Anti-Boycott Amendment Defeated in Massachusetts Senate

Alliance for Water Justice rally at the Massachusetts State House, July 14, 2016

Anti-Boycott Amendment Defeated in Massachusetts Senate

Boston, July 15 – Yesterday afternoon, an amendment to the Economic Development Bill (Senate Bill S2423) that would have violated our first amendment rights was withdrawn within hours of being proposed by Senator Cynthia Creem. Amendment 133 sought to penalize Massachusetts citizens and businesses for engaging in any type of nonviolent economic boycott.

In the 1982 decision in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that boycotts, and other related nonviolent activities aimed at bringing about political, social, and economic change, are considered political speech and, therefore, should be protected by the First Amendment.

Similar to other anti-boycott legislation we’ve seen in states such as New York, amendment 133 would have unconstitutionally targeted citizens and businesses that advocate for Palestinian rights by punishing them for exercising their first amendment right to protected political speech. The proposal was to be voted on in the Massachusetts Senate, but due to the vigorous work of Palestine advocates and members of the Massachusetts Freedom to Boycott Coalition, the proposal was withdrawn by Senator Creem around 5pm Thursday afternoon. Members of this coalition, including Mass Peace Action, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine, mobilized their supporters to contact their senators by phone, email, and social media and urge them to oppose the amendment and succeeded in shutting it down. 

Lobbying for legislation that penalize for boycotts of Israel is one of many tactics used by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), a pro-Israel lobby group that had sponsored ten state senators to an all-expenses trip to Israel in December. The organization that was seen on the ground yesterday in Massachusetts is indicative of the strength that our coalitions have in numbers and vigilance. We sent a clear message to our state senators that we cannot and will not accept legislation that violates basic first amendment rights in our state.