Over 250 members of Congress—from both parties—just went on the record supporting a bill aimed at restricting our rights to free speech.1
The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced in Congress by Senator Cardin (D-MD) and Representative Roskam (R-IL), represents a shocking assault on the freedom of political speech in the U.S.
If passed, the bill could criminalize support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls on people around the world to engage in nonviolent actions opposing racist and illegal policies of the far-right Israeli government—modeled after the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.
No matter what your opinions are on the Israeli-Palestinian occupation and conflict, we can all agree: the U.S. government shouldn't be in the business of criminalizing non-violent political speech or making certain opinions illegal. Sign here to tell your Senators to oppose this bill.
As someone who loudly and unapologetically proclaims my faith and identity as a Muslim, I have to deal with speech that I dislike and disagree with on a daily basis. But calling for the criminalization of an economic boycott? That's a step that goes way too far.
And that's exactly what the Israel Anti-Boycott Act proposes. The bill calls for civil penalties of up to $250,000 and even criminal penalties of up to 20 years in prison for anyone violating its prohibitions—which include even simply furnishing or requesting boycott-related information, even if they were not participating in boycotts themselves.2
Under a Trump administration that’s criminalizing political protests, attacking freedom of the press, and targeting people based on their religion, we can't afford to cede even one inch when it comes to our First Amendment rights.
The architect of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act is none other than AIPAC—the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—which has a track record of lobbying members of Congress in support for far-right Israeli policies, including the building of settlements that are illegal and unrecognized under international and U.S. law.3
Like the NRA, the AIPAC lobby is so effective that many members of Congress seemingly signed on to the bill before even reading it.4
Perhaps they should have given it a closer read. Amnesty International recently pointed out that, in addition to clamping down on free speech, the Act would violate U.S. obligations to not recognize or assist illegal situations in other countries—by not only normalizing but also directly assisting in the financing of illegal settlements authorized and built by the far-right Israeli government.5
Dustin, Linda, Ishraq, and the MPower Change team
1. "U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Criminally Outlaw Support for Boycott Campaign Against Israel" The Intercept, Jul 19, 2017
2. "How the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Threatens First Amendment Rights" ACLU, Jul 26, 2017
3. "Inside AIPAC’s Quiet Campaign To Blur Israeli Settlement Lines" Huffington Post, May 28, 2015
4. "Senators Promise to Amend Israel Boycott Bill After Backlash" The Intercept, Jul 25, 2017
5. "Amnesty International USA Opposes S. 720" Amnesty International, Jul 28, 2017