The Town of North Hempstead has decided after a contentious public hearing that it will not conduct business with companies that boycott Israel.
The town board voted 7-0 Tuesday to condemn the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which alleges that Israel applies discriminatory policies to Palestinians.
Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said the anti-BDS legislation will ensure taxpayer funds do not finance discriminatory actions against the Jewish people or those practicing Judaism.
“The BDS movement is driven by anti-Semitism and is meant to punish Israel in order to cause its economic collapse,” Bosworth said.
Dozens of residents voiced their opinions, including several rabbis, who lauded the board for its action against a movement they said is based on decades of hate.
Rabbi Shalom Paltiel of Chabad of Port Washington said the issue affects all Americans, across faiths.
“The laws in this country are made for the people, by the people,” Paltiel said. “At a time when we feel it’s the climate of the 30s, in our own country . . . it’s an American issue.”
Others criticized the town for overstepping its bounds as a municipality and for drafting a law that they said violates the First Amendment.
Susan Gottehrer, chapter director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the town’s legislation “imposes a penalty on protected free speech.”
Town resident Cassandra Lems said the law is an attempt to “silence our right to speak out” and warned of a slippery slope.
“I don’t understand why you think the state of Israel is more important than supporting the rights of U.S. citizens to protest however they see fit,” Lems said to the board. “My local government has no business enacting laws in matters of international policy.”
North Hempstead Town follows the steps of the Town of Hempstead and the Nassau County Legislature, which both passed similar laws last year. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order last summer denouncing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.