Testimony in Opposition to AB 553, the “Anti-BDS Bill”

Before the Assembly Committee on Government Accountability and Oversight

January 17, 2018

(Testimony delivered on January 17, 2018 by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Matthew Rothschild opposing Assembly Bill 553 that seeks to prevent boycotts against Israel.)

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and honorable members of the Committee. I’m the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which since 1995 has been an advocate for clean and open government, where people matter more than money. I’m also speaking as a Jewish American, who does not believe, not for a minute, that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic.

I have the following five problems with this bill.

First, it is an attack on local control, one of more than 100 that have come out of this building in recent years. These bills are anti-Democratic small “d,” and they used to be anti-Republican, capital “R.” This bill prohibits local units of government from exercising self-rule.

Second, this bill would order the post-facto cancellation of a contract that was made between the state and any business that endorses the Boycott, Divestiture, and Sanctions Movement. That makes this a full-employment bill for lawyers.

Third, this bill is a violation of a businessperson’s First Amendment rights to free speech and free assembly.

Fourth, since the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign tracks money in politics, it is relevant to note that bills like this are a pet project of Sheldon Adelson, one of the leading funders of the Republican Party across the country.

And fifth, let me speak to the basic issue at hand here. I’m gravely dismayed by the direction of Israeli policy toward Palestine, and the direction of U.S. policy toward Palestine.

Indefinite occupation is not a solution.

It doesn’t make Israel any safer.

It doesn’t make Jews any safer.

It doesn’t make the U.S. any safer.

And how exactly do you want people who are opposed to the Occupation to act?

You don’t want them to engage in violence.

Well, boycotts, divestiture, and sanctions are time-honored nonviolent tools. Wisconsinites ought to be able to use them.

Thank you for your time.