New bill in Congress aims to thwart international measures to hold Israel accountable for settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.
By Josh Ruebner / The Electronic Intifada
May 18, 2017
[Ed. Note: U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D. WA) is a co-sponsor of a related bill, S.170, Combating BDS Act of 2017.]
“Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other resources.”
— Arvind Ganesan, Human Rights Watch Director of Business and Human Rights
US Senator Ben Cardin is once again trying to pass legislation designed to suppress the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.
During the last Congressional session, the Maryland Democrat succeeded in sneaking language into a must-pass trade bill making it a “principal negotiating objective” of the United States “to discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel” while negotiating trade deals.
This discouragement of BDS extended to boycotts of products originating from settlements in what the bill euphemistically referred to as “Israeli-controlled territories.” All of Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights are illegal under international law.
With BDS continuing to gain momentum, Cardin went back to the drawing board and introduced the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.720, H.R.1697) on 23 March, designed to coincide with the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The powerful Israel lobby group duly made the bill one of its top legislative priorities.
The Senate version of the bill (S.720) currently has 18 cosponsors, 14 Republicans and four Democrats. Its counterpart in the House (H.R.1697) introduced by Illinois Republican Peter Roskam, has 91 co-sponsors at present, about two-thirds of them Republicans.
The bill opposes the creation of a database of Israeli settlement companies by the UN Human Rights Council and any efforts to boycott those companies’ products. According to Cardin and the other original sponsors of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, the bill also seeks to “prevent the implementation of similar ‘blacklists’ or boycotts in the future.”
It aims to do so in a heavy-handed manner: by imposing governmental sanctions — denial of loans, fines and even potentially jail time — on companies complying with calls from the UN Human Rights Council to boycott Israeli settlement products.