Khalid Myshkin and Kat O’Donnell
In 2005, a Palestinian collective of trade unions and active members of Palestinian civil society called for BDS — Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions — against the State of Israel. Inspired by South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, the movement has had many victories in standing up for human rights and giving a voice to Palestinians and human rights activists.
But recently, there has been an active crackdown on freedom of expression here in the U.S. when it comes to speaking out about injustices done to Palestinians in the historic land of Palestine and abroad. Anti-boycott bills have been enacted in 23 US states and now comes an attempt to create a federal law encompassing them all.
The “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” (S. 720) prohibits any U.S. person engaged in interstate or foreign commerce [i.e. shopping] from supporting:
“any request by a foreign country to impose any boycott against a country that is friendly to the United States and that is not itself the object of any form of boycott pursuant to United States law or regulation, or any boycott fostered or imposed by any international governmental organization against Israel or any request by any international governmental organization to impose such a boycott.”
The bill refers to the right of Americans to boycott Israel as “discriminatory activity,” a ludicrous claim, since the discrimination that is actively taking place right now consists of Israeli land grabbing, house demolitions, checkpoints, the blockade and frequent bombings in Gaza, and more.
What this bill actually imposes on Americans is unquestioned support for the state of Israel. All who pay taxes in the United States are forced to support the state of Israel regardless of their opinions of Israeli behavior. The right to not financially support Israel is denied to all American tax payers.
Should this bill be passed, violators could face criminal charges and financial penalties of up to one million dollars. This is a serious position that only war profiteers will benefit from, since Israel is a major party player in the war industry, boasting that it tests its weapons on Palestinians before offering them for sale.
This bill is the most extreme measure taken so far to defend US relations with Israel, which explains the attempt to sneak it in attached to the end of the year appropriations bill. Thankfully our Senator Bernie Sanders, along with California Senator Dianne Feinstein, are standing up against passing this bill in the shadows without real debate in a letter to Senators McConnell and Schumer. Please call (202) 224-3121 to thank them for speaking out against S. 720, showing support for our freedom of speech and speaking out against illegal Israeli settlements.