61 Groups Defend Right to Boycott in Massachusetts

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The Massachusetts Freedom to Boycott Coalition hand delivered an open letter yesterday to each member of the state’s House of Representatives. The letter, signed by 61 organizations including the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Defending Dissent Foundation, reminds the legislature that the Supreme Court has upheld the right to boycott, and cautions against passing legislation that would harm that right.

The Coalition rapidly came together in response to a report that a new ‘anti BDS’ bill was being drafted, and inlcudes religious organizations, solidarity, peace and justice groups, academics and advocates for human rights, housing, criminal justice reform, corporate accountability, environmental issues, anti-racism, LGBTQ rights and civil liberties groups.

They see this effort to proscribe the kind of non-violent boycott movement that played such a fundamental role in the US Civil Rights Movement and the struggle against the South African Apartheid system as not just potentially unconstitutional, but inherently undemocratic.

An Open Letter to the Massachusetts State House

From the Massachusetts Freedom to Boycott Coalition

“Non violence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding…It is a sword that heals.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘Why We Can’t Wait,’ 1963

The Massachusetts Freedom to Boycott Coalition asks the Massachusetts legislature to heed Dr. King’s words as they consider upcoming anti-boycott legislation.  While the bill’s text is not yet available, its intention is similar to that of dozens of other anti-boycott bills introduced into state legislatures across the country: to curb Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a peaceful and legitimate strategy for leveraging consumer and constituent power to persuade Israel to comply with international law and to respect Palestinian human rights.

The US Supreme Court ruled in 1982 in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. that boycotts intended to effect political, social or economic change are protected by the First Amendment.  Such boycotts have been essential tools in US movements for civil rights, labor, the environment, and the struggle against South African Apartheid. As grassroots groups building stronger Massachusetts communities, we are concerned that anti-boycott legislation is not only an unconstitutional violation of free speech, but a threat to our right to organize.

We urge Massachusetts lawmakers to respect constituents who – like growing numbers of Americans across the country – recognize the capacity of boycotts to bring about positive change in Palestine/Israel and the rest of the world as it is forged into Dr. King’s healing sword.

Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia

American Friends Service Committee – Cambridge

Arlington Street Church – Social Action Committee

Better Future Project

Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Black and Pink

Boston Alliance for Water Justice

Boston Climate Action Network

Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights

Boston University Students for Justice in Palestine

Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine

Cambridge to Bethlehem People to People Project

Cambridge United for Justice with Peace

City Life/Vida Urbana

Code Pink – Greater Boston

Code Pink – Western Massachusetts

Corporate Accountability International

Defending Dissent Foundation

Dorchester People for Peace

Executive Board & Members of United Steelworkers of America Local 8751

Faculty & Staff for Justice in Palestine at UMass Boston

Families for Justice as Healing

First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain

Friends of Sabeel – New England

Grassroots International

Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine

Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee

Intelligent Mischief

Islamic Society of Northeastern University

Jewish Voice for Peace – Boston

Jewish Voice for Peace – Western Massachusetts

Jewish Women for Justice in Israel/Palestine

Justice for Palestine at Harvard Law School

Kairos/Franklin County Justice for Palestine

Make Shift Boston

Massachusetts Global Action/Encuentro 5

Massachusetts Peace Action

Muslim Justice League

National Lawyers Guild – Massachusetts Chapter

No More Guantanamos

North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice

Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine


Palestine Advocacy Project

Palestine Israel Task Team of First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, UCC

Peace & Justice Committee of First Church in Bedford, MA Unitarian-Universalist

Project Voice, American Friends Service Committee, Massachusetts

Showing Up for Racial Justice

St. Francis and St. Theresa Catholic Worker of Worcester

Tree of Life Educational Fund

Tufts Jewish Voice for Peace

Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine

UMass Amherst Students for Justice in Palestine

United American Indians of New England

United for Justice with Peace

UUs for Justice in the Mid-East MA

Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment

Wellesley College Students for Justice in Palestine

Western Massachusetts Coalition for Palestine

Western Massachusetts Labor for Palestine

Youth Against Mass Incarceration