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Julia Bacha: US court ruling upholding BDS ban risks removing ‘a powerful form of expression that has helped advance human rights’

The film-maker says from the Boston Tea Party on, boycotts have played a major role in US struggles for justice

A COURT’S decision to uphold a ban on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement risks US citizens losing “a powerful form of expression that has helped advance human and civil rights,” US film-maker Julia Bacha told the Morning Star today.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that boycotts fall under commercial activity and can therefore be regulated by states, dismissing a challenge to a BDS ban by Arkansas which lawyers said violates first amendment rights to free expression under the US constitution.

A number of US states have imposed bans on BDS, a movement which seeks to put peaceful pressure on Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestine through boycotts modelled on those which isolated apartheid South Africa. Similar moves are threatened by the British government.

But Ms Bacha, whose recent film Boycott highlights the threat of anti-BDS legislation on freedom of expression in the United States, said the court ruling “runs counter to historical precedent and the American experience since independence from Britain.

“Boycotts are deeply rooted in American discourse, from the Boston Tea Party to the Montgomery bus boycott and the anti-apartheid movement. Take away our right to boycott, and we lose a powerful form of expression that has helped advance human and civil rights, racial justice, workers’ rights and so much more.”

The case would now go to the Supreme Court, she said.

Israel’s systematic discrimination against Palestinians across the occupied territories and within its own borders has been described as apartheid by human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

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