ACLU Says Bill Sponsored By Bergen Legislators Would Create 'Anti-Israel' Blacklists

Daniel Hubbard, Ridgewood-Glen Rock Patch

June 14, 2016 12:59 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union is opposing a law proposed by two Bergen County legislators, claiming it would harm free speech and use government resources to build political blacklists.

The bill would prohibit the state’s pension and annuities funds from investing in a company that supports boycotts of Israel or Israeli businesses, according to the ACLU. It would require the government to investigate people’s beliefs to determine if their reasons for not doing business with Israel are political and allegedly punishes people for holding unpopular opinions, the group said.

“New Jersey should stay out of the business of building political blacklists and punishing unpopular opinions,” said Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU’s New Jersey chapter. “Government investigators shouldn’t be spying on New Jerseyans’ political beliefs to check if they match the political opinions of lawmakers.”

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg are two of the bills primary sponsors.

The ACLU sent a letter to Huttle, Weinberg, and the bill’s other sponsors earlier this month.

“[The bill] would undoubtedly intimate and chill companies and their employees from speaking publicly about their political opinion,” the letter read.

Huttle defended the bill.

“It’s not a question of free speech, it’s a question of a business’ decision and what I feel would be discriminatory business practices,” Huttle said. “New Jersey and Israel are very similar in size and Israel is the only democracy in that region. We have many of the same goals. It’s imperative that we send a message to put an end to anti-Semantic behavior.”

Weinberg did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The state Senate unanimously passed the legislation in May. The Assembly has not yet voted on it.

Email: daniel.hubbard@patch.com