Senate Bill 720 Makes It A Crime To Support Human Rights

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From left, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). (photo: Bill Clark / Getty Images)

Senators must stop hiding behind hollow support of a “two-state solution” that this bill would make impossible.

By James Zogby / Huffington Post
August 12, 2017


In order to build support for their effort, advocates for Israel have tried to portray BDS in the harshest of terms. They have made Israel the victim and while portraying advocates of BDS as “virulently anti-Semitic” aggressors. All of this has been done to obfuscate the reality that BDS is nothing more than a “strategic Palestinian-led form of nonviolent resistance to the occupation and denial of human rights.”


It is fascinating to watch some U.S. senators tripping over themselves as they attempt to defend their support for or opposition to proposed legislation that would make it a federal crime to support the international campaign to Boycott, Divest, or Sanction (BDS) Israel for its continued occupation of Palestinian lands. What ties these officials up in knots are their efforts to square the circle of their “love of Israel,” their opposition to BDS, their support for a “two-state solution,” and their commitment to free speech.

The bill in question, S720, was introduced on March 23, 2017 by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD). S720 opposes calls by the United Nations to boycott or “blacklist” companies that support Israeli activities in the territories occupied in the 1967 war. The bill further prohibits any US person from supporting this UN call to boycott and establishes stiff fines and/or imprisonment for Americans who violate this prohibition.

There are a number of problems with the legislation. In the first place, supporters of S720 grossly mischaracterize the intent of the UN approach as “anti-Israel.” In fact, as S720, itself, acknowledges, the UN Human Rights Council specifically targets only businesses that engage in activities in “territories occupied [by Israel] since 1967.” The UN target is not Israel, but Israeli actions that serve to consolidate its hold over the occupied territories.

Then there is the concern that by making illegal either the act of boycotting Israel, or advocating for such a boycott, S720 is criminalizing free speech and stifling legitimate peaceful protest.

Finally, the legislation continues to build on earlier Congressional legislation using slight of hand language in an attempt to erase the distinction in U.S. law between Israel and illegal Israeli settlements in occupied territories. While earlier legislation accomplished this by referring to “Israel and areas under Israel’s control,” S720 notes that its boycott prohibition applies to “commercial relations…with citizens or residents of Israel, entities organized under the laws of Israel, or the Government of Israel.”

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Two College Kids Debate BDS

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Sami Rahamim is a rising senior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Ravil Ashirov is a junior at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Sami is against BDS, while Ravil is a supporter. Here are there thoughts.

By Ravil Ashirov and Sami Rahamim
August 7, 2017


BDS is a set of tactics, not an ideology or a vision of a particular political resolution. These tactics are meant to force the negotiation of meaningful resolutions by putting a cost on the occupation. The ultimate details of such resolutions can only be decided by the relevant Israeli and Palestinian actors. It would be foolish and paternalistic for international activists to assert specific resolutions.


SR: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deeply complex. Yet, one basic truth holds: Israelis aren’t going anywhere, Palestinians aren’t going anywhere, and it is in both of their best interests to come together and work to arrive at a solution that peacefully ends the conflict.

For decades, the framework of this solution has involved the creation of an independent Palestinian state beside a secure Israel. This is the dream of a majority of Israelis and many of Israel’s supporters around the globe, myself included.

One of several disturbing facets of the BDS movement is that it deceptively simplifies this conflict to exclusively assign the Palestinians the role of perpetual victims and Israel as oppressors. While this may fit a convenient narrative for pro-Palestinian activists, it distorts reality to the detriment of both Israelis and Palestinians.

I understand that we both care deeply about this conflict, but there must be a more productive way forward. When will we move in that direction?

RA: BDS is a set of tactics which seeks to put a cost on Israel for maintaining the occupation, an occupation it has been able to maintain relatively cost free, in order to compel it to recognize Palestinian sovereignty and human rights.

For BDS to have legitimacy, it must uphold two burdens. The first burden is prudence; BDS has to show gains in the achievement of Palestinian human rights or the potential to make gains. The second burden is that BDS must be able to refute the moral criticisms against it by the opposition, or otherwise point out their irrelevancy. These are burdens which can be upheld.

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Palestinian Fighting for His East Jerusalem Home

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An Israeli flag hangs from a Jewish home in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. (photo: Olivier Fitoussi)

Jawad Siyam is competing for his home against the well-financed settler group Elad.

By Nir Hasson / Haaretz
August 4, 2017


“These are not equal forces competing in the bidding. On one side is a simple Palestinian family of limited means, while on the other is a strong settler group with an annual budget of tens of millions of shekels assisted by unknown but wealthy foreign groups focusing on land acquisition, for which money poses almost no limits.”


Settlers and Palestinians are bidding for a property in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan that could decide the whole area’s character, local people say. The contestants: the settler group Elad and the man considered the Palestinian leader in Silwan, Jawad Siyam.

An invitation for bids was published by the Finance Ministry’s Custodian of Absentee Property and the Israel Land Authority, offering for sale a one-quarter stake in a building of four apartments. The invitation expires in less than three weeks. Siyam says the custodian is doing everything possible to help the settlers take over his home.

“Since 1994 we have been in the courts facing the settlers,” Siyam says. “If we lose now we’ll have only one quarter of the building and it will be much easier for them to evict us. But I won’t leave; they’ll have to kill me first.”

Both Elad and the finance minister say they are doing everything according to the law.

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