‘Hypocrisy is Palatable’: Abby Martin Condemns Georgia’s Effort to Salvage Struck Down Anti-BDS Law
Georgia state lawmakers recently approved an amendment to a law struck down last year that banned state contracts with persons boycotting Israel. Journalist Abby Martin, whose voided contract was the basis for the victorious legal case, said that the move was an attempt by Zionists to salvage a PR victory in the face of mounting defeats.
Late last month, Georgia’s state legislature approved House Bill 383, which amended a 2016 law banning state contracts with persons engaged in a boycott of Israel. The state is just one of 35 to have used such laws to crack down on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to put pressure on Israel to change its policies toward Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank.
The law was struck down in May 2021 after independent journalist Abby Martin, in conjunction with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), sued Georgia, charging that the law violated Martin’s first amendment right to freedom of speech.
The amended law raised the law’s application benchmark for contracts of at least $1,000 to contracts of at least $100,000. Speaking in a video on her Empire Files YouTube channel on Sunday, Martin said the change is purely cosmetic, since the law’s mechanism remains unconstitutional, and that the Israeli government had directly pressured the Georgia state government to amend the policy in order to save face amid repeated damning human rights reports, the most recent of which was from Amnesty International, titled, “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity.”
Sputnik spoke with Martin about the state’s move and how it fits into the larger BDS movement.
Sputnik: You said the law remains unconstitutional, despite the amendment. So why would Israel, or the Georgia legislature, bother with amending a law they still can’t use?
Abby Martin: The whole point of the Israeli lobby doing this is purely a propaganda victory for them. They know very well that this law is unenforceable and has been deemed unconstitutional, but they just want the propaganda victory of keeping it on the books. Because if they didn’t amend the law, then there’s no choice other than for them to just remove it. They can’t have that because that would set an incredible precedent across the country.
“[W]hat’s so crazy about this is that politicians who have sworn an oath to protect this constitution and know what the judge said about it are still voting overwhelmingly to uphold a blatantly unconstitutional law.”
Three days after Georgia approved the amended bill, a Texas judge struck down that state’s anti-BDS law on similar grounds.
Sputnik: When we talked after the court ruling last May, you said you want to see this law stricken from the books totally, and you reiterated that in your video tonight. Can you talk about how you intend to do that?
Abby Martin: Because the law was amended to this $100,000 cap, now there has to be a plaintiff found that is willing to challenge this amended law, which is obviously much harder, because this isn’t just about an individual anymore, we’re talking about a corporation or someone that has a huge contract. $100,000 is not a small sum of money, so it has to be someone in a professional standing that’s overseeing some sort of massive contract with the state, or celebrity, or someone like that who can conjure such a large sum of money. So it is a lot more difficult, which is exactly what the purpose was of amending this law. This is unconstitutional no matter how much money we’re talking about because you can’t put a dollar amount on our free speech rights.
“We are still trying to figure out who will step up to the plate and actually challenge a $100,000 contract in the state. So that’s the next step and this should be done with all of these laws across the country, and for the amended laws as well,” she added.
Sputnik: Just three days after this amendment was passed, Amnesty’s latest report on Israel dropped. It provoked unbridled fury from both Republicans and Democrats, but it seems like an important seam holding Israel’s public relations campaign together is nonetheless coming undone. Do you think that makes your fight against these anti-BDS laws easier or harder?
Abby Martin: So this Amnesty International report is a huge move and it’s a really, really big deal. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is an enormous defeat of Israeli Hasbara, because the last thing that Israel needs is a liberal-leaning human rights organization that tens of millions of American liberals subscribe to, donate to, and really trust as their source of news on human rights. It’s a big deal for them to unequivocally declare that Israel is an apartheid state.
“Now it just becomes so much harder to really defend the position, because now it’s like look, this isn’t just Palestinian activists, this isn’t just organizations like Jewish Voices for Peace, this is actual established, credentialed human rights organizations that are used and sourced and heralded as who we should be following for these kinds of issues, declaring that Israel is an apartheid state.”
And now that it has declared that, as well as these other official organizations, now the conversation becomes: ‘what can we do about apartheid’, instead of ‘is this apartheid?’ And once the consciousness shifts on, yes, this is an apartheid state and we have to figure out what can be done to create a fair, equal democratic society for the 5 million Palestinians that are living unjustly in an undemocratic sense.’
Martin said “the tide has definitely turned,” pointing out that opinion polls have shown that for the the first time, more US Democratic voters are demanding the US put pressure on Israel than on Palestinian leaders to resolve their disputes. She said NGO reports and the advent of social media making Palestinians’ stories more accessible than ever had caused Israel’s “control over the narrative” to slip.
I do think that as consciousness continues to shift more and more and the pressure continues to mount, and more people of course wake up to the fact that these BDS laws are on the books - which I think the vast majority of people don’t know - yes, the fight will become easier,” Martin said, adding that it takes “people who are courageous and willing to put their necks out there and just say ‘I’m going to be a vehicle to take these laws on, to call attention to the fact that these laws are on the books and I’m going to challenge them,’ and I do think that it will be easier to defeat.
“This really all comes down to pressure being mounted on the grassroots level. Tens of millions of people have to lobby our politicians to make it unpalatable,” Martin said.
We have to make it uncomfortable for these people to actually take a Zionist position, and that’s exactly what we saw in the last onslaught [in May 2021], that [US President Joe] Biden actually called [then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and he was like ‘I can no longer hold back the pressure. You have to find a solution to this.’ Whereas a week earlier, Biden was like, ‘you have a green light,’ basically. And then we saw these mass protests across the country, the largest pro-Palestine demonstrations in the history of this country, and that’s when we saw Biden say ‘I can’t hold this back.’ Which really signifies how incredibly important the power of the movement is. The grassroots pressure, the mobilizations, the putting pro-Palestine messaging front and center and linking it to several other struggles, and that’s just happening more and more every day.
Sputnik: Georgia says it has to maintain good relations with Israel. To the south, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis boasts he’s the most pro-Israel governor in the country. Is it weird that individual US states have “foreign policies” toward Israel, or indeed, any country? Especially since an actual Israeli politician apparently flew to Georgia to influence this bill?
Abby Martin: It is quite astounding that in a country that is dominated with discourse about foreign interference from countries like Russia and China, Israel is just part and parcel with Americana. It’s like no one questions the fact that Israel has this undue amount of influence over our policy-making. I don’t think that ‘the tail wags the dog,’ obviously, I think that people have it completely flipped, but Israel knows its position as a geopolitical tool for US imperialism, and it acts accordingly. And that’s exactly what it is for: as Biden famously said, if Israel didn’t exist we would need to create her to preserve our interests.
Martin noted that the passage of many of the anti-BDS laws had been “veiled under some fight against antisemitism. The language is so stupid that these people just idiotically are subverting the First Amendment and our free speech rights to protect Israel. It is completely illogical and it’s completely offensive that these politicians are literally swearing an oath on the Constitution to get sworn into office and they just know that they are voting to uphold a law that completely undermines our First Amendment, the most sacred constitutional right that we have.”
“It is completely fascinating that no one discusses these laws. The right wing is constantly bemoaning about censorship and free speech rights on campus and right-wingers getting purged and banned and censored off social media - this is the most policed speech in the US. This is the black hand of the state - not Big Tech, which I know does work in concert with the state sometimes - this is the actual government, state legislatures in the more than half the country, the black hand of the state coming down and blacking out speech, suppressing speech and censoring speech. Officiating that legislatively. This is textbook censorship,” she explained.
So a lot of these people like Governor DeSantis, who cosplay as some sort of free speech warrior, and all of these people - [former New York Mayor Bill] DeBlasio, all of these people in New York who are just up in arms at the mere thought of BDS. When even the comptroller of New York issued a statement condemning the BDS movement when he himself had advocated for BDS against apartheid in South Africa. So, the hypocrisy is palatable. It’s disgusting that people can’t connect the two.