This is, quite possibly, the most insane proposed federal law I have ever heard about. And it has bipartisan support from Republicans and Democrats alike.
THE CRIMINALIZATION OF political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the West. In France, activists have been arrested and prosecuted for wearing T-shirts advocating a boycott of Israel. The U.K. has enacted a series of measures designed to outlaw such activism. In the U.S., governors compete with one another over who can implement the most extreme regulations to bar businesses from participating in any boycotts aimed even at Israeli settlements, which the world regards as illegal. On U.S. campuses, punishment of pro-Palestinian students for expressing criticisms of Israel is so commonplace that the Center for Constitutional Rights refers to it as “the Palestine Exception” to free speech.
But now, a group of 43 senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: Anyone guilty of violating the prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.
The proposed measure, called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), was introduced by Cardin on March 23. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the bill “was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.” Indeed, AIPAC, in its 2017 lobbying agenda, identified passage of this bill as one of its top lobbying priorities for the year….
The bill’s co-sponsors include the senior Democrat in Washington, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, his New York colleague Kirsten Gillibrand, and several of the Senate’s more liberal members, such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Maria Cantwell of Washington. Illustrating the bipartisanship that AIPAC typically summons, it also includes several of the most right-wing senators such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Marco Rubio of Florida.
A similar measure was introduced in the House on the same date by two Republicans and one Democrat. It has already amassed 234 co-sponsors: 63 Democrats and 174 Republicans. As in the Senate, AIPAC has assembled an impressive ideological diversity among supporters, predictably including many of the most right-wing House members — Jason Chaffetz, Liz Cheney, Peter King — along with the second-ranking Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer.
It is becoming abundantly clear that it is not boycotts of Israel – or anything else – that should be outlawed, but rather, AIPAC. Those corrupters of the already corrupt seem to believe that forcibly preventing criticism is going to somehow magically make the badthink go away. But it doesn’t work like that; quite to the contrary, it intensifies existing hostilities and creates new enemies out of those who were previously neutral.
I don’t boycott Israel myself; one of our best authors is Israeli. But everyone, in every country, should be absolutely free to do business or not do business with Israeli organizations and individuals as they see fit. And every U.S. Senator or Representative who has endorsed this bill should be hounded out of the offices for which they are clearly unfit.
The ever-inept Republicans can’t repeal Obamacare but they have time for this idiocy? And even if you are the most philosemitic Christian Zionist who ever declared his willingness to shed the very last drop of American blood for Israel, you must be able to see that this proposed legislation is not just absolutely and utterly wrong, but completely un-American.
This is further evidence that direct democracy is not merely preferable to representative democracy, but a moral imperative.
Meanwhile, some co-sponsors seemed not to have any idea what they co-sponsored — almost as though they reflexively sign whatever comes from AIPAC without having any idea what’s in it. Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, for instance, seemed genuinely bewildered when told of the ACLU’s letter, saying, “What’s the Act? You’ll have to get back to me on that.”