By Brendan McDermid,
According to The Intercept, the first piece of legislation to be rolled out by the 2019 GOP-controlled Senate will give the US government the authority to cut ties with companies that choose to boycott Israel. The not-very-America-first decree is part of a series of foreign policy-related measures which will make up S.1 – the designation given to the symbolically important first bill of the session.
The boycott-banning legislation has apparently taken precedence over the ongoing government shutdown – already the third-longest on record, shuttering nine departments and leaving hundreds of thousands of government workers without paychecks.
The Senate sure has got its priorities straight. In the midst of devastating #shutdown, THE FIRST order of business is a bill defending #Israel from boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign at expense of our 1st Amendment rights. #BDSMovement #FreePalestine https://t.co/a3NtQJWSRV
— Azadeh Shahshahani (@ashahshahani) January 6, 2019
With Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) as the lead sponsor, the Combating BDS Act is expected to receive bipartisan support. Coincidentally, punishing corporations and individuals who support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is a top legislative priority for AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby. The bill was previously introduced (but never passed) last year, and gave state and local governments the authority to refuse to do business with US firms participating in a boycott against Israel. Similar anti-BDS legislation has already been adopted in 26 states. So far, two federal courts have ruled that punishing companies or individuals who boycott goods produced in Israel violates constitutionally-protected rights under the First Amendment.
Courts have found state laws penalizing Israel & settlement boycotters to be unconstitutional, but GOP Senate leaders are making a bill authorizing & encouraging states to enact such laws their first order of business in a package to be voted on next weekhttps://t.co/p9s1PcBpFX
— Dylan Williams (@dylanotes) January 6, 2019
S.1 is purportedly being specially drafted to avoid similar legal challenges – but has already come under fire from civil liberties groups. In a comment provided to The Intercept, the ACLU said that the bill would “weaken Americans’ First Amendment protections” and “sends a message to Americans that they will be penalized if they dare to disagree with their government” – or Israel, for that matter.
The ACLU on the bipartisan Senate attempt – in the midst of the shutdown! – to pass as its first bill a new law to punish the free speech rights of American citizens in defense of Israel https://t.co/AZOfTIg9vF pic.twitter.com/BDJ6Q427Z3
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 5, 2019
Many on Twitter expressed disgust that senators were giving Israel priority over their own constituents.
— Stephen (@YVRWestEndGuy) January 5, 2019
When the government seek to criminalize its own citizens in defense of a foreign power – there is no better proof that Americans don't own their own country anymore.
— OSAI (@BytesZero) January 6, 2019
The bullsh-t line of “America First” that these Neo-Cons love to spew are nowhere to be found. This Bill is an attack on American Civil Liberties aka. on AMERICA #America #Trump #GOP #Israel #MinuteMen #SaturdayThoughts #Congress #Senate
— Neon Noodle (@DanDahMan3D) January 5, 2019
If the bill passes the Senate, it would then go before the Democrat-controlled House, where Nancy Pelosi may have to choose between her ardent support for Israel – or freedom of speech.
Like this story? Share it with a friend!