Opinion: Prioritizing Israel over New Hampshire

By RAMSEY ALSHEIKH

Published: 07-15-2023 1:01 PM

Ramsey Alsheikh of Hanover is a Palestinian-American student studying Middle Eastern Studies modified with Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College.

When news reached Dartmouth of HB 339, a bill that would punish businesses who choose to boycott Israel, students from all across campus were shocked.

The idea that First Amendment rights could come under fire in New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state, was deeply troubling to our student body. A coalition of concerned student organizations, such as the Dartmouth College Democrats and the Dartmouth Student Alliance for Ukraine, worked together with other advocacy groups from around the state to put out a statement condemning HB 339 and defending the boycott as a legitimate, nonviolent form of protest.

It came as a great relief to us when the House voted to table the anti-boycott bill and remove it from consideration. The people had spoken, and our representatives had listened. New Hampshire residents demand our First Amendment rights.

Yet, as news reached us of Governor Sununu’s decision to pass the same anti-boycott laws as an executive order, we are not just shocked, we are outraged. Not only does Executive Order 2023-05 infringe on the right to boycott just the same as HB 339, but it completely subverts the democratic process and puts the Israeli government’s interests above those of New Hampshire residents.

The essential problem with Sununu’s executive order is the same as with HB 339: the state has no right to coerce businesses into adopting or abandoning political positions. New Hampshire institutions that choose to not do business with Israel do so as a means of addressing political issues within the country, most notably, the crime against humanity of apartheid, which Amnesty International officially recognized in 2022.

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By withdrawing state investments from companies that choose to use this form of protest, EO 2023-05 has adopted coercive measures designed to harm businesses and individuals who maintain certain political stances concerning the actions of the Israeli government. As federal courts in Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, and Georgia have repeatedly ruled, this kind of anti-boycott legislation is in violation of the First Amendment.

The justification given by Sununu for this overreach is that boycotting Israel amounts to discrimination based on national, religious, and ethnic origin. Yet such a claim fundamentally distorts the purpose of the boycott, which is designed “to pressure Israel to comply with international law” and to end its various human rights abuses against the Palestinian population it governs.

Businesses are not boycotting Israeli companies because they are Israeli, but because such companies are frequently complicit in violations of international law. BDS has nothing to do with national, religious, or ethnic discrimination. In fact, a great deal of Jewish organizations and individuals across the country support the BDS movement and other boycotts of Israel.

As one “dedicated New Hampshire voter” and “traditionally observant and involved Jew” wrote to the House of Representatives in opposition to HB 339, “This bill wantonly and dangerously tramples on freedom of speech and expression by seeking to prevent peaceful boycott.”

As a whole, the most alarming aspect of Sununu’s recent actions is the disregard they display for the democratic process. Despite every indication that the anti-boycott bill was unpopular with New Hampshire constituents and their representatives, Chris Sununu wrote it into law.

Out of all the testimonies sent to the House of Representatives on HB 339, almost 90% of them were opposed to the bill. Among those who sent in opposing testimony, a wide range of backgrounds were represented: white, Asian-American, Muslim, and Jewish voters came out in remarkable numbers to make known their dissent. Even among legislators, the bill was opposed. The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee rejected the bill 15-5 when it came to a vote. Still, despite this popular backlash against anti-boycott legislation, Chris Sununu authoritatively signed into law all the measures of the bill.

At the end of the day, New Hampshire will not benefit from this executive order — in fact, we stand poised to lose out. As Rep. Carol McGuire (R-Epsom) has pointed out, the House is supposed to make investment decisions that produce the best returns for the state. Cumbersome restrictions on the investment process only serve to lessen these returns. As she explained, “We were against restricting what the pension system in particular could do with our money held in trust for all the retirees.”

If neither the government nor the people benefit from Sununu’s recent executive order, then who does? One only has to look towards the Israeli UN ambassador for an answer, who thanked Sununu for “defending and protecting Israel” in Concord during the signing of the order. Sununu’s recent actions harmed both the people he represents and the government he works for.

Executive Order 2023-05 is thoroughly unconstitutional, undemocratic, and un-American, and I urge New Hampshire residents to voice their opposition to it.

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