Statement on “An Act Prohibiting Discrimination in State Contracts”

Boston Workmen’s Circle Statement on “An Act Prohibiting Discrimination in State Contracts”

On January 19, 2017 An Act Prohibiting Discrimination in State Contracts” was introduced
in the Massachusetts Legislature. On its face, the bill bars the state from contracting with any party that discriminates based on race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation. While the bill makes no mention of Israel, Palestine, or BDS, it is clear from public statements made by the bill’s supporters that the bill’s motivation is to intimidate those who express opposition to Israeli policy through economic boycott. While Boston Workmen’s Circle does not take a position on BDS, we oppose the intended application of “An Act Prohibiting Discrimination in State Contracts" to restrict First Amendment-protected political expression.

Boston Workmen's Circle Center for Jewish Culture and Social Justice is a diverse intergenerational community with 445 active dues-paying members. We are deeply rooted in the cultural and justice traditions of our ancestors and have actively worked against all forms of discrimination for over
a century.  We strive to be a welcoming and inclusive Jewish community for everyone across age, religion, race, class, culture, gender, sexual orientation, ability and perspectives on Israel/Palestine.

As an organization we are committed to ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine, ensuring a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians, and making room for a diversity of views on these issues. We are proud to be an inclusive Jewish community that welcomes all members regardless of their political beliefs. We decline to draw lines around who is permitted to be a part of our community based on their position on Israel. We are saddened by and oppose the practice of exclusion from the institutional Jewish community of Jewish individuals or organizations whose political views are deemed unacceptable. The claim that this is a consensus bill representing the Jewish community ignores the growing divide that exists among Jews on this issue.

In our current national political climate, it is imperative that Massachusetts make clear that the First Amendment right to freedom of expression is a critical component of our democracy and will be protected. As an organization born out of the labor movement and built by immigrants, Boston
Workmen’s Circle is committed to fighting discrimination in all of its forms, and will continue to promote and defend peaceful tools of protest.