Over 300 rabbis and cantors today released a public letter calling on all federal and state legislators to defend the free speech of all Americans by opposing any efforts to pass legislation penalizing supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
The signers include members of all of the major Jewish denominations including Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform. The letter was organized by J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group, and by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, which organizes rabbis and cantors to promote human rights in the US, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Both organizations have made clear that they do not support the Global BDS Movement, yet are also concerned by misguided legislative attempts to impose penalties on the movement’s supporters in violation of the First Amendment.
The letter warns that “At both the federal and state level, this type of deeply misguided legislation undermines a core principle of American democracy. These laws do nothing to protect the State of Israel, and they would injure the American Jewish community.” It notes that American Jews have a long and rich history of promoting and defending free speech rights, observing that “A true commitment to the First Amendment means we must defend free speech even and especially when we find it objectionable or offensive.”
The letter argues that the legislative obsession with seeking to suppress the BDS Movement ultimately harms and distracts from important efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via a peaceful, two-state solution. Its signers note that much of the anti-BDS legislation proposed or already passed at the federal and state level erases the distinction between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories that it controls beyond the Green Line.
“The blurring of these lines and deliberate extension of US legal protection to Israeli settlements in the occupied territory contradicts decades of bipartisan US policy. It strengthens the hands of rejectionists on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides and undermines the prospects for a peaceful two-state solution.”
The full text of the letter can be found at this link.