Larry Hogan, a Republican, was elected in 2014 as governor of Maryland. It was no easy task, as Republicans are a minority in the state. Bob Ehrlich, another Republican, had also served one term from 2003-2007. But before Ehrlich, you have to go back to 1967, when Spiro T. Agnew won and served from 1967-69.
In his early days in office, Hogan came off as a reasonable, reflective politico. He had unusually high numbers in the polls. Hogan, despite being a Republican, even signed a bill banning fracking in the state. Voters also admired him for the way he fought back against cancer that threatened his life.
But, like Donald Trump, Hogan, is now playing fast and loose with Executive Orders. On October 23, 2017, surrounded in the State House by members of the Israel Lobby, he signed an Executive Order blocking the state of Maryland from awarding contracts to businesses that support boycotts of Israel.
According to Michael Brown, writing for “Popular Resistance,” on October 26: “Activists in Maryland have twice beaten back efforts to pass such an anti-BDS measure through the state legislature.”
So, is Governor Hogan trying to do an end run around the Legislature by using the powers of his office? Keep in mind, he is acting on behalf of the interest of a foreign power – Israel – which he didn’t mention in his remarks.
Brown wrote that Governor Hogan seriously misrepresented the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) by wildly claiming: “Boycotts based on religion, national origin, ethnicity or place of residence are discriminatory, and contracting with businesses that practice discrimination would make the state a passive participant in private sector commercial discrimination.”
Brown explained what the BDS is really about: “The movement is calling for an end to Israeli military occupation and settlement building that is against International law, equal rights for Palestinian citizens who face systematic discrimination and implementing recognized right of return for Palestine refugees.”
Brown continued that the BDS National Committee is very explicit about “rejecting all forms of racism and religious bigotry, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.” The BDS Movement shares tactics, he continued, with “other nonviolent movements in the US to end Jim Crow and in South Africa to end apartheid.”
On October 27, two more critics of Hogan’s action fired back at him, State Senator Paul G. Pinsky and Delegate Jimmy Tarlau. They are members of the General Assembly of Maryland and Democrats from Prince George’s County.
They argued on the “Baltimore Sun’s” commentary page that Hogan’s executive order threatened “the First Amendment rights of Maryland residents to engage in boycotts and other economic acts of conscience…and that the order amounts to an attack on the constitutionally protected right to free speech and the democratic process itself, and it should be rejected by all Marylanders regardless of their views on Israel and Palestine.”
The ACLU of Maryland jumped into the fray. It condemned Hogan’s order as an attempt “to impose a political litmus test on who can be a state contractor… and this is quite clearly unconstitutional.”
Baltimore social justice activist, Max Obuszewski, weighed in on the controversy. In a letter to the “Baltimore Sun,” on October 25, he labeled Hogan’s action “a combination of McCarthyism and an assault on Freedom of Speech.” The goal of Hogan’s order, he wrote, is “to silence those of us engaged in nonviolent tactics…The oppression of the Palestinians is criminal, unjust and immoral, and I and others, despite Mr. Hogan’s ploy to garner support for his re-election, will continue to support the BDS movement.”
(“McCarthyism” is the practice of making unfair accusations in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.” The name came from the raving antics of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI).
Senator Pinsky and Del. Tarlau also pointed out in their commentary that the BDS Movement has the support of not only the Mennonite churches but also mainline Christian denominations. One in that outstanding group is the Presbyterian Church (USA).
On that score, supporters of the anti-BDS measure may have thought, well, these Christian churches will be easy to intimidate. They will roll right over. Wrong!
The Presbyterians are as American as apple pie. Their lineage in this country dates back to the founding of the Republic, which they strongly supported. The idea that an institution that stood with the patriotic “Minute Men” against the might of the British Empire would cave in to any pressure from lobbyists is – preposterous.
However, allies of Gov. Hogan’s order, have rallied to his side. In an Op-Ed in the “Sun” on October 31st, Del. “Sandy” Rosenberg of Baltimore City and Del. Shelly Hettleman of Baltimore Co., both Democrats, claimed Hogan’s Executive Order is legal and supports the “only real democracy in the Middle East – Israel.” They further charged that the Order doesn’t affect “individual rights” only businesses.
They may be right on their last point. However, there is something they failed to disclose. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), had introduced a truly draconian bill on March 23rd, “The Israel Anti-Boycott Act,” (S. 720), at the request of the Israel Lobby. It would make it a “felony punishable by a fine from $250,000 up to $1 million and 20 years in prison” for anyone cooperating with efforts by way of supporting any BDS-like actions to boycott Israel.
Glenn Greenwald of the “Intercept” labeled the Cardin bill as “one of the most oppressive and authoritarian bills” that Congress has ever considered. Senator Cardin denied the charges, but he did promise to work on amendments to fix it. (Good, and hurry up, Ben!)
Maybe the next time Governor Hogan signs an executive order at the request of a lobbying group, he might want to do some independent research on the subject matter before he acts.