From the Diocese of California’s annual convention weekend before last, Vicki Gray reports that “With near unanimity, they passed four resolutions placing the diocese on those front lines with regard to the death penalty, gun violence, legal threats against BDS proponents, and support for Native Americans at Standing Rock.” We report here on the resolution concerning legal threats against BDS proponents.
This resolution “urged repeal of AB2844, a recently signed law that threatens to penalize individuals and institutions who support boycott and/or disinvestment in any way related to Israel.”
We reported on earlier work in the Diocese of California in a posting on our Community blog on 30 August 2016. Follow-ups on the Anti-BDS legislation AB2844 were posted on 13 September 2016 and 27 September 2016.
Thanks also to Randy and Doni Heyn-Lamb of the EPF PIN chapter in the Diocese of Los Angeles for their postings on AB2844 in the Community blog.
The text of the Diocese of California resolution follows:
RESOLUTION NO. 5
FREE SPEECH WITH REGARD TO BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS
Resolved, That the 167th Convention of the Diocese of California reiterates the principles of Resolution 7, Promoting Justice and Peace in Israel/Palestine, adopted by the 165th Convention, that urged The Episcopal Church to divest from any investments it might have in certain companies whose products and/or actions support the infrastructure of the occupation and urged Episcopalians to boycott products that are manufactured in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem;
Resolved, That the Convention considers such peaceful activities to be clearly protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and equivalent provisions of the Constitution of California and other States;
Resolved, That this Convention condemns the legislative and/or executive actions proposed or adopted in many States that seek to prohibit public agencies and pensions from investing in or doing business with pro-boycott companies and institutions, or which may subject such companies and institutions to costly legal investigations; and
Resolved, That this Convention urges the repeal of recently enacted AB 2844, which is likely to spur costly and unnecessary civil and criminal investigations against companies and institutions that have adopted BDS policies, and it calls upon the courts to protect the free speech rights of all Californians by enjoining it from ever taking effect.
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement began in 2005, when representatives of Palestinian Civil Society called upon “international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against the government of Israel similar to those applied to apartheid South Africa until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law. And, in their 2009 Kairos Document, the leaders of the Palestinian Christian community urged the international community to “put pressure on Israel and take legal measures in order to oblige its government to end its oppression and disregard for international law.”
In 2014, the people of the Diocese of California responded to these calls by adopting the resolution that “encourage[d] the Church to divest from any investments it might have in Caterpillar, G4S, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, whose products and/or actions support the infrastructure of the occupation” and “encourage[d] Episcopalians to boycott products, such as Soda Stream, that are manufactured in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.” (165th Convention, Resolution 7)
Thanks largely to the economic pressure generated by the BDS movement, G4S has ceased its operations in Israel related to running prisons and checkpoints and Soda Stream has pulled out of the West Bank.
As similar actions have been approved on the national level by the United Church of Christ, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists, and others, opponents of BDS have sought state legislation that would label support for such measures anti-Semitic and would penalize supportive companies and organizations with the loss of state contracts and assistance. Several states have passed such legislation, or adopted it by executive order.
The focus of this resolution calls attention to the fact that the California Legislature has recently passed one such measure, AB 2844.
As far back as the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Supreme Court has consistently considered boycotts protected speech under the First Amendment.
Boycotts and disinvestment have a long and honorable history of achieving positive action through peaceful means. In addition to Montgomery, there have been the 1965-66 grape boycott in the Central Valley that birthed the UFW, the South Africa boycott which The Episcopal Church supported (Res. 1985-D073) in 1985, and, most recently, the boycott of North Carolina stemming from its anti-LGBT legislation.
The current anti-BDS legislation at the state level is opposed by, among others, the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. Addressing such legislation on June 28, 2016, the World Council of Churches not only expressed “its concern regarding efforts in legislative bodies throughout the world to silence and penalize calls for non-violent measures to resist illegal occupation, but rather reiterates its support for freedom of expression in all contexts and non-violent means for transforming conflicts.” This Diocese should do no less.
Submitted by: The Rev. Vicki Gray, Deacon, Christ the Lord, Pinole.
Endorsed by: The Rev. Susan Champion, Rector, Christ the Lord Pinole; Janet Chisholm, Delegate, All Souls, Berkeley; The Rev. David Ota, Rector, St. Ambrose, Foster City; The Rev. Katherine Salinaro, Deacon, School for Deacons, Berkeley; Elsa Stevens, Delegate, Christ the Lord Pinole, The Rev. Margaret Trezevant, Deacon, St. Luke’s, San Francisco; Mary-Jane Wood, St. Giles, Moraga.