Student defends bill at state legislature


Contributed by the Israeli-American Council of Boston

At a public hearing held on July 18, 2017 by the Massachusetts State Legislature, several speakers argued for and against the installment of a new anti-discriminatory law, including junior Adi Mayer.

Adi Mayer, Contributing Writer

This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to speak before a joint House and Senate Legislative Committee in the Massachusetts State House, where I gave a statement in favor of a bill called An Act Prohibiliting Discrimination in State Contracts.

If a person refuses to do business with someone simply because of who they are, based on race, religion, sexuality, gender, or in the context of political protest, if one boycotts a company “solely because of who someone is then you cannot do business with the state.”

According to the bill, this means that the state will not tolerate discrimination in this form, but it will not make such action “illegal or subject to litigation.” One can still boycott someone based on these characteristics but at the cost of not being able to contract with the state.

This bill is meant to fight discrimination in Massachusetts. Significant opposition to the bill comes from people who take issue with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Some think that the way to stand up to Israel is by boycotting Israeli-Americans. If passed, the bill would refute this, since they would be boycotting people based on their nationality.

The majority of the opposition comes from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement. The BDS is an organization that calls for the complete elimination of the State of Israel, not for compromise and not for peace.

Regardless of one’s opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, boycotting Israelis in America will have no effect on what action the Israeli government takes.

Unlike the U.S., which allows citizens who are abroad to vote through absentee ballots, Israel does not allow expatriates to vote. Therefore, Israeli-Americans have absolutely no power over the governmental action taken by the Israeli parliament.

By boycotting Israeli-Americans one is not standing against the occupation; they are hurting innocent people.

Israeli-Americans contribute immensely to the U.S. economy. A recent study published by the New England-Israel Business Council shows that more than 200 Israeli-founded businesses are now located in the Greater Boston area. Together, they booked $9 billion in revenue and generated $18 billion in economic benefit for Massachusetts.

Furthermore, they employ 9,000 people and support 27,000 jobs, directly contributing to the economic success of other citizens in the state. In boycotting these significant contributors to the Massachusetts economy, one hurts the business of the Israeli-Americans, and, by extension, hurts their own economic prosperity.

The BDS movement has done much to hurt Israeli-Americans in this way. This organization still has a large following who claim the group is nondiscriminatory, despite recent actions. For example, in Miami, the letters “BDS” can be found sprayed on storefronts owned by Jews. A similar tactic was used in Nazi Germany in the 1930s as a way to mark where Jews worked.

Another example took place in affluent universities such as Harvard and Northeastern. BDS members slid eviction notices under the doors of dormitories owned by Jews, not even Israelis, just Jews in general. The objective of this was simply to terrorize and intimidate Jewish students.

Coming to the hearing to argue for this bill was a very empowering experience, but it was also a very scary and difficult one. If I am being perfectly honest, I quite naively walked into that hearing auditorium expecting there to be little, if any, opposition at all. I did not understand why someone would want to discriminate against me, simply because of my background.

Another, quite striking, demonstration made by the BDS on the day of the hearing were the stickers they wore. It is not irregular for debaters in these settings to wear stickers to emphasize their campaigns; we had stickers as well, that day. It was not even the content of the stickers that made them so offensive, it was their choice of color.

Of all the colors they could have chosen, they chose yellow, the same color of the Stars of David that Jews under the Nazis were forced to wear to identify themselves. This history is too commonly known to be an accident.  It was a deliberate statement of hate by a group of people who call for the destruction of the State of Israel, a country filled with Jews.

Organizations like the BDS have had a negative impact on my life and will continue to as long as the change is not being made. The statement I made before that committee truly resonates with me and who I am. An excerpt from my statement that especially speaks to my experience is as follows:

“As a rising junior in high school, naturally, I have begun the college process, and I often find that I have to cross off certain universities from my list of potential schools because of a fear of how the presence of organizations, like the BDS, will affect my prosperity and safety at those schools. I am only 16 and my life and future are already being affected by this injustice. I do not want to be limited in life just because of my heritage. I deserve an equal chance at success, but that is not possible while organizations like BDS have the ability to strip it from me.”

This bill is an important step that must be taken in order to initiate the change that is necessary in order for me, along with all Israeli-Americans in Massachusetts, to have a successful future.