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Queens Chronicle

Cuomo signs state BDS business ban

Forms boycotting Israel to be denied contracts under new executive order

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Posted: Thursday, June 9, 2016 10:30 am

City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) stood alongside Gov. Cuomo on Sunday as he signed his executive order divesting the State of New York from those who take part in the boycotting of Israel.

The executive order was aimed at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, an initiative that has gained popularity on many college campuses and calls for an academic, economic, and cultural boycott of Israel. Cuomo explained that there will be a list made from public information identifying companies that support BDS, and they will no longer be allowed to do business with New York State.

Lancman has voiced full support for the governor in his decision and said that it is important for Cuomo to have taken this step because the boycotting of Israeli products as a form of political action is illegitimate and immoral.

“Why boycott Israel out of all the countries in the Middle East?” Lancman asked. “If you researched human rights violations according to country, Israel would be last on the list. That is obviously anti-Semitic and boycotts against Israel and Jews are illegal.”

Lancman said that the order will cut off business ties between the state and any company engaging in the BDS movement. He used the example of a concrete salesman who refuses to sell to Israel, saying if New York were made aware of his boycotting of Israel, he would lose contracts he had with the state.

Lancman addressed concerns that pro-Palestinian groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP, have voiced about the state silencing their opinions by arguing that BDS is silencing and harming Israel and its supporters.

“I think it’s deliciously hilarious that people who are blacklisting Israel and Israel supporters and silencing them are complaining that this order does that to them,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll have a moment of reflection and realize that what they’re doing is immoral.”

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway) also was in the room with Cuomo as he signed the order. He fully supports the move, saying that the U.S. must defend its greatest ally in the Middle East.

“It’s not just about the economic effect. It’s spreading the message that it’s a hate filled organization that is intent on hurting Israel,” he said.

Michael Krasner, a professor of political science at Queens College, said he doesn’t believe that Cuomo overstepped any boundaries and explained that actions like this are to be expected when protesting an issue.

“I think it’s part of the process,” Krasner said. “When you’re protesting you should expect reactions. Politics can be bruising at times.” He suggested that Cuomo’s executive order was a political move, given the large Jewish population in New York.

“I think it’s good for him politically,” he said. “It reinforces his relationship with Jewish communities who are largely invested in the well-being of Israel.”

College campuses are often brought up in the BDS argument. Gidon Salamatbad, co-president of the Israel Students Association at Queens College, says said he hasn’t heard talks of it on campus. He said for the most part, Jewish and Muslim students don’t have any tensions, and even have an amicable relationship.

“People have their opinions on campus, but Hillel is right across from the Muslim Student Association and nothing ever happens,” he said. “Sometimes they even come and play ping-pong with us and we hang out.”

Salamatbad still believes that the executive order is an important preventative measure, saying his concern with the BDS movement is that it’s contributing to the spread of anti-Israel rhetoric, specifically on social media, without any healthy conversation or hopes of resolving tensions.

“BDS is not a good way to get your voice out,” he said. “If you want to voice your opinion, do something where both sides can settle it out. Don’t degrade the other position economically or socially. Do something that can actually bring people together not create a bigger gap,” he said.

There is no SJP on Queens College’s campus, but Hunter College, a CUNY school in Manhattan, has an active chapter.

Their Facebook page shared a comment on Cuomo’s actions accusing him of “killing campus activism” by censoring and punishing groups who align with the Palestinian people. The post did suggest the order can do good for the BDS movement by shining light on the issue.

“It’s great because it will only build and bring more publicity to #BDS, it exposes the embeddedness of Zionism in NY institutions, and it won’t survive a constitutional challenge,” the post said.

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