This Tuesday, June 21, a group of human rights organizations announced it would be filing a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request seeking documents related to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent Executive Order No. 157. The order, which was signed on June 5, circumvented the lengthy legislative process and summarily directed all state entities to divest their public funds from any organizations that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

The groups filing the FOIL request, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, Palestine Legal, and Jewish Voice for Peace, argue that the order violates the First Amendment, since boycotts are a protected form of political expression. They are seeking information relating to the order’s origins and supporters, inside and outside the government.

Governor Cuomo announced the McCarthy-style directive during the Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City. A few day after issuing the order, on June 10, Cuomo reiterated his unwavering support for Israel in an indefensibly bias, incendiary, and poorly-argued op-ed for the Washington Post, in which he stated unequivocally that “If you boycott Israel, New York will boycott you.” A clear attempt to demonstrate his staunch support for the Apartheid state, the order effectively blacklists pro-Palestinian organizations and penalizes them for exercising their rights and advocating their political views.

On June 9, hundreds of New Yorkers gathered outside Cuomo’s office at the state capitol to voice their disapproval of the law. They also held demonstrations in Albany on June 15.* Many feel the order undermines the robust history of non-violent social justice movements in the United States, among other troubling implications.

Daniel Sieradski, founder of the Progressive Jews PAC, which advocates on progressive issues for the Jewish community, wrote in the New York Times that the new order impinges on a person’s ability to decide how he or she relates to Israel. “I feel that the government should not be dictating how I relate to the Jewish state and in what ways I voice my objection to its policies. Regardless of how one feels about the Israeli occupation and the B.D.S. movement, Mr. Cuomo’s decision should be an unsettling precedent.”

Opposition to BDS has grown significantly over the past year, resulting in various anti-BDS laws in the United States, Israel, and the UK. This opposition is a clear reaction to BDS’s success. And the anti-BDS initiatives might actually serve to make it stronger.

“While Cuomo’s attack on the movement for Palestinian rights is wrongheaded and immoral, it is also a sign of just how much the movement has grown and how much its opponents are willing to destroy the values they claim to uphold to attack it,” wrote Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, in a powerful op-ed for the Nation which challenged the executive order.

Munayyer added:

So if Governor Cuomo wants to create a list of those nonviolently demanding accountability for Israel’s denial of basic Palestinian rights, please sign me up. One day, when the system of imposed inequality ends in Israel-Palestine, this resistance to it will be looked back on as a badge of honor. I, along with an ever-growing number of Americans, want to be counted among those who stood on the right side of history.

*UPDATED 6/21/16: This piece has been updated to note that a demonstration was also held in Albany on June 15.

Read more like this in Muftah's Weekend Reads newsletter.

Advertisement Advertise on Muftah.