Back in 2005, over 170 Palestinian non-governmental organizations formed what was to become the Palestinian BDS National Committee. It called for a boycott of Israel, disinvestment from Israel and international sanctions against Israel. The goal of the BDS Movement was to hopefully have the same effect as the anti-apartheid campaigns against white minority rule in apartheid South Africa.
The movement certainly has its critics, but as we mark fifty years of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and close to a decade old siege of the Gaza Strip which has made much of the area unlivable, the BDS Movement is gaining in popularity.
Any type of criticism towards Israel and the practices of its government has typically been met with charges of anti-Semitism, particularly from other right-wing governments. Canada’s former government included. Now it seems, Democratic and Republican lawmakers wish to take it to another level. At least they actually agree on something I guess.
According to the Intercept: a group of 43 senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio.
Prominent supporters also include Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and fellow democrats Kirsten Gillibrand, Ron Wyden, Richard Blumenthal and Maria Cantwell. Prominent Republicans include right-wing senators Ted Cruz, Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio.
AIPAC, otherwise known as the “American Israel Public Affairs Committee” is one of the biggest Israeli lobbying groups in Washington. This bill to criminalize the BDS Movement is said to be one of its top lobbying priorities for the year.
There are a number of shocking elements to this bill. The first obviously being the attempt to criminalize freedom of speech, which last time I checked anyway, was still illegal in the United States. Given that, the amount of bipartisan support this bill has in the House of Representatives is staggering. It has already amassed 234 co-sponsors: 63 Democrats and 174 Republicans.
The punishment for showing your support for the BDS Movement will consist of a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison. Shall I repeat that? Democrats and Republicans alike only care about civil rights until they are paid not to.
The real joke here is the language. The bill only refers to the BDS Movement. Therefore, if you are a laidback hippie type who wishes to protest the racist Israeli government in the form of the BDS Movement, you can be fined and jailed. Meanwhile, if you yourself are a racist anti-Semitic Nazi skinhead and wish to boycott Israel simply because you are a racist anti-Semitic Nazi skinhead, you’re free to do so!
As a semi-Jewish Canadian myself, I have written about the plight of the Palestinians many times. I have also written about the practices of Netanyahu’s racist government more than once. I have even thrown my support behind the BDS movement, it is a peaceful movement after all. Much better to the alternatives I would think.
However, I would be safe from prosecution if this bill passes. I live in Canada where the Israeli lobbies don’t have as big an effect, yet. My American colleagues on the other hand, should not face criminal charges and possible jail time simply for voicing the same opinions.