The nonviolence of BDS, the greatness of Ali, the tininess of Andrew Cuomo

      Mohammed Ali, the greatest and most dazzling fighter and wordsmith – me whee, float like a butterfly, sting like a… –  was one of the people who shaped a whole generation internationally.  He refused to go to Vietnam because in words echoing Elijah Mohammed, he would not kill yellow men to advance white men who enslaved black men and women and had stolen the land of red men and women.  He lost his boxing title, his passport, millions of dollars, and almost went to jail.  He was excoriated in the press and by tiny phonies – the Mafia boxer who would not say his name and paid for it in the ring, most sports “announcers,” the New York Times….

***

     His strength as a free and spiritual man, standing up against enormous odds and doing the right thing, his nonviolent refusal just as vivid as a hunger strike, gave millions of people who had been oppressed their dignity.  Nonviolence…

***  

     BDS stands out as being an international nonviolent boycott of a murderous, occupying Israeli government, armed to the teeth by the United States government and and supported by tiny, odious sycophants like Andrew Cuomo…

     When farmworkers boycott lettuce, manyof us grew up supporting them.  When the abolitionists in England wouldn’t buy sugar from the slave-owning West Indies, many thrilled to and admired them (see Adam Hochschild, Breaking the Chains for this buried history).  When workers in Montgomery particularly women, boycotted the buses led by Martin King in 1955, when we boycotted apartheid South Africa, when even Cuomo joins many in boycotting the creepy North Carolina attempt to ban transgender people from using gender-appropriate bathrooms, when Mohammed Ali stood up or Gandhi or Alice Paul had a hunger strike, everyone, everyone with a heart stood up to join them.

***

    And those who didn’t at first at last, many half a century later, understood.  Even Bill Clinton (a rare, in the end surprisingly good talk at Ali’s memorial even though he, too, is odious on the Palestinians), even Orrin Hatch…

***

    The grim Israeli government and its rich American flacks and political yo-yos like Cuomo frequently say that “Arab” violence is the worst thing in the world.  The very worst…They say it with blood of innocent Palestinians – and Somalis and Pakistanis and Libyans – dripping from their hands, as Edward Said testifies so vividly in Orientalism.   For there can be nonviolent Muslim resisters like Badshah Khan (the Pathan Gandhi) or Mohammed Ali or BDS…There can be no proponents of mass nonviolent resistance to American empire and Israeli occupation, like me and many others, who support it..No, no, fire them, bar them, boycott them, squeak the official, odious Cuomos.

***

     Now also much derided in the  corporate especially New York press, Bernie Sanders said: you can’t love and mourn Ali and hate Muslims.  In your face, Trump.  In your face, Cuomo.  Perhaps people did not quite hear Bernie’s words in the New York debate – that we are all human together.  Perhaps they do not value the Arab-Americans who stood up for the old Jew, did not hear Billy Crystal speaking as Ali’s little brother  for Ali spoke out in visiting Palestine in the 1960s against the Zionist Occupation.  As Ali’s life shows, nothing prevents those of us who nonviolently resist to the death the horrors of racist regimes from reaching out to every human being, including those who have lost their way as oppressors, who, when stopped, get a life…

***

    300 demonstrated against the tiny Cuomo’s ban in New York.  Their voices and the voices of BDS and its supporters, who range, among Jews, from Jewish Voice for Peace now well into the Democratic rank and file and the Sanders movement, will overwhelm all the small and tinny gunsels, servants of gun manufacturers, mass murderers of civilians, who provide the weapons for Israel in the Occupied Territories, as Israel, now a primarily gun manufacturing state, purveys special equipment and training for police who wantonly gun down ordinary black people.

***

     The three founders of Black Lives Matter have acted vividly on behalf of the Palestinians. Last fall in Atlanta, I and my daughter heard Patrisse Cullors speak eloquently at the meeting of the US Committee to End the Occupation…

***

   Mohammed Ali lived half his life as a god, half his life with Parkinson’s, all his life with courage.  His spirit will always be here for anyone who seeks out the truth.  Support BDS.  Support mass nonviolent resistance.

***

    Below is a fine article from Glenn Greenwald in the Intercept, rightly emphasizing Cuomo/Clinton enmity to freedom of speech, and then a report on the demonstration in New York:

Photo: Kathy Willens/AP
ONE OF THE greatest free speech threats in the 
West is the growing, multi-nation campaign literally
to outlaw advocacy of boycotting Israel. People get 
arrested in Paris — the site of the 2015 “free speech”
(for Muslim critics) rally — for wearing pro-boycott
 T-shirts. Pro-boycott students on U.S. campuses —
where the 1980s boycott of apartheid South Africa
flourished — are routinely sanctioned for violating
anti-discrimination policies. Canadian officials have
threatened to criminally prosecute boycott advocates.
British government bodies have legally barred certain
types of boycott advocacy. Israel itself has outright 
criminalized advocacy of such boycotts. Notably,
all of this has been undertaken with barely a peep
from those who styled themselves free speech
crusaders when it came time to defend anti-Muslim
cartoons.
But now, New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo
(above, in the 2016 Celebrate Israel Parade) has
significantly escalated this free speech attack on
U.S. soil, aimed at U.S. citizens. The prince of the
New York political dynasty yesterday issued an e
xecutive order directing all agencies under his
control to terminate any and all business with
companies or organizations that support a
boycott of Israel. It ensures that citizens who
hold and express a particular view are punished
through the denial of benefits that other citizens
enjoy: a classic free speech violation (imagine
if Cuomo issued an order stating that “anyone
who expresses conservative viewpoints shall
have all state benefits immediately terminated”).
Even more disturbing, Cuomo’s executive order
requires that one of his commissioners compile
“a list of institutions and companies” that —
“either directly or through a parent or subsidiary”
— support a boycott. That government list is then
posted publicly, and the burden falls on them to
prove to the state that they do not, in fact,
support such a boycott. Donna Lieberman,
executive director of the New York Civil Liberties
Union, told The Intercept: “Whenever the government
creates a blacklist based on political views it raises
 serious First Amendment concerns and this is no
exception.” Reason’s Robby Soave denounced it
today as “brazenly autocratic.”
To read the relevant provisions of Cuomo’s order
is to confront the mentality of petty censoring
tyranny, flavored with McCarthyite public
shaming, in its purest form. See for yourself:
Making matters worse still is the imperious nature of
Cuomo’s order. As Salon’s Ben Norton noted, “The
New York legislature has unsuccessfully tried to 
push through anti-boycott legislation for months.”
So instead, Cuomo just unilaterally decreed this
punishment of boycott advocates.
New York’s Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer
wasted no time, now demanding a federal 
statute that tracks Cuomo’s order. Hillary
Clinton, last July, wrote a public letter to her
(and the Democratic Party’s) billionaire
supporter, self-described Israel 
fanatic Haim Saban, endorsing 
the core principle of this censorship 
effort — that boycotting Israel is 
a form of anti-Semitism — and 
did so again in her March speech 
before AIPAC. Numerous 
Republicans support similar measures.
Beyond the McCarthyism and profound free
speech threat, the stench of hypocrisy of
 Cuomo and Democrats is suffocating. Just
over two months ago, Cuomo banned state
officials from traveling to North Carolina
in order to support the boycott against that 
American state in protest over its a
nti-transgender law. That pro-boycott
 executive order from Cuomo began by
 proclaiming that “New York state is a
national leader in protecting the civil rights
and liberties of all of its citizens” and thus
barred “publicly funded travel” to North Carolina.
But in justifying this punishment for Israel
critics, Cuomo’s counsel told the New York 
Times: “It’s one thing to say I want to engage
in political speech. It’s another thing to say
I’m going to sanction you or penalize you for
engaging in commercial activity.” But that —
“I’m going to sanction you or penalize you
for engaging in commercial activity” — is e
xactly what Cuomo did just two months
ago by boycotting North Carolina. Think a
bout how warped that is: To the governor
 of New York, it’s not only permissible but
noble to boycott an American state, but
it’s immoral and worthy of punishment to
boycott Israel, a foreign country guilty o
f a decadeslong brutal and illegal
occupation. Questions submitted by
The Intercept to Cuomo were not
answered as of publication.
More ironic still is that Cuomo, in
imposing a boycott of North 
Carolina, said he was doing so 
because in “a free society the 
equal rights of all citizens … 
must be protected and cherished” 
— exactly the principle that the 
boycott of Israel is seeking to 
fulfill by ending oppression 
and discrimination against 
Palestinians. But even if you 
disagree with the Israel boycott 
itself, no rational person should
want Andrew Cuomo and other 
elected officials to have the power 
to dictate which political views are 
acceptable and which ones result 
in denial of state benefits.
The free speech hypocrisy on the part
of all sorts of people here is obvious.
In 2012, conservatives were furious 
when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel 
announced that he would block the 
restaurant chain Chick-fil-A from 
expanding in the city as punishment 
for its owner’s anti-gay activism, 
depicting this move as a grave threat 
to free speech (a position we shared). 
Throughout 2015, pundits such as 
New York’s Jonathan Chait wrapped 
themselves in the free speech flag 
when it came time to defend racist 
and anti-gay speech on campus, 
insisting that all forms of speech, 
even “hate speech,” should be 
protected (positions we also share).
Yet now, a systematic, international
campaign — fully bipartisan in the U.S.
— is being implemented to abuse
state resources and the force of law
for a full-frontal assault on free
speech and free assembly rights,
and virtually none of them is objecting
 because it’s all in service of protecting
Israel from criticism. It’s bizarre enough
that someone gets elected as governor
of New York and then believes it’s part
of his job to shield Israel from
criticism. That he does so by
assaulting the free speech rights of
citizens of his own country — just
weeks after imposing a boycott on
another American state — tells you
all you need to know about the role
Israel continues to play in American
discourse and the willingness of people
to stomp on free speech principles
the moment doing so benefits
their political goals.
***
FRIDAY, JUN 10, 2016 

“Shame on Cuomo”: New Yorkers protest “McCarthyite” blacklist of supporters of Israel boycott movement BDS 

Over 300 people protested outside NY Gov. Cuomo’s office, demanding he rescind “unconstitutional” executive order 

"Shame on Cuomo": New Yorkers protest "McCarthyite" blacklist of supporters of Israel boycott movement BDSA protester at a demonstration against New York Gov. Cuomo’s anti-BDS executive order, in New York City on June 9, 2016 (Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace/Jake Ratner)
Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered outside the office of
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, protesting
a new pro-Israel policy that legal groups warn is 
“McCarthyite” and unconstitutional.
Cuomo signed an executive order this weekend that
punishes institutions and companies that support a
boycott of Israel on behalf of Palestinian human rights.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said the
executive order establishes a discriminatory “blacklist”
that “raises serious First Amendment concerns.”
Baher Azmy, legal director at the Center for
Constitutional Rights, called the new policy
“plainly unconstitutional in its McCarthyist vision.”
More than 300 protesters joined the demonstration
on Thursday, calling on Gov. Cuomo to rescind the
executive order.
Jewish Voice for Peace, a social justice group that
co-organized the protest, blasted Cuomo’s executive
order as an unconstitutional “attempt to repress the
growing movement for Palestinian rights.”
“The overwhelming turnout for this protest speaks
 to the fact that our political leadership is
increasingly out of touch with its constituents,”
Beth Miller, an activist with the New York City
chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, or JVP, told Salon.
“The sidewalks and streets were packed with
hundreds of people, standing literally toe-to-toe,
to send the clear message that we refuse to be silenced,” 
she added.
“Gov. Cuomo’s executive order does not change the fact
that it is our constitutional right to boycott, and it does
not change the fact that it is right to boycott Israel until
it respects and upholds Palestinian rights,” Miller stressed.
A dense crowd of protesters lined downtown
Manhattan’s 3rd Ave. on Thursday evening.
(Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace/Jake Ratner)

(Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace/Jake Ratner)
They carried an array of signs and banners. Many
expressed solidarity with past struggles.
One man held a sign that read, “Boycott worked in
Montgomery and South Africa, and it will work in
occupied Palestine.” Montgomery refers to a city
in Alabama where a 1955 bus boycott helped
kick off the civil rights movement.
(Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace/Jake Ratner)

(Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace/Jake Ratner)
JVP stresses that the “Palestinian-led civil society BDS
movement is modeled on the global campaign that
helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.”
BDS refers to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions,
an international grassroots movement that promotes
nonviolent economic means to pressure Israel to
comply with international law and cease its violations
of Palestinian human rights. The global campaign was
called for by Palestinian civil society in 2005.
Many veteran leaders in the struggle against U.S.- and 
Israel-backed apartheid in South Africa have endorsed BDS.
“The signs we held and messages we wanted
to convey — such as ‘We will continue to boycott
 for justice until Palestinian refugees can return
to their homes and land’ — reflect the many
ways Israel is violating basic principles of
human rights and international law,” said Donna
Nevel, an activist with Jews Say No!, another
group that helped organize the demonstration.
These are “the reasons that the BDS movement
is so critical,” Nevel told Salon, stressing that BDS
can help pressure Israel to change its illegal policies.
Gov. Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 157 declares
that “the State of New York will not permit its own
investment activity to further the BDS campaign in
any way, shape or form, whether directly or indirectly.”
The new order, in its own language, establishes “a list
of institutions and companies that… participate in
boycott, divestment, or sanctions activity targeting
Israel, either directly or through a parent or subsidiary.”
Cuomo summarized the new policy: “If you
boycott Israel, New York will boycott you.”
JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson
published an op-ed in The New York Daily News on
Thursday warning that Cuomo’s executive order will
“set a dangerous and likely unconstitutional precedent
for governments to deny groups financial opportunities
and benefits because of their exercise of
First Amendment-protected political speech.”
“When a chief executive unilaterally signs an executive order
 declaring that the state blacklist and divest from companies
and organizations with a particular political view, we
usually call that state repression,” she said.
At the protest outside Gov. Cuomo’s office, activists
articulated many of the important reasons that a boycott
is necessary. They carried a large banner that read
“We will continue to boycott for justice until…”, which
was accompanied by smaller signs that listed
reasons for boycotting Israel.
Some of these reasons included: “until Israel respects
Palestinian human rights,” “until the brutal occupation of
Palestine ends,” “until Israel stops demolishing
Palestinian homes,” “until Israel absolishes segregated
schools,” “until Palestinian refugees can return home,”
“until the siege of Gaza ends” and “until Palestinians
have freedom.”
(Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace/Jake Ratner)

(Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace/Jake Ratner)
“Despite being planned at a very short notice, the protest
had a robust turnout and a powerful presence by hundreds
of outraged human rights advocates,” said Hani Ghazi,
a member of Adalah-NY, the New York Campaign for the
Boycott of Israel, the third group that co-organized the demonstration.
Ghazi, a Palestinian American activist, told Salon, “We
expect the governor to be democratic and to protect our
right to free speech and to practice honorable and
nonviolent activism.”
“We expect him to side with his constituents,
the people of New York, and not with wealthy
corporations that profit from, and institutions
that comply with, Israel’s human rights abuses,
international law violations and other apartheid
policies,” he added.
One protester even donned an enormous
papier-mache head that looked like Cuomo’s.
For months, the New York legislature
unsuccessfully tried to pass anti-boycott 
legislation. Cuomo circumvented this legal
process completely on Sunday, June 5, signing
the surprise executive order.
Dima Khalidi, the founder and director of nonprofit
 legal advocacy organization Palestine Legal and a
cooperating counsel with the Center for Constitutional
Rights, blasted Cuomo’s executive action.
“Gov. Cuomo can’t wish away the First Amendment
with an executive order,” she told Salon on Monday.
“It’s clear that Cuomo is bypassing the legislative
process in order to muzzle morally-driven positions
protesting systemically discriminatory state policies
and a military occupation that is 49 years old this week.”
“As with the constitutionally faulty legislation that was
pending in Albany, this Executive Order may not infringe —
directly or indirectly — on the rights of New Yorkers to
engage in constitutionally protected boycotts to effect
economic, political or social change,” she added.
Palestine Legal issued a statement calling the
executive order “a blatantly unconstitutional attack
on freedom of speech [that] establishes a dangerous
 precedent reminiscent of McCarthyism.”
Riham Barghouti, another activist with Adalah-NY,
accused Cuomo of acting undemocratically in order to
implement an unpopular pro-Israel policy.
“Like other politicians, Gov. Cuomo is finding that blind
support of the Israeli apartheid state requires repressive,
undemocratic measures,” Barghouti said. “He is
attempting to silence the growing number of
morally conscientious individuals and organizations that
 support freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians.”
“We, along with our allies, demand that Gov. Cuomo
rescind this order punishing supporters of Palestinian
rights and BDS,” she added.
(Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace/Jake Ratner)

(Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace/Jake Ratner)
Anti-boycott legislation has been introduced in more
than 20 states throughout the U.S. Bills that are likely
unconstitutional have been passed in nine states.
Sen. Chuck Schumer heaped praise on Cuomo for
his executive order. The New York senator said
he is “looking at introducing a federal law to do
the same thing” across the country.
Activists say Thursday’s protest was the first action
in a new campaign to pressure the governor to
repeal the order.
“This is a new low for the state-sanctioned
backlash against the movement for Palestinian
human rights,” Nic Abramson, an activist with
Jews Say No!, said in a statement.
Abramson emphasized that the Palestinian
solidarity movement “is growing and strengthening daily.”
JVP stands by the BDS movement. Vilkomerson,
the executive director, defended BDS in Salon in
February, warning that she and her organization
were on the verge of being blacklisted.
“We act in solidarity with the Palestinian call for i
nternational grassroots pressure on Israel until it
complies with international law and ends its
ongoing repression of Palestinian rights,” explained
JVP activist Gabrielle Spears in a statement.
She emphasized, “We will continue to boycott
Israel until Palestinian children can live without
fear of imprisonment and torture, until there are
no longer separate roadways for Israeli Jews
and Palestinians, until Israel stops bombing
and killing Palestinians, and until the
checkpoints and apartheid wall are dismantled.”

Ben Norton is a politics staff writer at Salon.
You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *