Oyster Bay passes anti-BDS law
Calling it “one of the most important pieces of legislation introduced this year,” Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joe Saladino stood in front of the Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center in Plainview on June 23 and announced the town’s new policy: boycott American allies, especially Israel, and your firm cannot do business with the town.
On June 6, the Oyster Bay Town Board unanimously approved an amendment to the town code that was described by Matt Rozea of the Town Attorney’s Office: “Before the town will enter into any type of contract for the provision of construction services, other services, or information technology services, the prospective vendor will have to provide a certification that they are not engaged in a boycott, as that term is defined in the ordinance, of any of our American allied nations, including, but without exception, the State of Israel, Ireland, and our NATO allies.”
The town, Saladino affirmed as he was surrounded by area Jewish spiritual leaders, “stands united with our international allies in opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which openly discriminates and attempts to isolate Israel and other United States allies from taking part in the international community. This legislation…is a strong signal that our town will not accept or condone bigotry and anti-Semitism in any way, shape or form.”
The supervisor also made note of hate crimes and hate speech, “especially following a series of incidents targeting the Jewish population of Plainview within the last six months. As a result of these incidents, I’m proud to say that on top of passing this law…the town has also continued to partner with law enforcement organizations and religious institutions in responding to hateful graffiti and vandalism of houses of worship and other locations.”
Rick Lewis, CEO of the Mid-Island Y JCC, called the legislation “a tremendous and very bold act and we appreciate and applaud you for getting this taken care of so quickly. We had to go though a lot to get to this point, but sometimes that’s what life is about.”
Lewis mentioned the bomb threat received by the Y earlier this year—ironically, made by “one of our own…a young Jewish man in Israel. While there was nothing positive about this act, it brought our community together. The support we received was incredible and unexpected, and clergy from every denomination came together as one.”
Lewis concluded that “it does not matter at whom or where the hate is targeted…[we cannot] tolerate these kinds of attacks on anyone.”
Representatives from the Jewish Community Relations Council were on hand, and Senior Ambassador Arthur Katz related how, about a month before, he had met with Saladino and Town Attorney Joseph Nocella about the issue, and they were aware of similar resolutions in the Town of Hempstead and other municipalities.
“That’s leadership in government, getting something done,” praised Katz.
The Palestinian-led BDS movement began more than a decade ago and according to its website, “upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.”
One of its main objectives is getting municipalities, colleges, unions and other organizations to boycott Israeli firms or those that do business with Israel.
Katz claimed that BDS “burns bridges, instead of building them. It seeks to incite sufficient emotional anger with Israel so that people around the world will seek to punish [the Jewish state]. The overall objective of [BDS] is to isolate Israel and challenge its right to exist as a sovereign homeland of the Jewish people.”
Further, he charged, the movement “shut down dialog and moves us further away from peace. It has shut down Jewish and Israeli speakers on campuses, occasionally harming them physically. The rise of this anti-Semitic movement makes Jewish students feel threatened on campus and erodes the semblance of a safe place.”
Councilmembers Michelle Johnson and Lou Imbroto joined Saladino at the Y, with Imbroto asserting, “the [town] stands with Israel and stands with our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community in condemning the hateful BDS movement.”
”In order to stop the violence, we must stop the silence,” said community leader Angel Cepeda of Plainview. Noting that he was “a Christian Hispanic married to a Jewish New Yorker. I understand what it means to be able to embrace one another’s roots and culture. Our strength is in unity. Our strength is in speaking out.”
Massapequa Park Mayor Jeffrey Pravato said that his son is on the student council at the University of Wisconsin and has been fighting the BDS movement’s efforts there since he enrolled.
“This is a great legislation, and supervisor, I’d love to get a copy of this and enact it in the village,” he said, to applause.
Pravato told the story of a young man who early this year spray-painted swastikas on a village park bench.
“He did not know the meaning and history of that symbol, and as part of his remediation was taken to the Long Island Holocaust Museum and actually met an Auschwitz survivor,” related Pravato. “This young man did not know the severity of what the swastika stood for. And he was in tears and went back and hugged the survivor. Education [is the key]. We have to educate our youth,”
Saladino said he hoped that the town’s action would begin a “chain reaction across Long Island and America. We want to stand together to stop hate against Israel and our allies.”
Rabbi Chanan Krivisky, spiritual leader of MiYaD Center for Jewish Life in Jericho, intoned a prayer and paraphrased God’s words to Abraham from Genisis 12:3: “Those who curse Israel shall be cursed, and those who bless Israel will be blessed.”
In an interview with Anton Media Group, Saladino said he had sponsored and supported this kind of legislation during his 13 years in the New York State Assembly.
“In 2004, I was the sponsor of a bill that would make it a felony to create [symbols] of hate crime in terms of graffiti, burning a cross, painting swastikas or intimidating a population,” Saladino stated. “I’ve been on board this issue for the longest time. And I’m very proud that my bill became law because of my motivation.”
Saladino said he had returned to lead Oyster Bay “with a strong desire that we love one another and respect one another and celebrate our diversity and melting pot.”
The supervisor referred to an incident a few days earlier in which a town employee had discovered at the Theodore Roosevelt Park in Oyster Bay “a racial slur and a 4-inch swastika written in black ink on the men’s bathroom wall,” according to the police report.
“There is no place for that here,” Saladino affirmed.
Others in attendance included Adam Novak of the Mid-Island Y board; Rabbi Elie Weissman of Young Israel of Plainview; Rabbi Neil Tow of the Woodbury Jewish Center; Rabbi Shmuel Lipszyc of the Town of Oyster Bay Chabad in Woodbury; Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank and Associate Rabbi Joel Levenson of the Midway Jewish Center in Syosset; Rabbi Neil Schuman, spiritual leader of the Manetto Hill Jewish Center in Plainview; and Mindy Perlmutter, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.