FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
NC House Prepares to Target Human Rights Boycotts of Israel
Interfaith coalition condemns HB161 as an unconstitutional anti-protest bill
Raleigh, NC—The North Carolina House of Representatives will vote today on House Bill 161, “Divestment from Companies that Boycott Israel.” This bill would require that the state pension investment board create a blacklist of companies that boycott Israel because of its human rights violations, and mandate that it withdraw their investments from these companies, as well as restrict any contracts with them.
HB161 passed the Pensions and Retirement committee on March 22, 2017, with dissenting votes from Rep. Mickey Michaux and Rep. Philip Lehman, both of Durham.
20 organizations and faith institutions signed a petition calling on state legislators to reject the bill, calling it a “repressive tactic of silencing free speech and prohibiting protest.” These include Quaker House of Fayetteville NC, Muslim American Public Affairs Council, NC Council of Churches, NC Public Workers Union – UE Local 150, and Jewish Voice for Peace.
The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories has been deemed illegal under international law, and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) seeks to end discriminatory treatment of Palestinians. Faith organizations including Presbyterian Church-USA and United Church of Christ have chosen to divest due to the Israeli occupation, and Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia have called for boycotts to pressure Israel to end its occupation.
“HB161 is part of a broader program to attack people’s resistance, coming from both the state and federal governments,” said Noah Rubin-Blose, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace from Hillsborough. “It is important that we not allow real concerns about rising antisemitism to trick us into supporting this repressive bill.”
“I am Palestinian-American. I was born in Gaza, and I’ve lived in Raleigh for 27 years,” said Jihad Shawwa. “I’ve felt the suffering of these people, who live in a big prison. Our representatives are nothing but rubber stamps. This bill is nothing but a peace killer, and it will create hatred and anxiety.”
A case study by the Harvard Law Review on similar South Carolina anti-boycott legislation concluded, “the anti-BDS statute passed by South Carolina and those being considered by several other states are likely unconstitutional in nearly all of their applications… Supreme Court precedents make clear that attempts to disqualify contractors for support of BDS are foreclosed by the First Amendment.”
Jewish Voice for Peace (www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org) is a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine.