(The Center Square) – A movie screening at the Arizona Capitol critical of pro-Israel laws passed by a few states is drawing criticism from Arizona lawmakers.
The documentary "Boycott" is about legal battles in a trio of states (Arizona, Arkansas, and Texas) that challenged the state's anti-BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) laws. The BDS movement advocates for countries to stop doing business with Israel due to its conflict with Palestine. These three states have laws on the books that prevent them from doing business with companies that support the BDS movement.
Opponents of these anti-BDS laws fall into two categories. Some support the BDS movement, while others oppose such laws because they believe they violate free speech and the rights of individuals and businesses to express their political beliefs. However, proponents of these laws argue that the BDS movement is hateful and rooted in anti-semitism.
Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Lee, a Republican, believes the BDS is rooted in hate.
Criticizing the film showing at the Arizona Capitol, Yee called the movement a "hate movement" in a statement on Twitter.
"This is a national campaign aimed at harming Israel and its trade partners," she tweeted. "I believe we must ensure discrimination on the basis of national origin is never again tolerated."
State Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Glendale, who is running against Yee this year, was among those who helped organize the showing.
Quezada told The Center Square that lawmakers are making critical decisions about state expenditures and should have as much context as possible.
"The members of our state legislature are met with anti-boycott legislation of various different types each session," he said. "This screening provided some much needed context of this issue and the differing opinions from stakeholders on both sides of the issue. Viewing this film does not underscore any endorsement of any specific movement or ideology."
Quezada said he's long been an advocate of "ensuring that every elected official has all the needed information to make informed decisions for their constituents."
"Apparently, Yee and others have no problem governing our state without all the facts necessary to lead in an appropriate and well informed manner. This screening was a closed-door off the record opportunity for lawmakers to learn about the legislation they pass. I'm a fan of being well prepared to do my job for Arizona and hope others join me in that sentiment."
Four Democratic state legislators, including state representative Alma Hernandez, D-Tucson, issued a memo telling their fellow lawmakers not to attend the showing.
"It has come to our attention that members of the AZ legislature have been invited to the screening of an anti-Israel propaganda film called 'Boycott,'" Hernandez tweeted on September 21. "Don't be fooled. [BDS] is a hate movement aimed at demonizing [Israel,] asking our colleagues to say no to hate & not attend."
Their memo warned lawmakers that their presence at the event would be seen as "an endorsement of their agenda" by anti-semitic organizations. It also noted that the lawsuits challenging the laws depicted in the film were all unsuccessful.