BDS is a trap for Democrats

Senate Judiciary Committee members Sheldon Whitehouse, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris and Christopher Coons during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Sep 28, 2018. (photo: Getty Images)
Progressive Democrats are beginning to understand how Israel and BDS are being used to manipulate them into betraying their values and undermining their own cause.

By Lara Friedman | Forward | Jan 28, 2019

So long as the likes of McConnell, AIPAC, Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu are allowed to dictate the limits of acceptable discourse and opinion on Israel, and to impose a definition of “pro-Israel” that is inconsistent with liberal values, progressives are preordained to get hammered politically.

On Monday night [Jan 28], the United States Senate voted to advance a bill that will quash free speech in the name of supporting Israel. It’s just one more sign that Israel-Palestine is being used as a potent weapon in today’s political arena.

The bill is S. 1, aka the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019.” S. 1 was introduced by an all-GOP set of sponsors back on January 3. A grab-bag of Israel and Middle East-related measures, it also includes the “Combating BDS Act,” a controversial bill which would grant federal cover to laws passed by U.S. states that, in the name of supporting Israel, require companies and even individual contractors to sign away their right to engage in boycotts of Israel or its settlements.

The ACLU says these state laws are unconstitutional. Federal judges in Kansas and Arizona agree. So do constitutional law scholars and free speech experts.

But AIPAC and its fellow travelers, both in the GOP and among hardline pro-Israel forces, reject such views, albeit with arguments that stand up poorly to fact-checking. Instead, they have been framing these state laws, and S. 1, as political litmus tests of pro-Israel bona fides.

For the past three weeks, Senate Democrats, with the notable exceptions of Senators Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, avoided dealing with the substance of S. 1, arguing instead over its timing and insisting on the impropriety of dealing with any business until the government was re-opened.

Now, with the government open again, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has, predictably, made S.1 the first item on the Senate’s agenda.

In doing so, McConnell, the GOP, and pro-Israel hardliners have set a political trap for congressional Democrats. Anyone who opposes the bill will be labeled anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic.

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