Boycotting is constitutionally protected speech

Anti-BDS Bill Hearing, July 18, 2017 Anti-BDS Bill Hearing, July 18, 2017

Testimony presented at hearing of anti-BDS legislation, S.1689/H.1685, July 18

Honorable Chairmen and Members of the Joint Committee:

My name is Lorrie Hall, I live in Duxbury, and I am a member of Massachusetts Peace Action.  Thank you for this opportunity to testify against “An Act Prohibiting Contracting with Discriminatory Business” (S.1689/H.1685).

There are two main flaws in this Act.  The first is that the law states that anyone who wants to contract with the state will not do business based upon, (among other things),“national origin.”  Supporters of this bill believe that boycotting targets individuals’ nationality.

On the contrary, boycotts are always against actions.  The Montgomery Bus boycott was against segregated buses, and the boycott of table grapes was against poor pay for agricultural workers.  If Australians occupied the West Bank and treated the Palestinians as cruelly as the Israeli military treats them, it would be subject to boycotts too.

Never has boycotting been based on anyone’s national origin.  And the current boycott under discussion has nothing to do with that either—it is economic pressure to stop human rights abuses against Palestinians. 

The second flaw is that boycotting is constitutionally protected speech.  The state cannot make someone or a business give up that right as a condition of contracting.  

I urge you to report out this bill unfavorably.

Lorrie Hall is a Massachusetts Peace Action member in Duxbury