before the new Congress is seated in January, some legislators hope
to pass a piece of legislation that would penalise support for the
BDS movement (Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions)
against the Israeli occupation. The
controversial measure is another attempt by the pro-Israel lobby and
the Israeli government to paint support for Palestinian human
anti-Semitism, and to characterise BDS activists and supporters as
criminals, terrorists and racists.
politicians have decided to capitalise on the rise in anti-Semitic
violence in the US by demonising BDS - a social justice movement to
end the oppression of Palestinians, which is inspired by the
struggles decades ago to end apartheid in South
- rather than addressingdomestic white supremacist terrorism.
legislation, known as the Israel
or their employees
participate in international boycotts of Israel
and the occupied territories.
its earlier form, the bill would have provided for imprisonment.
While the revised legislation has eliminated
imprisonment as a penalty, civil liberties groups still vehemently
oppose the legislation as an unconstitutional infringement on freedom
of speech which would impose potentially exorbitant criminal
those who support a boycott of Israel.
the campaign to divest
apartheid South Africa to the recent boycott
the National Rifle Association, boycotts have always been a key
feature of American politics," noted
Brian Haus, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.
"If state and federal governments could outlaw boycotts they
don't like, all sorts of social movements would suffer."
addition to the proposed federal legislation, 26
have enacted anti-BDS laws, with legislation pending in 13 states,
according to Palestine Legal.
the US government would consider criminalising criticism of Israeli
policies speaks to the hold the pro-Israel lobby has on many
legislators. In 2018, the lobby spent $3.8 million on politicians,
with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) accounting
for the lion's share.
has achieved its goals of pushing the Trump administration to open
the US embassy in Jerusalem and end the Iran deal. Newly elected
members of Congress are expected to participate in AIPAC-sponsored
all-expenses-paid trips - which cost between $9,300 and $10,500 for
each freshman legislator and their family member - provide a
one-sided view of Israel and are designed to consolidate US support
for its government.
Rep Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, a Palestinian American whose mother
lives in the West
will reject the AIPAC-sponsored trip in favour of her own
to the West Bank. Tlaib and newly elected Rep
of Minnesota, both members of the Democratic Party and the first
Muslim women elected to Congress, are BDS supporters.
bill in Congress enjoys far more Republican than Democratic support,
with Democrats with 2020 presidential aspirations have stayed away
from the legislation, save Sen
who says he is a staunch BDS opponent, is a co-sponsor of the
anti-BDS bill. "We've seen the alarming rise in anti-Semitism in
the United States and across the world in recent years manifest
itself in many deeply concerning ways, including in the actions of
foreign governments targeting Israel and the Israeli people,"
the senator said, arguing the legislation "will prevent
international entities from imposing their will on US businesses with
regards to their decisions, consistent with US law, to conduct
commerce with our close ally Israel and its citizens".
like Trump and other pro-Israel politicians, has used the
massacre at the Tree
of Life synagogue
in Pittsburgh - in which a white supremacist gunman killed 11 people
- to demonise BDS for political gain.
Ministry of Strategic Affairs works with front groups such as the
Israel Project and the
for Defense of Democracies
on US citizens
who support Palestinian rights and smear them as anti-Semites, in a
covert campaign that smacks of McCarthyism and Islamophobia.
examples include the attacks against Temple University professor Marc
he gave a speech at the United Nations for the International Day of
Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and Lara
a Palestinian American student at Hebrew University who was detained
by Israeli authorities for 15 days. The Israeli government reportedly
detained Alqasem because her name appeared on the Canary Mission - a
bankrolled by American Jewish establishment which maintains a list of
BDS supporters, academics, students and others.
Israeli government and its supporters have made it clear that with
their support of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, they will
not tolerate a two-state solution in which Israel and Palestine live
side-by-side with self-determination. Nor will they tolerate a
one-state solution in which Israelis and a Palestinian majority share
the land and enjoy equal citizenship rights in a vibrant democracy.
only alternative is the current state of affairs, an apartheid system
and a military occupation that denies basic human rights and dignity
to the Palestinian people. Maintaining the occupation requires the
demonisation of those who oppose it.
the US, this also means the branding of pro-Palestinian movement
activism as terrorism, and any disagreement with the Israeli
government as anti-Semitism. Supporters of the anti-BDS bill in
Congress aim to quash any discussion of Palestinian rights and the
occupation, in the hope that the Palestinian people and their
movement for freedom will simply go away. The result is a repressive,
anti-democratic piece of legislation that violates civil liberties
and free speech, including a fundamental right to engage in political
commentary was originally published by Aljazeera.com