• The Other Movement to Divest from Israel (Jewish Currents)

    “Lawyers and advocates for Palestinian rights, however, say that anti-BDS laws don’t actually differentiate between types of boycotts and divestment, and that companies divesting from Israel over the judicial overhaul could still be affected by the laws. Many states’ anti-BDS laws define a ‘boycott’ as an action ‘intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations’ with Israel. ‘If you’re an Israeli company that is divesting from Israel and terminating business there, I don’t see how you’re not technically in violation of that law, which means you need to be put on a blacklist,’ said Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. ‘There’s very little wiggle room.’…

    “Palestinians and their allies see Israel advocates’ reaction to the companies pulling out of Israel as a measure of their hypocrisy. ‘It is perfectly reasonable, it seems, to shun Israeli officials, cut off financial ties, and disrupt public spaces when mainstream Jews call for it,’ Amjad Iraqi wrote in +972 Magazine. ‘But when Palestinians living under Israeli oppression demand the same, their calls are to be scrutinized, rejected, even punished.’ Friedman added in an interview with Jewish Currents that the discrepancy clarifies the purpose of anti-BDS laws. ‘The intent here is to quash free speech on Palestine. This is not about protecting Israel from boycott. It’s about crushing activism on Palestine,’ she said.”

  • As companies raise alarm about judicial plan, a question: When is it OK to boycott Israel? (The Forward)

    “Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, which works on Palestinian human rights issues, who has tracked anti-boycott laws since 2014, said that many Israel advocacy groups only seem concerned about actions that companies take over Palestinian human rights concerns. Friedman said that state laws that bar companies that boycott Israel from receiving state contracts were clearly written with Palestinian advocacy in mind, but that the language in them would apply to any company — even Israeli firms — that decide to move money out of Israel if the court overhaul is approved. To take a representative example, in Illinois the state pension board is barred from investing in companies that engage ‘in actions that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations with the State of Israel.’ ‘I could imagine there are people who would say, ‘Fine, technically these companies might come into conflict with the laws, but that’s clearly not the intent and it’s ridiculous to have this conversation,’’ Friedman said. ‘That’s quite clarifying.’”

  • ADL Staffers Dissented After CEO Compared Palestinian Rights Groups to Right-Wing Extremists, Leaked Audio Reveals (Jewish Currents)

    “Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, said that even if Greenblatt is drawing some distinction between anti-Zionists and violent white nationalists, he is affirming that ‘because you don’t support the establishment of a Jewish ethno-religious state at the expense of Palestinians, you are ipso facto responsible for what actual antisemites do and say.’ Friedman said this is ‘intellectually dishonest,’ as it’s ‘predicated on the premise that there exist no legitimate reasons for rejection of Zionism that are unrelated to hatred of Jews, and morally indefensible logic because it cheapens and politicizes the very concept of antisemitism, equating legitimate viewpoints and non-violent protest with groups who are motivated by unabashed hatred of Jewish people.’”

  • Can American Jewish Support for Israel Survive This New Government? (The New Republic)

    “Lara Friedman, president for the Foundation for Middle East Peace, agreed that the extremism of the current government has its seeds in the occupation and, more generally, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. ‘You cannot build a nation on the idea that not all human beings have rights…. You can’t do that for decades and not inculcate a political culture that is what you see today,’ she said. For years, she added, people working on Palestinian rights have tried to make the case that the occupation doesn’t stop at the Green Line (the demarcation of territory captured in the Six Day War). Friedman noted that many American Jews—including ostensibly liberal American Jews—have been more comfortable advocating for the rights of Jews in Israel than for Palestinian rights. ‘American Jews,’ she said, got ‘riled up over women’s access to the Western Wall plaza. They’ll go to the mat for that.’ But where illiberalism affected Palestinians, there was less interest. And now that the equities of Jews are hanging in the balance, ‘there’s a certain amount of, ‘well, if you’d been paying attention for the last 50 years.’”

  • Christian Aid claims it was subject to act of ‘lawfare’ by pro-Israel group (The Guardian)

    “Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP), said she believed the aim of TZAC’s lawsuits was to send a ‘chilling effect’ through the international NGO sector. ‘It’s letting organisations know that: if you stick a toe in this Palestine work, it could take down everything you’re doing worldwide,’ she said. ‘It could end up being a reputational weapon against you. It could end up taking time and money away from everything else. And potentially if one of these cases comes up and somehow you’ve screwed up under US law because US law’s pretty complicated … it could shut you down. So all the good work you do in the world: are you willing to risk it by doing a project in Gaza? And I think what they’re gambling [the answer] is no, you’re not.’ …Friedman has compared aspects of Abrams’ lawsuits to Slapps – strategic lawsuits against public participation – usually deployed by the rich and powerful to harass, silence or intimidate. While Slapp suits were usually brought by billionaire oligarchs or companies and TZAC was very small, she added, the complaints appeared ‘a form of legal intimidation’. ‘Even people that win end up getting dragged through the mud with them,’ added Friedman.”

  • Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Arkansas state law prohibiting contractors from boycotting Israel (JTA)

    “Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, criticized Jewish groups that celebrated the court’s decision not to take the case. She tweeted that AJC and others like it ‘are celebrating a court ruling that undermines Americans’ right to boycott ANYTHING as a matter of protest/conscience.’ Friedman recently authored a memo arguing that anti-BDS laws were being used as templates for other state laws dealing with different kinds of boycotts, including against the firearms and fossil fuel industries, as well as in state-level efforts to reduce the growing trend of environmental, social and corporate governance investing.”

  • ‘Moderate PAC’ is latest big-money push to keep Democrats in line on Israel (Mondoweiss)

    ” Israel hardly needed Kohelet to disenfranchise Palestinians and deny their rights. But the power of their tactics, and especially the fact that few recognize that an unaccountable organization is responsible for so much policy is considerable. That’s why their connection to right-wing support of Israel in the United States is so important. The head of Kohelet’s international law department, Eugene Kontorovich, is perhaps the leading figure in both writing laws and manipulating existing legislation to support Israel’s interests. As Lara Friedman of the Foundation for Middle East Peace described it, Kontorovich has worked ‘to effectively change U.S. laws so that we no longer view boycotts of Israel or settlements as a legitimate form of protest.’”

  • GOP Megadonor Is Funding a Far-Right Israeli Think Tank — and Establishment Democrats (The Intercept)

    “…Kohelet’s aims are not restricted to Israel’s domestic politics.Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, noted that the group’s director of international policy has supported U.S. legislation that would make boycotts against Israel illegal and has worked ‘to effectively change U.S. laws so that we no longer view boycotts of Israel or settlements as a legitimate form of protest.’” & “Kohelet and the Moderate PAC are both part of a broader project to silence criticism of Israel in Congress and bolster institutional support for the Netanyahu regime, Friedman said. Kohelet has been behind many of Israel’s illiberal policies, she noted, adding that Congress has stifled critiques of the same policies, which have been condemned by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. ‘Now the common refrain in Congress is, ‘Oh, this is antisemitic,’ which is then used to shut down critics of Israel like Ilhan Omar. There’s something rather elegant about this. It suggests that on this issue, we all stand together arm in arm on what it means to be pro-Israel today,’ Friedman said. ‘This is why they’re so worried about progressive candidates coming up in the ranks. You’ve gotta nip this in the bud.’”

  • Republicans push to remove Ilhan Omar from foreign affairs panel (Lara Friedman in Al Jazeera)

    “Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, an advocacy and research group, said Republicans are trying to validate their talking points against Omar by using the statements and actions of Democrats. ‘They own this,’ she said of Democrats who previously attacked Omar. ‘They made a decision in the last few years to jump on board and score political points at Ilhan’s expense … And that decision is now the basis for the resolution that is being used to throw her off the committee.’ Friedman added that Omar and her fellow Muslim-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib are held to “different standards” when it comes to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… Friedman said attacks on Omar appeal to the Republican base and play well for the party politically. ‘It’s a really handy way to embarrass and corner Democrats because when Democrats vote against this tomorrow, the Republican argument is going to be: ‘I don’t get it. You said all these things [against Omar]. Why are you not holding her accountable?’ Politically, this is just fantastic for them.'”