Maryland General Assembly
Procurement and Pensions – State Sanctions – Discriminatory Boycott of Israel
Council on American-Islamic Relations
453 New Jersey Ave SE
Washington, D.C. 20003
To: Chair and members of the Budget & Taxation Committee; and Chair and members of the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee
On behalf of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, I thank you for this opportunity to testify in opposition to SB 739/HB 949. Our organization is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization, and we would like to add our voices to thoseopposing this legislation.
We are disturbed by this bill that would effectively prohibit the State of Maryland or any “public body” from entering into or renewing a contract with individuals, organizations, corporations, or entities that support a boycott of Israel, and that would also require the state of Maryland to create and publish a list of individuals or organizations that participate in or endorse such a boycott.
Our organization has recently heard from students, educators, and professionals who are deeply concerned that such a bill would undermine their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and free speech. The BDS movement is a non-violent form of political protest, supported by millions in America and around the world. It follows the time-honored tradition of employing boycotts for advancing social justice and human rights.
We reject assertions that the notion of such a boycott is anti-Semitic. BDS advocates articulate their concerns around the policies of the State of Israel, not the Jewish people. Allegations like this that aim to silence and undermine resistance to Israel’s unlawful policies must be viewed in the broader context of the extensive, unjust human rights violations targeting Palestinians that are largely ignored by the international community.
Citizens, organizations, and entities have the internationally recognized right to engage in alternative means for advocacy and justice for oppressed peoples living under occupation. These rights must be protected. Our organization underscores the universality of human rights, including the right to participate in peaceful activities to oppose the systematic dehumanization and stripping away basic, fundamental freedoms of the Palestinian people.
Bills like SB 739/HB 949 are explicitly designed to silence and punish perspectives critical of the state of Israel. They prioritize foreign governments’ interests and violate Marylanders’ constitutionally protect rights.
The law and history are both on our side as legal precedent establishes boycott as a protected form of expression, and prohibits states and lawmakers from discriminating in the allocation of public funding based on one’s political stance on this issue.
We join with a broad-based coalition of organizations who all see this bill as a credible threat to free speech and expression in our state. Instead of stifling debate and chilling free speech, the power of the government must be used to protect citizens’ rights and uphold the Constitution. Therefore, we respectfully and strongly urge you to oppose SB 739 and HB 949.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Dr. Zainab Chaudry, Pharm.D.
Maryland Outreach Manager, CAIR
Council on American-Islamic Relations
C: (410) 971-6062 | O: (202) 741-9884
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