Letter Against HB 1378

We write with alarm in response to H.B. 1378, which would require the blacklisting of those who engage in boycotts and divestment as a non-violent means of pressuring Israel to end its almost 50 year-old occupation of the West Bank. This bill would require public pension funds to sell their holdings in any company that takes a stance against an illegal and immoral occupation.

Indiana’s attempt to slow the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement will impose a cost upon taxpayers, public employees, religious groups and the movement for peace in the Middle East. Many faith groups and others have debated and implemented boycotts in response to the call from Palestinian civil society. BDS – a nonviolent resistance to a military occupation, is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Jewish: it is the essence of free speech and it offers a path to peace where violence has failed.

The BDS movement is based upon universal human rights, and is specifically opposed to racism in all of its forms, including anti-Semitism. The supporters of BDS are varied: Nobel Peace Prize laureates, faith groups including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Máiread Maguire, the Baptist and Episcopal Peace Fellowships, Quakers, the Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church have all debated and affirmed some or all parts of the BDS call.

Many Jewish organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace, American Jews for a Just Peace, Gush Shalom, the New Israel Fund, the Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, and others, support various forms of BDS, including, at the very least, the boycott of products made in illegal settlements “beyond the internationally recognized Green Line.” These Jewish groups make it very clear that boycotting settlements is neither anti-Israel nor anti-Jewish.

The BDS movement is the latest in a long and rich tradition of using boycotts in support of human rights struggles, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, United Farm Workers' grape and lettuce boycott, divestment from South Africa to protest Apartheid, boycotts of corporations using sweatshops, and others. Members of the American Anthropological Association make the case clear:

The BDS movement is a call for justice by all sectors of Palestinian civil society and supported around the world by unions, churches, civil society and human rights groups. BDS is a form of non-violent popular resistance and international solidarity in protest against Israel's persistent violation of Palestinian human rights and international law. Israel has maintained an illegal siege on the Gaza Strip for seven years, severely restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory.  Palestinians are also being dispossessed of their lands and livelihoods throughout the West Bank, where Israel’s separation barrier curtails Palestinian freedom of movement and education. These and other ongoing violations will continue unless people around the world act where their governments have failed.

Given that decades of interaction, cooperation and collaboration with Israeli institutions have not produced mutual understanding or stopped the military occupation and its violations, we believe this boycott is the only non-violent form of pressure that could persuade Israelis to call for – and act for – meaningful change that could lead to a just peace.

Because the General Assembly has domestic matters to focus upon; because BDS is a peaceful, non-violent, and non-racist movement; because Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is illegal; because businesses should be free to do, or not do, business with whom they please; because boycotts are protected by the First Amendment; and because blacklists are dangerous and undemocratic, we urge the Indiana Senate Committee on Commerce & Technology, all Indiana legislators, and Governor Pence to reject HB 1378.