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Est. April 5, 2002
December 20, 2018 - Issue 769

At Year's End,
There are More Powerful Threats
Against the First Amendment


"In the U.S., it has not been so much outright
censorship of news, but the powers that be have
been involved in a broad range of policies that
tamp down dissent.  It has happened in the suppression
of the union movement, Black Lives Matter, and any
other entity that makes the rulers uncomfortable."

Today, there is a speech pathologist in Texas who doesn't have a job because she is a supporter of the Israel boycott and would not sign, in effect, a loyalty oath to the State of Israel, as the Texas school district in which she worked required.

There are many threats to the First Amendment and the current wave of laws or executive orders or rules that outlaw any support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) movement that is gaining strength around the world, as a way of forcing Israel to halt that nation's oppression of millions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which is peppered with illegal Jewish settlements.

It must be considered that Bahia Amawi, the speech pathologist, does (or did) work in Texas, the Lone Star State is far from the only state or corporation that is curbing free speech when it comes to the BDS movement or any other method of bringing what is generally called an apartheid state to halt the oppression of Palestinians, who are under virtually complete control of the Israel Defense Force and the head of state, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

According to the Washington Post this week, “The agreement asked her to affirm that she did not currently boycott Israel and assert that she would not in the future while working for the school.” Such a contract or agreement strikes at the heart of the right to free speech and free thought in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Of Palestinian descent, Amawi is a U.S. citizen and was shocked that the district would require such an oath or affirmation about a personal thought and action. But the law under which the Pflugerville Independent School District requires such a oath is merely following the law passed last year by the Republican-majority Texas Legislature.

But it is not just Texas that requires the signing of a contract promising fealty to Israel, New York's governor, Andrew Cuomos, issued an executive order in 2016 which “will ensure that no state agency or authority engages in or promotes any investment activity that would further the harmful and discriminatory Palestinian-backed Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in New York State.” Cuomo made the announcement at the Celebrate Israel Parade June 5, 2016.

It wasn't enough that he issued the executive order that denies citizens their right to hold opinions different from his and to punish those who do, even if that might be the only instance in which he perpetrates cancellation of a basic right. On signing the order, Cuomo said, “I'm proud to sign this nation's leading executive order, which will help protect Israel from the threat of divestment. This order sends the message that this state will do everything in its power to end this hateful, intolerant campaign. New York and Israel share an unbreakable bond and I pray that the Israeli and Palestinian people will find a way to live side by side and find peace, prosperity and security.”

It is obvious that Cuomo the Liberal knows nothing about the plight of the Palestinians who are under the heel of the IDF under the control of a right-wing government that wants and needs more land for a Greater Israel. And, there's only one place for the nation to get the land that it wants: All that was the ancestral homeland of the Palestinians for millenia before 1948 when they were ethnic cleansed for the creation of the state of Israel. Palestinians were told at that time that they should leave their homes and villages for a period of time, until the hostilities died down, and they would be allowed to return. To this day, Palestinians are waiting for the fulfillment of their “right of return,” as their homes and villages are occupied by strangers.

After more than half a century in exile (in their own homeland) as refugees in the most abject poverty and want, no one could blame Palestinians for believing that they never will be allowed their “right of return.” If their homes and villages have not been buldozed, they have been occupied for generations by Israelis, who are not likely to give them up. Cuomo likely never has seen some of the refugee camps in the Middle East or elsewhere, or he would not be able to deny the oppression under which the Palestinians live. Being able to use such cruel words about an oppressed people, the governor clearly does not care about them. He did, however, in his executive order, say, “New York and Israel share an unbreakable bond and I pray that the Israeli and Palestinian people will find a way to live side by side and find peace, prosperity and security.” There was nothing in the order to indicate that he has even thought about how “peace, prosperity and security” for all could be accomplished under the oppressive circumstances that have existed for generations in Israel.

Those in Palestinian civil society who created the BDS movement believed that people of good will around the world would bring enough pressure to bear on the Israeli government that it would ease the oppression on Palestinians and give them their freedom, just as a similar movement brought the government of South Africa to abandon apartheid and allow the majority black population to rise to power in a democratic structure with democratic elections.

To combat the BDS movement, a variety of approaches have been taken. Many in Israel and the U.S. have said that BDS is nothing, that it has had very little effect on the economy of Israel, and that Israeli officials have given it more publicity and credibility than it deserves. This view recommends that BDS be allowed to run itself out. Israeli politics, however, have been using it as an organizing tool, warning American Jews and Israelis that the movement has the possibility of inflicting great damage. In fact, many warn that the BDS movement aims to destroy Israel or destroy its “legitimacy.” How that will happen, they don't say, but they seem to be worried about Israelis who oppose the brutal treatment of Palestinians in their own country. The number of Israelis who hold that view could be growing and that is what appears to worry Netanyahu and his allies. In the U.S., the people hear very little about the Israeli left and its views on Palestinian oppression from their mass media. It could be because the government of Israel has a pretty good lid on its left-wing opponents, just as what passes for a left in the U.S. has a lid on it that is quite effective in keeping unpleasant issues like Palestine out of the daily papers and nightly newscasts.

In the U.S., it has not been so much outright censorship of news, but the powers that be have been involved in a broad range of policies that tamp down dissent. It has happened in the suppression of the union movement, Black Lives Matter, and any other entity that makes the rulers uncomfortable. The right-wing politicians and their enablers among the liberals, along with Corporate America, have been waging a very successful war against the people's right to self-determination and, especially, the right to freely assemble, to speak freely, and to associate with whomever they wish. These rights are being diminished slowly and effectively, so that the victims (citizens of America) hardly notice, except when an issue like the Texas case comes up and is dealt with through the courts.

That won't be enough, though. Courts won't be enough. There are innumerable groups and organizations that are seeking the same goals of saving our constitutional rights and providing our most vulnerable Americans with a decent life. They number in the millions, but they need to unite and act in concert and they need to do it in the streets, so they can be seen in numbers that can't be ignored. It's called solidarity and in solidarity can be found our freedom. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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David A. Love, JD
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