The hypocrisy of anti-BDS laws

A demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence on Jan 18. (photo: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)
America has a long and proud history of boycotts being used to advocate for human rights and social justice.

By Yousef Munayyer | The Washington Post | Jan 19, 2019

When elected officials say they oppose BDS, what they are really saying is they oppose these tactics — and would even outlaw constitutionally protected freedom of expression — only because the targets are institutions complicit in Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights. This amounts to holding Israel to a different standard and enabling its horrific policies.

As Congress returned for a new session at a moment of political crisis and government shutdown, the Senate chose an odd priority for its legislative agenda. Senate bill 1, or S1, authorizes billions in weapons to Israel and includes an unconstitutional law aiming to silence the movement for Palestinian rights.

Boycott, divestments and sanctions, or BDS, are tactics Palestinian civil society has asked people around the world to utilize to hold Israel accountable for policies that deny them human rights. While these tactics have gained traction, many US lawmakers have chosen to introduce repressive legislation targeting BDS tactics when implemented in support of Palestinian rights.

These so-called “anti-BDS” laws, adopted at both the state and federal level, have caused great controversy. Opposition to such bills has overwhelmingly come from Democrats on the grounds that economic protest is protected under the First Amendment right to free speech; Republicans have almost entirely supported these laws as a caucus. But the debate over the “Combating BDS Act,” recently packaged into S1, led to a revealing exchange. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who sponsored the act, claimed some Senate Democrats secretly support BDS. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) quickly shot back that such a claim was untrue.

Both are wrong. There’s nothing secret about the Democrats’ support for BDS, and that support can be found on both sides of the aisle. All 100 senators, and countless elected officials, support the tactics of boycott, divestment and sanctions. In 2017, Iran-Russia sanctions legislation passed 98–2, so that’s 98 senators that support BDS right there.

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