For years we have discussed efforts by states to exclude individuals, groups and companies from state contracts if they support the boycott, divestiture and sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel. Other western nations have also chosen to label BDS as “hate speech”. I previously spoke out against laws such as unconstitutional and an attack on freedom of expression. I don’t support the BDS movement, but I believe that it is a form of political speech that should be protected. That is why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s move this week is alarming. He has stated that all nonprofit groups that support BDS will be excluded from government funding.The U.S. State Department has previously targeted BDS supporters, but this is the first time that any contract or grant has been banned. In Jerusalem next to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pompeo denounced called the BDS movement “cancer”, stating, “We will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS behaviors and withdraw US government support for such groups.” Pompeo added
“To advance this policy, I have directed the Special Envoy’s Office to monitor and combat anti-Semitism in order to identify organizations that are participating in or otherwise supporting the global BDS campaign. The United States urges governments around the world to take appropriate steps to ensure that its funds are not made available, directly or indirectly, to organizations involved in anti-Semitic BDS activities. “
It is one thing for the United States to oppose the BDS movement as a policy, including freezing funding for any program or campaign that contains a BDS component. Excluding a group or organization from contracts or benefits based on their support for BDS is a very different matter. This support can be based on a view of international law or simply on conditions in the Palestinian territories. There are political, religious and social considerations that can favor or reject the movement.
The move by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is all too familiar to those of us who criticize the trend in Europe. We previously discussed the alarming rollback of free speech in the West, including the ever-increasing scope of anti-hate speech laws.
People in good faith cannot endorse the BDS movement. Freedom of speech enables us to discuss such issues and convince others to take our own point of view. The State Department’s guidelines should reflect our core confidence in free speech, and while the administration is free to denounce the BDS movement, it should not force or exclude those who hold a contrary view.