A Letter from Palestine Legal Staff Attorney Rahul Saksena
On Tuesday, I traveled to Philadelphia, where the Democratic National Convention is underway, to join Yousef Munayyer (US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation), Gerardo Reyes Chavez (Coalition of Immokalee Workers), and Caroline Hunter (anti-Apartheid activist and co-founder of the Polaroid boycott) on a panel discussion on the right to boycott, hosted and moderated by Rebecca Vilkomerson (Jewish Voice for Peace).
Over the past year, Israel advocacy organizations have turned to legislators from both major political parties, urging them to support legislative efforts aimed at suppressing boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns for Palestinian freedom, and punishing those who support BDS.
It’s an alarming new development that is part of a larger trend to suppress Palestine advocacy in the U.S. It’s also a sign of desperation: by turning to politicians, Israel advocacy groups seem to be acknowledging that Palestine activists are winning hearts and minds at the grassroots level.
In the first six months of 2016, Palestine Legal documented over 30 anti-BDS measures introduced in state and federal legislatures. In the past year, anti-BDS measures have been enacted in eleven states.
As I spoke in Philadelphia on Tuesday, the DNC was down the road, trying to unify liberals and progressives behind a platform that explicitly condemns BDS.
I wanted to convey that, even in this climate of legislative and political attacks on the movement for Palestinian rights, speaking out for Palestinian freedom and supporting BDS campaigns are rights protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. No law or political party platform can take them away.
Palestine Legal exists to protect our rights to challenge prevailing orthodoxies when it comes to Palestine and Israel. This is an especially crucial task as it becomes clear that the chorus demanding Palestinian freedom and Israeli accountability is growing, and Israel advocates strike harder against the rising tide.
Thank you for standing with Palestine Legal as we fight for the right to stand for justice.
Staff Attorney, Palestine Legal