Monday, January 14, 2019

Menendez Constituents Call for No S1 Vote (Press Release)

Menendez Constituents Call for No S1 Vote

Immediate Release:

Contact: Cynthia Flood 862-237-8856 (Voice or Text)

New Jersey voters who supported U.S. Senator Robert Menendez re-election campaign in 2018 are joining together to call him out for breaking ranks with the Democratic Party to vote for S1 and the “Combat BDS” legislation twice in the past week.

All but four of the Democratic Party US Senators voted “NO” on moving the package of laws to the floor on procedural grounds reasoning that any law to be considered immediately by the US Senate should address the issue of reopening the US Government.  However in two consecutive votes, Menendez voted “YAY,” against the majority of his own party.

Cynthia Flood, a community organizer from Newark who voted for Menendez’s re-election in 2018 initiated a petition condemning Menendez’s YAY votes and calling upon Menendez, U.S. Senator Cory Booker and the U.S. House Delegation from New Jersey to vote against S1 and any related “Combat - BDS” legislation.

BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Today, it represents the main strategy of those who are in solidarity with Palestinians.  The goal is to apply economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Applying economic pressure is one tool left to end what many Palestinians consider humanitarian abuses of the Palestinian population by isolating Israel economically through boycotting of Israeli products made on the West Bank and Gaza  and applying other forms of economic isolation.

The US Senate and Congress, once the government is reopened, will likely be voting on a measure that actually provides penalties for participating in this campaign.  Opponents of this proposed law consider it a violation of their First Amendment free speech rights and a way of discouraging a tried and tested form of nonviolent protest.  It is feared that “Combat BDS” can be used as a pretext to undermine and attack dissent across the board as struggles for justice, human needs and against war in the US involve organizers and activists that also are involved in Palestine solidarity.

According to Cynthia Flood. “I started this petition to let Senator Menendez know that even though I voted for him, I am not going to be quiet as he leads the efforts to take away my rights and many other peoples’ rights.  As one who has recently been active in struggles around mass incarceration and against police brutality, efforts with overlapping support from Palestine solidarity activists - I can see the government using this “combat BDS” law to attack our whole movement.  I grew up in the days of the Black Panther Party.  I remember COINTELPRO and how it was used to attack and kill our members.  I am not going to sit back and watch it happen again - not on my watch.”

The petition is being coordinated by a “Defeat S1 Petition Committee of 5” including Cynthia Flood, Evelyn Delgado, Grace Agnew, Whit Strub and Joan Brennan all of whom voted for Menendez but now are urging him to change his position and vote down S1.

Menendez is considered one of the top supporters of Israel in the US Senate and he is the number one recipient of Israel PAC funds.  Opponents of S1 say they recognize this reality but nonetheless are pressuring for him to “do the right thing and oppose S1.” Even though not a single Democratic Party Senator supports BDS, that’s not the issue with this legislation. Instead, one’s position on BDS is irrelevant -- the principle here is the protection of free speech, even when it may be controversial or unpopular.

According to Ms. Flood, “We realize what we are up against but this issue is too important for silence.  If this law passes, it could literally shut down any opportunity for dissent in the USA, around Palestine, anti-war, Black Lives Matter, workers rights, all issues that have overlapping constituencies.  This could be an opening shot across the bow of a government that wants to criminalize our rights.  We can not be silent.”

Petitioners intend to organize an event to present the petition at an event where Menendez is present or at his office in the very near future.  The petition has already garnered 200 signers in its first day of circulation.