For years, we have discussed the effort of states to bar individuals, groups, and businesses from state contracts if they support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Other Western nations have also moved to declare BDS “hate speech.” I have previously opposed such laws as unconstitutional and an attack on free speech. I do not support the BDS movement but I believe that it is a form of political speech that should be protected. For that reason, the move this week by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is alarming. He has declared that any non-profit groups supporting BDS will be cut off from government funding.The United States State Department has previously targeted BDS supporters but this is the first ban on contracts or grants. In Jerusalem alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pompeo denounced the BDS movement as a “cancer” and declared “We will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw US government support for such groups.” Pompeo added
“To advance this policy, I have directed the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to identify organizations that engage in, or otherwise support, the Global BDS Campaign… The United States urges governments around the world to take appropriate steps to ensure that their funds are not provided directly or indirectly to organizations engaged in anti-Semitic BDS activities.”
It is one thing for the United States to oppose the BDS movement as a policy, including barring the funding of any program or campaign that includes a BDS component. It is quite something else to bar any group or organization from contracts or benefits based on their support for BDS. That support may be based on a view of international law or simply the conditions in Palestinian areas. There are political, religious, and social viewpoints that can favor or disfavor the movement.