Senate Bill Would Criminalize BDS, Impose Prison Terms; ACLU Publishes Letter in Opposition

Sens. Kristen Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York are among the co-sponsors of a bill calling for criminal penalties for US citizens supporting a boycott of Israel

“We write today in opposition to S. 720, also known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. We understand that proponents of the bill are seeking additional co-sponsors. We urge you to refrain from co-sponsoring the legislation because it would punish individuals for no reason other than their political beliefs.”

So reads the opening paragraph of a letter published on Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would make it a felony for Americans to support the boycott of Israel. According to the ACLU, violators would be subject to massive fines and imprisonment of up to 20 years. The bill was introduced into the Senate back in March by Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat. Since then, it has picked up a whopping 45 co-sponsors, including seven just in the past week, suggesting it has a strong chance of  passing the Senate.

A bit more from the ACLU letter:

The bill seeks to expand the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export Import Bank Act of 1945 which, among other things, prohibit U.S. persons from complying with a foreign government’s request to boycott a country friendly to the U.S. The bill would amend those laws to bar U.S. persons from supporting boycotts against Israel, including its settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, conducted by international governmental organizations, such as the United Nations and the European Union. It would also broaden the law to include penalties for simply requesting information about such boycotts. Violations would be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison. We take no position for or against the effort to boycott Israel or any foreign country, for that matter. However, we do assert that the government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, punish U.S. persons based solely on their expressed political beliefs.”

Co-sponsors of S.720 (you can find the full text of the bill here ) include both senators from New York, Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, as well as Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Robert Menendez,  and Lindsay Graham.

According to a report by Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim and published at The Intercept, the bill has been strongly pushed by AIPAC, which would probably account for why so many senators have signed onto it.

“Indeed, AIPAC, in its 2017 lobbying agenda, identified passage of this bill as one of its top lobbying priorities for the year,” they write.

The also report that a similar bill had been introduced in the House at the same time as S.720, noting that the House version “has already amassed 234 co-sponsors: 63 Democrats and 174 Republicans.”

At the risk of stating the obvious, bills like this give us pause to wonder what the future may hold and whether or not we may be evolving into a Jewish-run totalitarian state. Greenwald and Grim comment that “the criminalization of political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the West.”

A bit more from the ACLU:

This bill would impose civil and criminal punishment on individuals solely because of their political beliefs about Israel and its policies. There are millions of businesses and individuals who do no business with Israel, or with companies doing business there, for a number of reasons. Some, like those who would face serious financial penalties and jail time under the bill, actively avoid purchasing goods or services from companies that do business in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories because of a political viewpoint opposed to Israeli policy. Others may refrain from Israeli-related business based on political beliefs, but choose not to publicly announce their reasoning. Still others do no business with companies in Israel for purely pragmatic reasons. Under the bill, however, only a person whose lack of business ties to Israel is politically motivated would be subject to fines and imprisonment–even though there are many others who engage in the very same behavior. In short, the bill would punish businesses and individuals based solely on their point of view. Such a penalty is in direct violation of the First Amendment.

According to Wikipedia, Sen. Ben Cardin is Jewish. His grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants and the family name originally was “Kardonsky” before it was changed to Cardin.

Can anyone explain to me why it shouldn’t be regarded as a conflict of interest for Jewish Congress members to vote on bills pertaining to Israel? Or why there isn’t a law on the books requiring them to recuse themselves whenever such measures come up for a vote?

Can we imagine the thunderous outcry that would erupt if we had elected representatives of Slavic or Russian extract introducing bills giving away huge sums of money–in the billions of dollars each year–to Russia, or mandating criminal penalties on anyone calling for a boycott of Russia?

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