October 24, NYC: The Assault on the Right to Boycott

Wednesday, October 24
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Kimmel Center 802
New York University

J. Kehaulani Kauanui (Wesleyan), Maria LaHood (Center for Constitutional Rights), Jasbir Puar (Rutgers), Radihika Sainath (Palestine Legal), Lisa Duggan (NYU), and moderator Andrew Ross (NYU).

The right to boycott has a long and significant history among American dissidents. It is exercised today by advocates of the BDS boycott against Israeli institutions complicit with the oppression of Palestinians. In recent years, a vigorous attack campaign–in the form of right-wing lawfare–has been launched in retaliation against boycott resolutions and their proponents. Frivolous lawsuits filed by Zionist plaintiffs, including Kenneth Marcus of the Trump administration, and the Louis Brandeis Center, have targeted pro-BDS groups and individuals in a cynical, but well-funded, effort to intimidate and silence anyone who speaks up for Palestinians.

These assaults on First Amendment rights and scholars of conscience also take the form of public defamation, and threats to the job security and personal safety of critics of Israeli policies. For example, the anonymous, online blacklist Canary Mission has attempted to smear as racist or anti-Semitic more than 1,500 students and faculty members for their support of Palestinian human rights. Others have been victims of vicious online and live campaigns accusing them of being anti-Semitic or antiAmerican, and some have lost their jobs or had their courses cancelled for their criticism of Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid.

So, too, several state legislatures have passed unconstitutional bills that single out BDS activities for censure. In New York State, lawmakers were unable to muster the votes necessary, and so Governor Cuomo signed an executive act that withdrew funding for public universities and institutions that hosted such activities.

These attacks appear to overlap in significant ways with the crackdown on immigrants, refugees, and Black Lives that is fuelled by Islamophobia and white supremacist sentiment. Yet a resistance movement (including Movement for Black Lives, New Sanctuary, and BDS) is growing to combat these multiple assaults on vulnerable populations, dissidents, and essential freedoms. This panel features speakers who have been targeted (especially through the legal assaults on the American Studies Association for passing a pro-BDS resolution) and who have also taken a strong stand in defense of the right to boycott.

SPONSORS: American Studies Program, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, NYU Sanctuary, Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU, Democratic Socialists of America, Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, Black Student Union, NYU Dream Team, Asian American Political Activism Coalition, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis

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