Opinion: Anti-boycott bill puts New Hampshire lawmakers on the wrong side of history

The New Hampshire State House in Concord.

The New Hampshire State House in Concord. Holly Ramer/ AP


Published: 04-22-2024 6:00 AM

Modified: 04-22-2024 9:35 AM

Maggie Fogarty is NH Program Director, American Friends Service Committee.

On Feb. 8, a bill (SB 439) cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 18 New Hampshire senators was approved by a voice vote in the NH Senate. The bill, which would codify a 2023 executive action by Gov. Sununu, prohibits our state from contracting with or investing in any company, organization, or association that boycotts companies operating in Israel.

Three weeks later, Israeli soldiers shot and killed more than a hundred Palestinians who were gathered around a food aid truck in Gaza, attempting to get desperately needed food. The month before, the International Court of Justice issued a ruling stating that it was plausible that Israel was committing genocide and ordered a series of provisional measures that since have been ignored.

As of early April, more than 33,000 Palestinians – including 14,500 children – have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the DCIP. Over 1,100 people have been killed in Israel.

Even without this context, it seems absurd that New Hampshire, a state that values freedom so much we brag about it on our license plates, would penalize people for exercising their right to buy, or boycott, as they see fit.

In the face of occupation and plausible genocide, it is immoral.

On April 10, the New Hampshire House Executive Departments and Administration Committee held a public hearing on the bill. Thirteen people spoke against the legislation, several of whom were members of New Hampshire’s Jewish community who were appalled that their faith was being used to justify this legislation. The only voice in favor was Sen.Bradley, one of the bill’s sponsors.

A similar trend is reflected in the online portal where the public can register their opinion. Nearly 170 people signed in opposition to the legislation; of the ten people who signed in support, eight of them were senators who cosponsored the bill.

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The bill’s authors claim this legislation is an effort to address antisemitism, but in reality, it will penalize people of any faith for acting on their moral convictions. Antisemitism is a real problem, in New Hampshire, in the United States, and in the world, and it deserves real solutions. We need an intersectional approach to addressing antisemitism, one that finds common cause between oppressed people and works to rectify injustice, support self-determination, and end discrimination and bigotry wherever it may arise.

As the Jewish opponents to this bill insisted at the hearing, questioning or opposing the policies or violent acts of the Israeli government is not antisemitic. Neither is supporting Palestinians or opposing occupation and genocide.

Jews across the country have been at the forefront of protests and actions against Israel’s war on Gaza. Just last week, 67 Jews in New Hampshire delivered a letter to our members of Congress, urging their action for an immediate and sustained ceasefire, a suspension of military weapons to Israel, and an immediate restoration of U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for humanitarian assistance.

Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists, agnostics, and people of all faiths have been coming together to call for a ceasefire and humanitarian access in Gaza and an end to U.S. military support for Israel.

I work for a Quaker organization, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), that has been working for peace and justice in New Hampshire since 1975. Locally, we work closely with NH Peace Action, Veterans for Peace, the Palestine Education Network and several faith congregations to sustain weekly vigils and policy advocacy at our Congressional offices.

AFSC also has an office in Gaza, or at least we had one. Our office was damaged by an Israeli bomb in October, and our staff, along with more than a million others, were forced to flee to the south. Now my colleagues are in Rafah, serving hot meals from an open-air kitchen to displaced people living outside of shelters. They have helped thousands of displaced families by providing them with water, food parcels, fresh vegetables, and hygiene kits, and have hosted recreational activities for children. 

They have each had dozens of family members killed in Israeli airstrikes. They have been displaced multiple times. But they are still showing up every day to do lifesaving humanitarian work.

It is in this context that I call on the New Hampshire legislature to reject SB 439. The state has no right to penalize nonviolent acts of protest against violence.