Arab Americans, civil liberties groups challenging anti-BDS bill in US Congress

WASHINGTON, Tuesday, The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and American civil liberties organizations are leading a campaign to block a bill in the US Congress aimed at fighting boycott of Israel led by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Republican Senators Marco Rubio, James Risch, Cory Gardner, and Mitch McConnell proposed the Senate’s first 2019 bill, S.B.1, “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019.”

According to ADC, S.B.1 shields Israel for its ongoing human rights violations against the Palestinian people and calls to punish those that engage in boycotting Israel for violating international law and human rights.

S.B.1 adopts the unconstitutional language from Senator Rubio’s Combating BDS Act, said ADC. Specifically, it calls for the denial of government contracts to those that boycott Israel to protect Palestinian human rights.

ADC called on members to send an email to their Senators to tell them to vote no on S.B.1 and to defend fundamental freedoms that are guaranteed in the US Constitution.

Boycotts are a long-held tool used in the US to achieve civil rights and justice. It is the duty of all members of congress to uphold the rule of law and protect the First Amendment, it said, stressing immediate action since S.B.1 is being expedited through Senate procedures and may bypass the committee process.

The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), a Washington based group, said the bill would also codify into law $38 billion in defense assistance for Israel over 10 years and protect states and local governments that pass laws punishing individuals and companies who endorse the boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel.

Both US Senator Bernie Sanders and newly elected Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American to become member of Congress, have taken to twitter, condemning the decision to introduce the bill and reminding lawmakers that boycotts are constitutionally protected.

They forgot what country they represent. This is the U.S. where boycotting is a right & part of our historical fight for freedom & equality. Maybe a refresher on our U.S. Constitution is in order, wrote Tlaib.

It’s absurd that the first bill during the (US government) shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity, wrote Sanders.

The bill is a top legislative priority for AIPAC, the Israeli lobby in Washington, and part of a larger legislative crackdown across the country, with 26 states passing similar laws, said IMEU. Following legal challenges by the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, anti-boycott state laws in Arizona and Kansas have successfully been blocked by Federal Courts in the past year.

In December, the Senate also attempted to slip a federal Israel Anti-Boycott Act into an end-of-year Congressional spending bill. A coalition of more than 100 grassroots organizations also sent a memo to Congress urging members to oppose it. The bill was condemned by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Dianne Feinstein, along with the ACLU and other civil liberties groups.

Source: Palestinian News & Info Agency

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