Currently, there are efforts being made in the State of Missouri to pass a law which would prevent the state from granting contracts to organizations that call for boycotting products from Israel, also known as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement. The law opposed to the BDS movement is called the Anti-BDS law. Last week, The Mid-Missouri Civil Liberties Association (MOCLA) hosted a lecture by retired Biology Professor George Smith on Constitutional Law as it relates to the Anti-BDS law, entitled “Boycotts and the 1st Amendment.” MOCLA claims to take no stance for or against the boycott of products from Israel, but the reality is that the entire presentation was designed to promote the BDS movement.
Last year, Smith won a Nobel Prize in the field of Chemistry, and he is the most well-known member of Mid-Missourians for Justice in Palestine. He is also well known for publicly expressing his hope that Israel will disappear from the world. In 2016, Smith openly stated on the local news, “What I mean by ‘Israel doesn’t have a right to exist’ is that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist as a specifically Jewish state.”
I protested this lecture. I stood in front of the door and handed out the following leaflet:
Hi, my name is Daniel Swindell. I am a local Pro-Israel advocate and a bridge salesman. I am also personal friends with the people who created and proposed the Anti-BDS law in Missouri. I traveled regularly to Jefferson City to petition members of congress to pass the Anti-BDS law. I have no degrees in anything related to Constitutional Law. Likewise, Smith is a biology teacher with no degrees in anything related to Constitutional Law, which makes us even in terms of education regarding law. Smith is a notorious local anti-Israel activist. He also traveled to Jefferson City to fight against the passing of the Anti-BDS law.
The Mid-Missouri Civil Liberties Association produced two statements regarding this event:
- “George Smith talks about efforts to outlaw participation in boycotts.”
This statement is completely false. Nowhere do any of the proposed drafts of the Anti-BDS law say that “boycotts” will be “outlawed.” No one in Missouri has ever attempted to outlaw boycotts. If I am wrong, then MOCLA should produce a single quote saying it in a draft. Don’t worry, it doesn’t exist. This means that the starting point of the presentation is fiction.
- “MOCLA takes no position regarding that specific boycott.”
This statement is also completely false. Smith is a radical anti-Israel activist. He has written multiple articles stating his opposition to a Two-State Solution, which is the idea that the Jewish State will exist next door to a Palestinian State. Instead, Smith takes the maximalist position that all of the territory of Israel belongs to the Palestinians and needs to be given to them. Smith spoke during the hearing of sessions on the Anti-BDS law before the Missouri House of Representatives and stated that the goal of his work is the elimination of the Jewish State.
So, just to review the facts: MOCLA is hosting a science teacher and a radical anti-Israel activist, who stated that the goal of his work is the elimination of the Jewish State, to give a lecture on Constitutional Law, but we are supposed to believe that MOCLA is unbiased?
In reality, MOCLA is hosting a Pro-Palestinian event, which is why they picked a science teacher to give this lecture. It is perfectly fine to host Pro-Palestinian events. I am a Pro-Israel activist, I help set up Pro-Israel events. However, the difference between MOCLA and myself is that I admit that I am an activist, and MOCLA lies about it.
But, if you want to lie to yourself and try to convince yourself that the best person MOCLA could find to give an “unbiased” lecture on Constitutional Law is a science teacher who has an obsession with hosting events attacking Israel, then feel free, but you will also be a liar. So, if there is anyone here who believes this is going to be an unbiased presentation, please see me afterward, I have a bridge I am trying to sell in Brooklyn.
After handing out this leaflet, I sat through the entire lecture, and I want to confirm that my prediction was completely correct. The presentation started with Smith showing a slide that read, “U.S. Civil Liberties and the 71-Year Crisis in Palestine.” Smith went from slide to slide explaining that Zionists were European Jews who came and stole the land from the indigenous Palestinians through a campaign of terrorism and ethnic cleansing. Smith made no mention of the fact that the Arab leadership started The 1948 War.
Smith also went into a long explanation of The 2014 Gaza War. Before the start of the war, Hamas was firing thousands of rockets into Israel. There is a small Israeli town located next to the Gaza border called, Sderot. The effect of these endless rocket attacks is that forty percent of the children in Sderot suffer from PTSD and combat related symptoms. But, Smith likes to call Palestinian terror attacks, “symbolic.” In 2013, he hosted the anti-Israel film, 5 Broken Cameras. At the film, Smith stated, “the rockets are symbolic.”
At this presentation Smith discussed The March of Return, a prolonged series of riots and protests at the Gaza border. The idea behind the name of the march is that the ancestors of the Arabs from The 1948 War have the right to return to Israel. Smith acknowledged that Israeli soldiers have been attacked, and that throwing rocks is a central feature of these protests. Nonetheless, he described all of this as, “kind of like a symbolic violence.” I have attended most of Smith’s presentations in the last several years. I have heard him refer to Palestinians murdering Israelis as acts of “symbolic violence” on several occasions. I am not sure what goes on in the mind of a person when he describes Jewish people being murdered as “symbolic violence,” but maybe MOCLA can answer the question, since they invited him to speak.
Smith also encouraged everyone to get involved in the BDS movement, including showing websites with groups to join. The presentation started at 7:00 pm. At exactly 7:56 pm, someone from the audience raised his hand and asked if Smith was going to address the Anti-BDS law. Smith then switched to a slide he had prepared showing the different states which had passed the law. He then switched to another slide, with a couple quotes saying that boycotts were protected by the First Amendment. He then stated, “obviously, the Anti-BDS law is unconstitutional.” By 8:03 pm, the section of the presentation addressing the Anti-BDS law was complete. It lasted roughly six or seven minutes.
Right afterwards, it went to a Q&A period. I directed my question to Dan Viets, who was acting as the representative of MOCLA. I asked, “Does the Mid-Missouri Civil Liberties Association agree with Mid-Missourians for Justice in Palestine that a Jewish State has no right to exist?” Mr. Viets responded, “MOCLA takes no position on the issue.” But this question is the sole question regarding the Anti-BDS law. The US State Department defines calling for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State to be a form of anti-Semitism. The department explains, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” is a form of anti-Semitism. At many events, Smith and his group specifically proclaim that the goal of their group is the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State, which means the State Department defines them as anti-Semites, which is why the Anti-BDS law was created in the first place.
The State of Missouri is not obligated to grant state contracts to groups of people who are defined as anti-Semites by the State Department. Hence, the BDS movement is a form of discrimination based on nationality. In addition, BDS is a form of racism because it encourages people to refuse to buy Jewish products. Jewish people living in Missouri don’t want to give their tax money to people who boycott Jewish products, and shouldn’t be forced to do so.
If MOCLA had hosted a legitimate event, then they would have listed the reasons why the proponents of the Anti-BDS law created it, and they would have systematically countered each point. Most importantly, MOCLA would have been morally obligated to address how the BDS movement is not a form of discrimination against nationality or religion. But none of this refutation happened. Instead, MOCLA hosted an hour-long production describing Zionists as murderers and foreigners in the land of Israel, combined with encouraging people to join the BDS movement. MOCLA’s claim that they are neutral regarding the BDS movement was proven to be untrue by their choice to sponsor a virulent anti-Israel group to give a presentation on the matter. In reality, MOCLA simply hosted an event to promote BDS.