JFREJ vehemently opposes New York State’s threatened divestment of Ben & Jerry’s, and their parent company Unilever, over Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. This divestment would be an attack on free speech and chill legitimate, constitutionally-protected political protest.

We are deeply disappointed with New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer for co-signing this regressive policy, and for citing his Jewish identity as reason for doing so. By taking this position, Stringer is echoing Andrew Cuomo’s anti-democratic 2016 talking point: “if you boycott Israel, New York will boycott you.”

We are disappointed, too, that Gov. Kathy Hochul has decided to continue Cuomo’s legacy of attacking BDS and the constitutionally-protected right to protest. That she did so after Human Rights Watch and Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem released detailed reports describing the situation in Israel and Palestine as apartheid reveals a troubling lack of care or concern for the facts on the ground, or for Palestinian life.

It is absurd that in the face of major climate catastrophe, a deadly pandemic, soaring inequality, and profound racial injustice, our elected officials are talking about where someone can sell ice cream.

As over 300 scholars and experts on Holocaust history, Jewish studies, and Middle East studies affirmed in the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism: “Boycott, divestment and sanctions are commonplace, non-violent forms of political protest against states. In the Israeli case they are not, in and of themselves, antisemitic.” And any American should be able to affirm that peacefully protesting human rights abuses and a military occupation without interference or infringement by the government is at the core of our First Amendment rights.

New Yorkers should be deeply disturbed by this shredding of our right to free political expression. As Jews, we hear loud and clear the echoes of McCarthyism and we call on all of our elected officials to stop pandering long enough to do the same.