- ‘Boycott Israel, We’ll Boycott You’: How US Senators & State Lawmakers Put Foreign Power First
With the US Senate opening 2019 with a bill aimed at protecting Israel from boycott, similar state-level laws are facing opposition. One newspaper in Arkansas is suing the state, calling the boycott ban unconstitutional.
Given that the government is still partially shut down over President Trump’s plans to build a wall at the Mexican border, one would imagine the first piece of legislation rolled out by the Senate this year would prioritize breaking the impasse and ending the shutdown. Not so.
Instead, S.1 is a collection of foreign policy measures aimed at strengthening military cooperation between the US and Jordan, reiterating opposition to Syrian leader Bashar Assad, appropriating foreign aid money for Israel, and – most controversially – giving state and local government the authority to refuse to do business with firms that boycott Israel.
The bill is sponsored by Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a longtime opponent of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement and ally of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby. Aside from Rubio, the bill is expected to receive the bipartisan support necessary to muster a Senate majority. A similar bill introduced by Rubio last year was cosponsored by several Democrats, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) is expected to support this latest effort, the Intercept reported.
While Rubio’s bill is a watered-down version of a hardcore piece of legislation introduced by Democrat Ben Cardin (Maryland) in 2017 that would have actually criminalized boycotting Israel, the American Civil Liberties Union has still sounded the alarm.
“The legislation…sends a message to Americans that they will be penalized if they dare to disagree with their government,” ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Kathleen Ruane told the Intercept. “We therefore urge senators to vote no on the Combating BDS Act next week.”