Anti-boycott laws are an affront to free speech. They also don’t address antisemitism

Anti-boycott laws are an affront to free speech.     They also don’t address antisemitism.

A NorthJersey.com exclusive article.

Published July 26th, 2022 | By Hamzah Khan

In a world where there are hundreds of companies manufacturing and selling the same product, the freedom to choose a brand is, under ordinary circumstances, basic. But in New Jersey, legislators have taken that right away.

For years, the New Jersey Legislature has wielded undue influence over political discourse regarding boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), a grassroots movement launched by Palestinian civil society to pressure Israel to comply with international law. In 2016, the state Assembly approved an anti-boycott bill, after it passed unanimously in the Senate, requiring the state to divest its pension funds from any company involved in a boycott of the state of Israel. Critics at the time warned of the violations to free speech that this posed for New Jersey residents, but then-Gov. Chris Christie nevertheless signed it into law.

Six years later, this law has been used multiple times to punish companies that choose to boycott Israel due to humanitarian concerns, with Unilever being one of the most recent cases. After a two-year campaign by multiple advocacy groups, Unilever’s subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s, announced last year that it would no longer sell its ice cream in the illegally occupied Palestinian Territories, including Israeli settlements in the West Bank, saying that it was inconsistent with the company’s values to have its ice cream sold in Occupied Palestine.

After the announcement, New Jersey officials moved quickly: Within two months, they announced that the state would divest its pension fund from Ben & Jerry’s Englewood Cliffs-based parent company, Unilever. By December, New Jersey officials began to divest nearly $182 million in Unilever stocks and bonds. Fearing significant financial loss, Unilever changed course last month and sold its Ben & Jerry’s brand and trademark rights in Israel so that the company can continue to sell ice cream in Occupied Palestine, in direct contradiction to what the original ice cream company founders, Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, wanted.

In 2018, the same anti-BDS law was also used against Danske Bank, the largest bank in Denmark, which held around $44 million of New Jersey’s state pension fund. The Danish bank refused to do business with two Israeli military contractors, Elbit Systems and Aryt Industries, because of their operations in Israeli settlements, which violated the company’s social policies. Danske Bank stated that they were not boycotting Israel as a whole, but only those two companies. As was the case with Unilever, even though Danske Bank argued that it was not boycotting the state of Israel, the generality of the New Jersey anti-boycott law still allowed the state to punish the bank.

New Jersey is one of more than 30 states that passed anti-BDS laws. Defenders of these laws say they are meant to stop antisemitism, but advocacy groups, including Anne Frank House, differentiate between criticisms of the Israeli government and antisemitism, with the former being political and human rights-focused and the latter being condemnable. Others have warned that conflating the two — criticisms of Israel and antisemitism — is an encroachment on free speech and an attempt to stifle political debate and advocacy for Palestinian human rights. In adopting an anti-boycott law, New Jersey is blatantly attempting to flag any criticism of Israel as unacceptable, even if it goes against the U.S. government’s own classification of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The New Jersey Legislature should do more to stop actual antisemitic hate crimes rather than target a nonviolent grassroots political movement aiming to pressure a foreign government to end its human rights abuses. The reality is that these laws prohibit criticisms of Israeli government policies. In an ironic turn of events, New Jerseyans can criticize their own government, but not the Israeli government.

Boycotts have been instrumental in human rights campaigns both within the U.S. and around the world. Boycotts played a prominent role in ending segregation in the U.S. during the civil rights movement and were even protected by the United States Supreme Court. Supporters of the BDS movement, which was started by Palestinian activists, note that it is modeled after the boycott movements against South Africa, which helped end the apartheid regime in that country.

The state of New Jersey is employing a glaringly obvious double standard when it engages in sanctions against Iran and Russia on the grounds of human rights abuses, yet continues to support Israel even though reputable human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, find the country guilty of crimes against humanity. The state recently invested $20 million in Israel bonds as an “affirmation” of its confidence in the state of Israel and its economy, Gov. Phil Murphy said at the time.

At the end of the day, the right to boycott is essential to free speech, and the state’s hypocrisy only serves to strengthen human rights abusers abroad while diminishing freedoms at home.

Hamzah Khan is a legal intern at the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ New Jersey Chapter.

CAIR-NJ Welcomes New State Law Establishing Licensing Program for All NJ Law Enforcement

CAIR-NJ Welcomes New State Law Establishing Licensing Program for All NJ Law Enforcement

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 07/22/2022) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today welcomed a new state law that would require all NJ law enforcement officers to hold a valid, active license issued by the Police Training Commission in order to be employed as officers in the State of New Jersey.  

New Jersey joins 46 other states across the nation in creating a statewide police licensing program.     

Under the new measure, law enforcement officials will be required to pass a psychological examination and take training courses to remain licensed. They would face decertification for various instances of misconduct, including being convicted of a crime in the U.S., having two or more Driving While Intoxicated offenses, and unprofessional conduct causing public harm.  

SEE: Police in N.J. will be required to get a license under new law signed by Murphy     

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:  

“Nearly 90 police officers were booted from NJ police forces just last year, and several hundred received disciplinary action. It’s clear that police oversight and accountability are much needed, and a licensing program could be a move in the right direction.     

“We have previously called for increased funding to community-based organizations and mental health programs that can be instrumental in preventing crime and violence altogether, as opposed to increasing funding for law enforcement, and that is still our position.    

“This new law does not erase the fact that racism and white supremacy are deeply entrenched in U.S. law enforcement. Instructional information is often riddled with subtle or even overt racism.  

“We call on local and state governments to be proactive in identifying racist officers and racism within law enforcement, including training programs. This is crucial to the protection of Black Americans and communities of color that these police officers serve.”    

SEE: Prevalence of white supremacists in law enforcement demands drastic change  

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.  

END  

CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut. 908-267-3119, smaksur@cair.com   

 

 

CAIR-NJ Condemns Racist Threats Targeting Black Woman in Md., Welcomes Judge’s Ruling for In-Patient Drug Treatment

CAIR-NJ Condemns Racist Threats Targeting Black Woman in Md., Welcomes Judge’s Ruling for In-Patient Drug Treatment

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 07/20/2022) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today condemned a New Jersey man’s racist epithets and threats targeting a Black woman in Maryland.    

U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher sentenced the man, Michael Marotta, 26, of Sewell, NJ, to 30 days of confinement, in-patient drug treatment, and three years of probation.     

SEE: N.J. man sentenced for racist, threatening text sent to Black woman in Maryland   

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:   

“We are disappointed that someone would send such frightening threats and racist messages. There should be no tolerance for racism of any sort.  

“We are also optimistic about the judge’s decision requiring the perpetrator to check in to an in-patient drug rehabilitation program.” 

Maksut also emphasized the need to center rehabilitation in response to violence, whether actualized or verbal, that can affect long-term change.   

He said CAIR and the American Muslim community stand in solidarity with all those challenging antisemitism, anti-Black racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and white supremacy.

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.    

END

CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut, 908-267-3119, smaksut@cair.com 

 

CAIR-NJ Condemns Antisemitic Hate Crime Targeting a Deal Synagogue

CAIR-NJ Condemns Antisemitic Hate Crime Targeting a Deal Synagogue

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 07/19/2022) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today condemned an alleged antisemitic incident targeting aa synagogue in Deal, N.J.  

Nicholas Skirvin, 44, of Denville, allegedly shouted “several terroristic threats that were biased in nature” outside the Orthodox Jewish Ohel Yaacob on Lawrence Avenue, according to Deal police.  

Skirvin was arrested and charged with second-degree bias intimidation, third-degree terroristic threats and harassment. He is currently being held at the Monmouth County Jail pending a detention hearing.    

SEE: Man Charged with Hate Crime After Outbursts at Deal, NJ Synagogue

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:   

“Everyone — regardless of faith or background — has the right to feel safe in their homes and places of worship, and we condemn this alleged act of antisemitic hate in the strongest terms. 

“We call on local officials to direct funds to community-based organizations that can provide educational resources to the general public and advocate against antisemitism and bigotry in all its forms.”    

He said the American Muslim community and CAIR stand in solidarity with all those challenging anti-Black racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and all other forms of bigotry.      

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.    

END    

CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut, 908-267-3119smaksut@cair.com. 

 

CAIR-NJ Welcomes Letter by Sens. Menendez, Booker to President Biden Calling for Accountability for the Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh  

CAIR-NJ Welcomes Letter by Sens. Menendez, Booker to President Biden Calling for Accountability for the Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh  

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 7/13/2022) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today welcomed Senators Menendez and Booker’s joint letter to President Biden, in which they urged him to press for accountability for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh during his upcoming visit to the Occupied West Bank.

The senators also called for continued U.S. participation in transparent and timely investigations into any remaining or new evidence and asked for a “senior-level classified briefing on the investigation details, including American involvement… and next steps with the IDF and PA regarding accountability for Ms. Abu Akleh’s death.”

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:

“While we are disappointed that our senators were slow to act — their letter comes more than two months after Abu Akleh’s killing — we acknowledge the value of it especially as we come closer to President Biden’s trip to the occupied territories.   

“We commend them for pressing President Biden at such a critical moment and hope to receive answers in the coming days regarding next steps toward accountability. We also hope that the senators will press for the protection of Palestinian human rights and their right to a dignified life.”  

CAIR-NJ had previously written to the Senators Menendez and Booker asking for the reasoning behind their absence in Senator Van Hollen’s letter to President Biden. Senator Van Hollen’s letter, which called for a thorough and transparent investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing, was written several weeks ago and signed by more than 20 other senators.

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

END

CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut, 908-267-3119, smaksut@cair.com.

CAIR-NJ Condemns Anti-Semitic Rampage, Expresses Solidarity with Jewish Community

CAIR-NJ Condemns Anti-Semitic Rampage, Expresses Solidarity with Jewish Community

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 07/05/2022) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today condemned a New Jersey man’s spree of anti-Semitic hate crimes, welcomed the federal charges against him and expressed solidarity with the Jewish community.

According to the prosecutor’s office, 27-year-old Dion Marsh committed a series of crimes over an eight-hour period on April 8. He assaulted a Jewish male driver in Lakewood and then, a few hours later, struck three Orthodox Jewish people with his vehicle. Later that night, he stabbed an Orthodox Jewish man. Marsh also attempted to grab a minor and pull him into the vehicle he was driving, according to police. The four victims are recovering from their injuries.

Marsh was arrested at his residence without incident on April 8. He was found lying in bed with a machete on his chest. His indictment includes carjacking, bias intimidation, attempted murder, attempted kidnapping, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and unlawful possession of a weapon.

SEE: NJ Man Indicted on 32 Counts in hate-Crime Terror Rampage in Lakewood, Jackson

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:

“We are deeply disturbed by Dion Marsh’s hate crimes, and we are concerned for the safety of local Jewish communities. We condemn this anti-Semitic violence and stand in full solidarity with our Jewish sisters and brothers. We must continue to protect and defend each other from the forms of bigotry that threaten all of our communities.

“This specific incident also highlights two things: The rising tide of racially motivated violence raging through America, and the need for accessible mental health resources that can be instrumental in preventing incidents like these.”

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

END

CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut, 908-267-3119, smaksut@cair.com.