Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order No. 157, directing state agencies to divest public funds from companies and organizations aligned with the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the State of Israel.
The BDS movement is a discriminatory movement that uses false, distorted, and anti-Semitic rhetoric to demonize the State of Israel and its citizens. The Qatari born (and Israeli educated) founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti has admitted that his ultimate goal for BDS is the destruction of Israel. The BDS movement is affiliated with numerous anti-Israel groups worldwide, including Hamas. Even Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has expressed opposition to the BDS movement.
Several states have been working to enact legislation to prevent government agencies from associating with the BDS movement. Gov. Cuomo’s actions make him the first governor to denounce BDS through executive action.
BDS supporters have gone hysterical and have been quick to vilify the move, describing it as both “unconstitutional” and “autocratic.” Former ridiculous Code Pink activist turned ridiculous writer for leftist tabloid Salon, Ben Norton described Gov. Cuomo’s actions as “McCarthyism.” Leftist journalist Glenn Greenwald stated that the executive order is a “classic free speech violation” because it “ensures that citizens who hold and express a particular view are punished through the denial of benefits which other citizens enjoy.”
Unfortunately for BDS supporters, their complaints don’t hold much water. The BDS movement is not under a gag order; no one is being jailed; nor is anyone being fined for voicing their opinions.
Interconnected to the freedom of speech is freedom of association. Individuals and groups (including the state) are allowed to associate with anyone without fear of reprisal. Conversely, they’re allowed to disassociate themselves from whomever they so choose. Gov. Cuomo, as chief executive of the state simply decided that agencies, which he holds authorizing authority over, should not associate with BDS.
Corporations and institutions wishing to involve themselves in this discriminatory movement can still continue to do so freely, however, there is nothing in New York State’s Constitution requiring the state to fund it.
Moreover, the state funds referred to in the Executive Order are not automatic benefits, such as a pension fund. These are business contracts between various state agencies, corporations, and non-profit institutions. These contracts are not guaranteed under any and all circumstances and there is nothing unconstitutional about the state refusing to participate and fund a private boycott.
Activists are also screaming at the idea of the state will create a list of groups who both receive government funding and support BDS. A list. You know, the way people keep track of things. The way responsible government keeps track of what public funding is going towards. Personally, if you can find another way to keep track of expenditures – any other way – I’m all ears.
The hypocrisy of the BDS supporter’s outrage is palpable. If Governor Cuomo pushed an executive order punishing institutions that support Israel, BDS sympathizers would be praising Cuomo instead of vilifying him. This is nothing more than the childish whining’s of people who are upset he divested from BDS and not Israel.
Alex VanNess is the director of the Middle East Peace and Security Project at the Center for Security Policy