updated: May 11, 2017
Victory! On May 11, the last day of the South Carolina legislative session, H.3643 stalled, failing to pass the South Carolina State Senate. The bill was defeated after activists and legal organizations, including Palestine Legal, raised concerns that the bill would require public colleges and universities to censor and suppress Palestine advocacy, in violation of the First Amendment.
In 2017, South Carolina lawmakers introduced H.3643. This bill would require public colleges and universities in the state to use the widely-discredited, vague, and overbroad State Department definition of anti-Semitism when "reviewing, investigating, or deciding whether there has been a violation of university policy prohibiting discriminatory practices on the basis of religion." H.3643 is an unconstitutional bill aimed at censoring and punishing Palestine advocacy on campuses.
On March 9, 2017, H.3643 passed the South Carolina House.
- Legal letter opposing the bill by Palestine Legal and nine other organizations
- Op-Ed: Bill would chill free speech on college campuses, by Joshua Cooper
- Op-ed: S.C. anti-Semitism bill isn't needed, by Ken Stern
- Op-ed: Anti-Semitism bill would suppress open discussion on Israel, by Shari Rabin and Joshua Shanes
- Blogpost: Overbroad South Carolina "Anti-Semitism" Bill Offends Free Speech, PEN America
Read the bill: H.3643
In 2015, South Carolina enacted a law that prohibits any public entity from doing business with companies engaged in "discriminatory" boycotts -- boycotts based on race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. While this may have been intended as an anti-BDS law, it makes no mention of Israel, Palestine, or the BDS movement.
The law simply does not apply to companies that boycott Israel for its human rights abuses. BDS campaigns do not advocate for boycotts of Israel because of a protected class. Rather, the BDS movement advocates for boycotts of Israel because of the Israeli government’s failure to comply with international law and its failure to respect the rights of Palestinians.
If you or your company has been denied a government contract in South Carolina because of your support for BDS, please contact Palestine Legal.
These bills are the result of a campaign to suppress Palestine human rights activism in the U.S. Israel's interest in restricting this activism should not override our constitutional right to advocate for change.
The good news is that your right to engage in boycotts related to Israeli human rights abuses and to advocate for BDS is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. None of the bills and resolutions described here prohibit you from engaging in BDS activities.
Whatever your views on Israel and Palestine, these bills should be of concern because they threaten the rights of everyone in the U.S. to take collective action to address injustice. Moreover, we should all be alarmed that a foreign government, Israel, is lobbying U.S. politicians to restrict our rights.