligible to contract with New York State. The bill also requires the state to divest from companies participating in the boycott. Its counterpart is now being considered in the Assembly as bill A9036. Both Chip Gibbons, a Legal Fellow at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation, and Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, have written excellent summaries of the bill. I encourage you to read them now. Both articles emphasize the unconstitutionality of the bill, but there is one passage in Viloemerson's article that struck my eye because it can be used as a starting point to discuss an issue that neither authors raise--passing this bill could inadvertently create an environment for the spread of anti-Semitism. Vilkomerson wrote:
The right to boycott is a protected form of political speech. As American citizens we have a fundamental right – indeed an obligation – to speak out against Israel’s nearly 50-year-old occupation, the theft of Palestinian land for settlements (which violate official U.S. policy), the destruction of Palestinian homes, the cruel and illegal siege and blockade of Gaza, and other Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights. And as Jewish Americans we have the additional imperative of asserting that Israeli policies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims to the contrary, are not in our name. (emphasis added)
“I went to Paris not just as the prime minister of Israel but as a representative of the entire Jewish people,” Netanyahu said, during a conference for French-speaking Likud activists. “Just as I went to Paris, so I will go anyplace I’m invited to convey the Israeli position against those who want to kill us. Those who want to kill us are, first and foremost, any Iranian regime that says outright it plans to destroy us.
Much of the report focuses on participants’ concerns about Israeli democracy itself — religious pluralism and discrimination against Arab citizens, for example. But one section is devoted to “The impact of Israel’s policies on the security and wellbeing of Jews around the world.” It warns: “There is clear evidence that periods of tension between Israel and its neighbors raise the frequency and severity of harassment/attacks on Jews in locations around the world.”
In many incidents of physical attacks on Jews, the assailant cites Israeli actions as the motivation. . . .
And it quotes a 2012 Anti-Defamation League research report, “Anti-Semitism on the Rise in America,” which claimed, “Anti-Israel feelings are triggering anti-Semitism.”
It’s often argued, correctly, that anger at Israel shouldn’t lead to attacks on Jews in other countries. But enemies of Israel are already prepared to attack Israeli commuter buses and restaurants. It’s only a short jump from there to foreigners who identify themselves as Israel’s next line of defense and declare, “We are one.”