Tough Crowd

De Blasio: ‘I will use my right to free speech to oppose BDS’

Ed Reed

Mayor Bill de Blasio marches in the Celebrate Israel Parade in Manhattan on Sunday, June 1, 2014.

Democratic presidential candidate and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio defended his opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel on Tuesday, telling a conference on Muslim political engagement that the first amendment protects his opinion on the movement. 

“I believe in the right to free speech, so I will use my right to free speech to oppose BDS. But I’m not telling other people they don’t have the right to free speech.”

De Blasio, speaking on a panel at the Muslim Collective for Equitable Democracy Conference in Washington D.C., was responding to a question on whether he supports criminalizing BDS, as the House of Representatives prepares to vote Tuesday evening on condemning the BDS movement. 

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) has called the congressional resolution condemning BDS “unconstitutional” and charged that it infringes on first amendment rights. The resolution, introduced by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), has 349 co-sponsors, and has no legal prohibitions. 

Tlaib, along with Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and John Lewis (D-GA), introduced H.Res 496, affirming Americans’ rights to boycott, citing historical examples of U.S. boycotts of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, the U.S. civil rights movement and Apartheid South Africa, among others.

At the gathering, de Blasio explained that he opposes BDS for being counter to achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

“So I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that I’m pandering on an issue that I care about a lot,” de Blasio told the crowd. “Because I have strong views on BDS and I suspect I disagree with a lot of people in the room, but I want to tell you why.”

“Which is, and it’s not about the right to speak, it’s about the thing itself. I believe, I’ve always believed, I still believe it’s possible to have a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. I still believe, as much as that seems to be undermined in so many ways, I still believe it’s possible, I believe we have to keep fighting for that.”

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