On June 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released an executive order that requires the New York State Office of General Services to create a blacklist of institutions and companies involved in the BDS (boycott, divest, and sanctions) movement against Israeli occupation, “using credible information available to the public” and make that list available to everyone online. All state agencies will then be required to divest from companies on this blacklist.
This proclamation came as a surprise to the general population who were unaware of this decision. The creation of a blacklist to denounce companies or organizations who dare to stand with the Palestinian people who are fighting for their human rights and dignity is just another part of the repression of the left. Just as Black Lives Matter activist Jasmine Richards was recently arrested and convicted for 90 days in prison for the ludicrous charge of “lynching,” the state continues its campaign to find ways to tamper the growing fightback movement against racism and its cousin imperialism.
In fact, Cuomo creating a blacklist of individuals banned from working for the government due to their political views is reminiscence of the McCarthy era. During the McCarthy era, leftists, communists, and progressives lived in fear and many had to retreat into deep freeze to avoid the burning repression of the state.
It is no coincidence that Cuomo has chosen this moment to act out against the growing movement for Palestine. As the public becomes more aware of the atrocities that Israel has committed against the Palestinian people, the BDS movement has become more popular in mainstream consciousness. Recently on June 7, the American Anthropological Society voted on a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions for their “complicity in planning, implementing, justifying and whitewashing Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid,” as the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel commented at the time. The vote was narrowly defeated by a mere 39 votes, but the result shows the rising tide of support for Palestine. It was only last year that the United Methodist Church also cast a vote to boycott Israel.
Omar Barghouti, a BDS founder, told the New York Times that Cuomo’s order is in reaction to decreasing popular support for the Israeli occupation.
“Having lost many battles for hearts and minds at the grassroots level, Israel has adopted since 2014 a new strategy to criminalize support for BDS, from the top,” Barghouti wrote in an email.
In 2014, the bombings of Gaza reignited the Palestinian solidarity movement in the United States. Protests ran in the tens of thousands, with 50,000 people marching on the White House in support of Palestine just eight days before Michael Brown was murdered by police. The Ferguson uprising and the solidarity that formed between the Black and Palestinian communities brought the issue of Palestine to the forefront. Activists and organizers in the Black Lives Matter movement continue to wear keffiyehs and many have even traveled to Palestine to organize and learn alongside one another. Palestinians have tweeted halfway across the world to give advice to protesters in Ferguson and Baltimore the best remedies for tear gas. The current political moment in which we live is steeped in this changing tide of consciousness, growing solidarity and connection.
Beyond Cuomo’s executive order are a plethora other states who have also banned affiliations with companies, organizations, and individuals that support the BDS movement. State legislatures in California, New York, Indiana, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida are debating anti-boycott measures. As the BDS movement grows in popularity so do states’ attempt to squash its success.
It is within this political moment that Cuomo and the ruling class see the need to pass an executive order to protect the United States and Israel’s imperialist domination. Historically, the boycott movement succeeded in places like South Africa. The global movement, in combination with the intense struggle waged by the freedom fighters of the African National Congress, overthrew the Apartheid regime and the colonial domination of the British. As the public denouncement of Israel grows, so does the grip of the imperialist state.
This is not a moment to fear, but a moment to recognize the strength that the movement has gathered. It is a moment to continue to support the freedom of Palestine and to support the BDS movement. We must stand in solidarity with Palestine and fight back against the McCarthyist fear mongering. The state is trying to intimidate those who stand with Palestine, but history will show that Cuomo, like many of his peers, stand on the shoulders of the racists and bigots who defended Apartheid and were ultimately defeated by the will of the people.