As an organization, J Street is unequivocal both in our strong opposition to the Global BDS Movement and in our support for Americans’ constitutional right to engage in boycott activities.
Standing alongside our allies in the progressive Jewish community and in support of leading First Amendment experts at the ACLU, we have been at the forefront of the fight to oppose dangerous legislation that seeks to impose unconstitutional legal penalties on those engaging in boycotts. We also believe that such efforts to restrict the constitutional rights of supporters of the Global BDS Movement ultimately only serve to garner more attention for their movement.
We therefore support H.Res.496, a resolution that was introduced this week by Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and John Lewis (D-GA). This resolution clearly and vitally affirms “that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.” It opposes unconstitutional legislative efforts to restrict this fundamental right for any group of Americans in the service of any cause. It does not mention or reference Israel, the Palestinians or the Global BDS Movement.
At the same time, J Street also supports H.Res.246, which expresses strong opposition to the Global BDS Movement against Israel, without in any way infringing upon or seeking to restrict Americans’ free speech rights. That resolution, which was advanced this week by a vote of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, highlights several of J Street’s core objections to the Global BDS Movement. These include the movement’s refusal to recognize the right of Jewish people to national self-determination and its refusal to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Like Rep. Lewis, who is a co-sponsor of both of these resolutions, we see no contradiction between these two positions. On the contrary, we believe that it is absolutely vital to make clear that individuals, organizations and lawmakers can both oppose the Global BDS Movement and defend the right of Americans to actively support that or any other boycott movement.
As a heroic leader of Civil Rights movement boycotts and protests that helped to overturn some of the gravest injustices in American history, Rep. Lewis’s own record is a powerful testament to the need to protect the rights of all Americans to non-violent protest and free speech. No matter how strongly one disagrees with or opposes the rhetoric or goals of specific movements and efforts, the right to boycott is an important component of our democracy. At a time when key democratic institutions and values are increasingly under assault from demagogues in this country and around the world, it is a right that we cannot forsake.