Column: New bill prohibiting anti- Israel contracts constricts speech and funding

New MN bill to end discrimination doesn’t do adequate service to the issues at hand.

Taylor Sharp

Last week, the Minnesota Daily reported on a state bill that’s kicking up a fuss.

It’s easy to see why. The legislation that was proposed at the Capitol would prevent the state of Minnesota from contracting for $1,000 or more with vendors that discriminate against Israel or Israeli people and organizations.

Minnesota ACLU Legislative Director Ben Feist addressed the concerns over infringement of free speech rights that pepper the bill in its current form.

“The proponents of the bill want to stop very specific conduct, and I’m not sure how they could achieve that in a way that doesn’t have some First Amendment red flags,” he told the Minnesota Daily.

As it stands, the bill does not serve to continue the intelligent conversation that a multifaceted topic like this one warrants. So many wildcards go into these kinds of dealings, and completely neglecting a business with a certain belief would be unproductive.

I can speculate where the many roots of anti-Israel beliefs come from and through what process a business comes to establish such a belief as part of its identity. I can’t throw in anything more expensive than my two cents, but considering that all perspectives are intricate and nuanced and built up across years and experience, I don’t believe the proper handling of controversy of anti-Israel sentiments comes from the prohibition of a business simply seeking business opportunities.

The fight against free speech deserves a well-guided directory. But free speech reduction is an unnecessary complication. Alongside a debate that inspires a plethora of opinions, enforcing businesses to hold their tongues seems slightly misplaced.

Hate speech, discrimination and bigotry in general need to be limited, but it’s a question of how we define those terms. Is opposition to a country’s policy hate speech? When these limits impose themselves on that sort of speech and advocacy, they’ve gone too far.