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VETO AB 2844

Support BDS: Veto AB 2844 the Bill that Silences Free Speech―Marcy Winograd

Governor Brown: VETO AB 2844, Anti-Free Speech Bill to Silence Debate

With the clock ticking, human rights activists in California have until September 30th to convince Governor Brown to veto the Israel lobby’s anti-free speech bill. AB 2844, opposed by the state’s Department of Finance, passed out of the California Assembly on Tuesday, 69 to 1, with 10 assembly members abstaining. Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz) cast the only no vote, aligning himself with another Santa Cruz legislator, Democratic State Senator Bill Monning, who weeks before cast the lone no vote in the senate, eloquently arguing the bill would stifle free and robust public debate.

Assemblyman Richard Bloom’s (D-Santa Monica) AB 2844 – a bill some of its supporters lament as “watered down” – now goes to the Governor who can sign the bill, allow the bill to become law without his signature, or veto the bill.

Opponents of the bill include the ACLU, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Palestine Legal, CODEPINK, and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the fastest growing Jewish organization with over 200,000 supporters.

Here’s how AB 2844 would work: Let’s say you are the CEO of a multinational corporation or maybe a grant applicant bidding on a state project – you want to remove lead from the water near an old battery factory. Before you can submit your bid, you must sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury – which threatens a felony conviction – that you have not adopted a policy toward any sovereign nation or peoples, “including but not limited to Israel,” that would be considered discriminatory under California’s civil rights laws in housing or employment.

VETO AB 2844

Is a boycott of Israel or a divestment vote discriminatory under California’s civil rights laws? Hardly. Our state’s civil rights laws are designed to shield a protected class – those of a particular race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion – not a political entity, such as the state of Israel, which faces a global boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign (BDS) for its demolition of Palestinian homes for expanded illegal settlements in the West Bank and its water cut-offs and destruction of Gaza, which the United Nations estimates could become uninhabitable by 2020.

“Boycotts are a time-honored constitutionally protected form of speech,” said Marjorie Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. “Indeed it was various forms of boycott and divestment that nourished the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and the US civil rights movement.”

While opponents of AB 2844 were disappointed in the legislature’s overwhelming approval of the bill, they take heart in the knowledge that their activism diluted a glaringly unconstitutional bill.

As a member of the Coalition to Stop AB 2844, I’ve worked with over 100 list serve activists throughout the state to testify before legislative committee meetings and challenge the bill as unconstitutional, a violation of both the First Amendment for free speech and the Fifth Amendment for due process.

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What exactly is a crime under this bill? Who knows?

In testifying in Sacramento, in leading interfaith delegations to legislators’ offices, activists have met with the most ardent backers of the bill, participants in the 14-member Legislative Jewish Caucus, a body that flies an Israeli flag on its state-funded web portal and hosts Capitol Knesset – so named after the Israeli parliament – lunches to discuss support for Israel-friendly candidates and Israel-friendly initiatives, like the 2014 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Governor Brown signed to foster greater collaboration between California, the eighth largest economy in the world and Israel, an exporter of surveillance and military equipment, as well as water technology.

Bloom’s AB 2844 co-authors include what are termed PEPS, legislators who might be considered progressive, except for Palestine: Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica); Hannah Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara); Marty Block (D-San Diego) – and Bloom has boasted that his anti-BDS bill – one of 22 introduced, 11 passed, in the various states – reflects the wishes of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who wrote her mega-donor Haim Saban, a television producer contributing over 10-million to her campaign, “I know that you agree with me we need to make countering BDS a priority …”

While opponents of AB 2844 were disappointed in the legislature’s overwhelming approval of the bill, they take heart in the knowledge that their activism diluted a glaringly unconstitutional bill, which at one time had mandated a McCarthy-like state enemies list of companies boycotting Israel, burdened both state and local governments with politically vetting and policing contractors bidding on projects worth $10,000 (as opposed to $100,000) or more – and encouraged the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute boycotters of Israel.

Still, the Coalition to STOP AB 2844 decries the state’s estimated 140-million dollar annual cost to implement this chilling legislation and urges supporters of human rights to remind Governor Brown of his promise to hold the line on spending – and to veto AB 2844. In a press release, “The Coalition commends Governor Brown for his past support of farm workers during their boycott campaigns and urges him to stand once again on the right side of history” – the side of free speech and open debate.

Opponents of AB 2844 can contact the Governor:

NO on AB 2844 Petitions

Marcy Winograd