The recent anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) bill introduced to the New York State Legislature, echoing similar laws passed in South Carolina and Illinois, seeks to dissuade companies from economically responding to Israeli policies, by barring the state’s pension fund from investing in companies that boycott Israeli goods. This measure recalls a similar bill introduced to the New York Legislature last year that would have suspended funding to educational institutions that funded BDS student organizations—a bill which was ultimately tossed out by the assembly on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment. Bills like these in New York and South Carolina establish a dangerous precedent: essentially, these laws enforce a pro-Israeli policy at an institutional level and give states the ability to translate this policy into punitive action. Such laws stifle free enterprise and undermine free speech, opening the door to a kind of “red scare” where any company or organization that takes a stance on the Palestinian issue can be subject to economic penalties imposed by the state. It is completely alright to, as a private citizen, speak out against or refuse to support the BDS movement. It is not, however, acceptable for a government authority to institutionalize a restriction on free speech.

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