Cuomo’s Executive Order Against Anti-Israeli Movement Worries Free Speech Advocates

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Amber Randall Civil Rights Reporter
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an executive order Sunday that will target any business or group aligned with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement (BDS).

Cuomo revealed his plan to create a list of businesses, institutions and companies affiliated with or supportive of the BDS movement in a speech at the Harvard Club in Manhattan. The movement, according to its own website, is a “campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights.”

Cuomo said in his speech, “We cannot allow that to happen. If you boycott against Israel, you boycott against New York.”

According to Cuomo’s executive order, the commissioner of the Office of General Services would within six months create a list of any businesses or groups involved with the “boycott, divestment or sanctions activity targeting Israel, either directly or through a parent or subsidiary.”

The list will be made from information available to the public and companies will have 90 days to “present the Commissioner with evidence that the institution or company does not in fact participate in boycott, divestment, or sanctions activity.” Then, according to The New York Times, all executive branch agencies and departments, public boards, authorities, commissions and public benefit corporations must cut ties with any company or institution.

Free speech advocates point to the phrase “boycott, divestment or sanctions activity targeting Israel, either directly or through a parent or subsidiary” when discussing their opposition to it.

In an op-ed by Adam Steinbaugh, he points out the “parent or subsidiary” clause could affect the free speech of students and student organizations. Because both New York public universities and private colleges receive state funding, they must “divest their money and assets from any investment in any institution or company that is included” on the list created by the commissioner.

Steinbaugh writes, “Students, their organizations, and faculty must be free to criticize Israel and to encourage others to do the same, without worrying that their speech—wholly protected by the First Amendment—will endanger their institutions’ or organizations’ funding.”

South Carolina has enacted similar legislation.

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