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CAIR Calls on Md. Secretary of State to Withdraw ‘Baseless and Unconstitutional’ Threat to Punish Ben & Jerry’s for Ending Sales in Occupied Palestinian Territory

(BALTIMORE, MD, 8/5/2021) – The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today called on Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith to immediately withdraw his “baseless and unconstitutional” threat to take state action against Ben & Jerry’s in response to the company’s recent announcement that it would halt business operations in illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

SEE: Md. to review state contracts with Ben & Jerry’s over Israeli boycott  

https://wtop.com/maryland/2021/08/md-to-review-state-contracts-with-ben-jerrys-over-israeli-boycott/

Ben & Jerry’s Will End Sales of Our Ice Cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory  

https://www.benjerry.com/about-us/media-center/palestine-statement

CAIR’s letter to Wobensmith states in part:  

“CAIR is deeply concerned and alarmed by your recent statement that Maryland is reviewing state contracts with Ben & Jerry’s over its decision to no longer sell its products in Palestinian Territories that are internationally recognized to be illegally occupied by the state of Israel. Our government should not be in the business of unconstitutionally punishing any companies or persons for boycotting foreign governments including Israel, which has been accused by respected human rights groups of committing crimes of apartheid. We urge you to reconsider your decision.

Mr. Jeremy Ben Ami, the president of J Street, a prominent Jewish organization, recently wrote in part on Ben & Jerry’s decision: ‘My fondest hope is that Israel will be a secure, just, democratic national home for the Jewish people, something it can never be if it permanently holds the territory it occupied in 1967 without providing the people who live there with full and equal rights. So when Ben & Jerry’s says it wants to sell ice cream in Israel but not in the settlements, that seems — to me — a rational and principled, even pro-Israel, position.’  

In fact, Ben & Jerry’s has explicitly stated that it is not boycotting Israel. While it is pulling out of illegal settlements, it will continue to sell its products in Israel. Even if Maryland’s anti-boycott executive order were constitutional, and it clearly is not, the order would not apply in this situation because Ben & Jerry’s is not actually boycotting Israel.”   

READ THE FULL LETTER: https://www.cair.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/MDSOSLetter.pdf 

“The Secretary of State should be focused on things that are more important than ice cream,” said CAIR attorney Gadeir Abbas. “The fact that Mr. Wobensmith is not underscores the folly of these illegal anti-BDS laws.”

In 2019, CAIR launched a legal challenge to Maryland’s anti-BDS executive order on behalf of a former Maryland lawmaker Syed Saqib Ali, stating that it is a violation of the First and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.   

[NOTE: BDS refers to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in support of Palestinian human rights.]  

SEE: CAIR Says Maryland Governor’s Anti-BDS Order Violates First, 14th Amendments   

Lawsuit: Maryland’s anti-BDS law ‘chills’ free speech   

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/1/10/lawsuit-marylands-anti-bds-law-chills-free-speech

“Our government should not be in the business of chilling free speech by punishing companies that choose to take principled positions on human rights issues,” said CAIR’s Maryland Director Zainab Chaudry. “The U.S. Constitution is the law of our land. The rights it guarantees must be preserved and upheld against the racist and illegal policies of foreign governments – including Israel.”   

At least 26 states have passed unconstitutional anti-BDS measures requiring entities to sign loyalty oaths to Israel before they can be eligible to contract with the state. 

CAIR has filed numerous lawsuits challenging these executive orders. In the past, CAIR, ACLU of Maryland and Freedom to Boycott, Maryland Chapter published a joint opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun urging Governor Hogan to rescind the unconstitutional order in its entirety.

SEE: Md. lawsuit: Punishing companies for boycotting Israel violates First Amendment rights  

https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-op-0123-bds-lawsuits-20190122-story.html

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen has criticized the Maryland anti-BDS executive order on the Senate floor.   

CAIR’s mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.          

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.

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END                  

CONTACT: CAIR Office in Maryland Director  Zainab Chaudry, zchaudry@cair.com, 410-971-6062; CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 720-251-0425, gabbas@cair.com; Attorney Lauren Scholnick, 801-359-4169, ext. 315, lauren@utahjobjustice.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, ihooper@cair.com.  

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