Maryland has no business chilling free speech to support foreign governments’ human rights violations

Zainab Chaudry – January 3, 2019
What do certain auto part suppliers, contractors and barbers in Maryland all have in common?

In order to bid for procurement contracts with the State to provide services or goods, they must effectively first pledge loyalty to Israel.
If this doesn’t concern you, it should.
Governor Hogan’s executive order requires businesses with state contracts to promise they will not boycott the state of Israel.
It targets the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – a global campaign that promotes peaceful, economic boycott to protest Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians.
And it is unethical, unconstitutional and downright dangerous – especially because it prioritizes the interests of a foreign government that is in violation of international law above Marylanders’ own First Amendment rights.
After it was signed, two proponents of Governor Hogan’s anti-BDS executive order, Delegates Sandy Rosenberg and Shelley Hettleman, hailed it as an emphatic affirmation of Maryland’s “commitment to support the only real democracy in the Middle East” – meaning Israel.
What they and others don’t realize or choose to acknowledge is that in 2018, the Israeli parliament voted to pass a controversial “nation-state” bill that debunks the notion that Israel is a democratic state.
This bill reserves the right to exercise national self-determination in Israel exclusively to the Jewish people; establishes Hebrew as Israel’s official language, regaling Arabic to a “special status”; designates “Jewish settlement” as a national value; and mandates Jewish settlement to be actively encouraged and promoted by the state.
Religious pluralism is a hallmark characteristic of any democracy. Imagine a U.S. law mandating only one faith community as being entitled to the right to self-determination in the United States. Every American who values freedom of religion would categorically reject it.
Palestinians make up the vast majority of Arabs who comprise approximately one-fifth of Israel’s population. The “nation-state law” is described by many as a “slap in the face.”
In fact, upon learning that it had passed, Arab parliamentary members ripped up copies of the bill and shouted “APARTHEID” on the floor of the Knesset.
Who can blame them? This legislation codifies racism into law and exposes a nefarious, sinister agenda.
Its passage has sparked a fierce, heated debate over the very nature of Israel itself.
Having personally recently returned from the Holy Land where daily injustices and aggressions inflicted on both Muslim and Christian Palestinians across the region are the norm, Governor Hogan’s anti-BDS Executive Order is exceptionally difficult to digest.
For decades, Palestinians have been forced to endure dehumanization, abuse, blanket criminalization and systemic oppression with little intercession by global powers.
Their ability to secure freedom and liberation through such non-violent means of protest must be protected. Contrary to zionist allegations, advocating for basic human rights for Palestinians isn’t anti-Semitic; it is pro-humanity.
The continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine remains among the biggest obstacles to lasting peace in the region.
Irrespective of personal views on the occupation, nothing justifies requiring U.S. businesses contracting with the state to first profess loyalty to a foreign government .
The State of Maryland should never side with any nation that imposes supremacy and enforces a permanent “second-class citizen” status on its minority groups.
It compromises first amendment freedoms, sanctions unjust policies, chills free speech, and sets a dangerous precedent that jeopardizes Marylanders’ interests.
History has shown that economic boycott helps create positive change. It is a time-honored tactic that was instrumental in ridding South Africa of apartheid, and in advancing the civil rights movement in the United States.
It’s worth noting that Governor Hogan signed this EO after a similar bill that would also have forbidden the state from investing pension funds in any companies that boycott Israel, failed to pass in state legislature in 2017.
It must be reversed because it is contrary to the values of democracy, equality and pluralism, and simply has no place in our state.
Every constituent in Maryland should be concerned that any lawmaker or elected official would prioritize racist, xenophobic policies over Americans’ constitutionally protected right to peacefully express discord of any government’s unethical actions.
Special interest groups and their representatives don’t have to like it, but Israel is no exception.