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Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions

Robert Franklin

Posted on March 12, 2019 17:10

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Last week, I wrote about the hypocrisy at the center of the reaction to comments about AIPAC made by Rep. Ilhan Omar. This week, a story from Arkansas involving a journalist's ethics at odds with an AIPAC-infuenced state law shows that Rep. Omar's statements, while rebuked by the House, are accurate.

Last week, I examined the bipartisan backlash directed at Rep. Ilhan Omar, the freshman Congresswoman who, in breach of common Congressional practice, demonstrated she had the stones to question the "pathological, even politically limerent" relationship between the United States and Israeli governments. After publication, House Democrats publicly rebuked Omar's comments (without actually rebuking her), and now seem like they are ready to just move on from all of this, which, for a multitude of reasons, is impossible.

Why can't Democrats, and the American people at large, move on from Rep. Omar's comments? Because she's right, and a controversy swelling in Arkansas perfectly paints that portrait.

Arkansas is one of 28 states that have laws requiring state contractors pledge not to participate in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement. These "anti-BDS" laws have been largely passed in conservative states by Republican legislatures, in conjunction with efforts by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and are in response to consumer boycotts of Israeli goods to punish the country for its treatment of Palestinians.

Many consider the boycott "anti-Semitic," which puts the backlash against Rep. Omar in perspective.

The controversy involves a man named Alan Leveritt, owner and publisher of the Arkansas Times, an alternative paper in the state's capitol of Little Rock. Leveritt has not only refused to sign the pledge, but he's also suing the state. Leveritt and the Arkansas Times are caught in the same maelstrom currently affecting print journalism, and like most papers, rely on advertising to weather the storm. Even though the paper has never taken an editorial position on Israel or the boycotts, Arkansas' law is causing harm to his paper.

Last Fall, the University of Arkansas started enforcing the law. The school system told Leveritt that they would pull all school advertising from the paper until they pledge the "anti-BDS" law. This ultimatum put Leveritt in an awkward position, torn between keeping the Arkansas Times afloat or compromising his beliefs.

Backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Leveritt's lawsuit is in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, having been thrown out by an Arkansas federal judge who said boycotts are not protected speech.

This is the nefariousness Rep. Omar was referencing when she used AIPAC as an example of an unchecked political influencer. There are 28 U.S. states that require people to choose between their businesses and their ethics, effectively forcing employees to take a political position held by the state in exchange for their own livelihood.

I don't know what the outcome of Leveritt's lawsuit will be, but whatever it is, I think it's an important one to follow. As I said last week, the relationship between the United States and Israel is long-overdue to be re-examined. Israel is, in many ways, the extreme aggressor in its conflict with the Palestinians. Even though we've done it historically, the time has come for the United States to stop supporting the extreme aggressor for our own good, as well as theirs.

Robert Franklin

Posted on March 12, 2019 17:10

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