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Weiss writes: "The bill is such a crude example of overreach by the Israel lobby that it is sure to backfire on its supporters as Greenwald and Grim's report ricochets around the Democratic Party."

Protesters march in support of the boycott of Israel for its illegal occupation of Palestine. (photo: Erik McGregor/Getty)
Protesters march in support of the boycott of Israel for its illegal occupation of Palestine. (photo: Erik McGregor/Getty)

Bill Making It a Federal Crime to Support BDS Sends Shockwaves Through Progressive Community

By Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss

20 July 17


here is only one story in the news, for followers of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and that is Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim’s report at the Intercept yesterday on new legislation in the Congress that would criminalize support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

The bill is such a crude example of overreach by the Israel lobby that it is sure to backfire on its supporters as Greenwald and Grim’s report ricochets around the Democratic Party:

But now, a group of 43 senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: Anyone guilty of violating the prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison. The proposed measure, called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), was introduced by Cardin on March 23. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the bill “was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.” Indeed, AIPAC, in its 2017 lobbying agenda, identified passage of this bill as one of its top lobbying priorities for the year:

The bill’s co-sponsors include the senior Democrat in Washington, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, his New York colleague Kirsten Gillibrand, and several of the Senate’s more liberal members, such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Maria Cantwell of Washington.

There is similar legislation in the House, also sponsored by liberal heroes.

And the ACLU has opposed the act. It writes:

The ACLU wrote to members of the Senate to urge them to oppose and refrain from co-sponsoring the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (H.R. 1697/S. 720). The impacts of the legislation would be antithetical to free speech protections enshrined in the First Amendment and we urged members to oppose the legislation in the absence of significant revisions.

The Intercept points out that it was valiant of the ACLU to oppose the measure– “Even the bravest of organizations often steadfastly avoid any controversies relating to Israel” — and then it did the yeoman journalistic labor of asking liberal Congresspeople whether they accepted the ACLU position. So far, no takers!

The Intercept also documented that a lead supporter, Ben Cardin, had no idea what was in his bill, “particularly insisting that it contains no criminal penalties.” The piece contains an audio of an interview with Cardin.

What I can add to this story: BDS is a nonviolent movement to put pressure on Israel to respect Palestinian human rights; and it arose 12 years ago from Palestinian activists because governments had failed to apply that pressure. No, government pressure was on Israel’s side, as this bill shows. Israel vehemently opposes it BDS because BDS has been effective; it is working in putting pressure on Israel and in transforming the politics of Israel around the world. Witness this bill. Benjamin Netanyahu gives speeches slamming BDS over and over, as an existential threat. Because he knows BDS helped to bring down apartheid South Africa. If anything announces that the South Africa struggle has come to the U.S. over Israel, here it is.

This bill is the work of the Israel lobby. It was drafted by one of its lead groups, AIPAC– “one of the most powerful, and pernicious, lobbying forces in the country,” as the Intercept puts it. Greenwald and Grim raise the issue of the American interest:

In what conceivable sense is it of benefit to Americans to turn them into felons for the crime of engaging in political activism in protest of a foreign nation’s government?

I would answer that question frankly by explaining that the bill is about the Israel lobby’s presence inside the Democratic Party, and therefore of the role of conservative Zionist Jews inside the Democratic Party. The efforts by many to claim that the Israel lobby is also evangelical Christians (lately Paul Pillar at Lobelog) is pure deception when it comes to the Democratic Party. Evangelical Christians don’t tell Schumer and Gillibrand how to vote on stem-cell research or abortion, and they don’t tell them how to vote on Israel either. No, the organized Jewish community does.

Older Jews tend to be huge ideological supporters of Israel. Ben Cardin goes to synagogues and tells other older Jews that Palestinian statehood is “anti-American.” Schumer has called himself the “Schomer” or guardian of Israel and said that there is a Jewish interest in supporting Israel. A year ago Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List and JJ Goldberg of the Forward described the “gigantic” and “shocking” degree of the Democratic Party’s reliance on Jewish wealth for campaign contributions.

Ultimately this is a story about the fight inside Jewish life over Zionism and support for Israel. I believe we will win this fight, and that this legislation will help us. The legislation will shock many civil-liberties-loving Jews. The Intercept story will force legislators to redraft the legislation.

And, most important: a diverse coalition of human-rights-loving Democrats are enraged by this legislation and are organizing against AIPAC’s role in the party. Call it the Keith Ellison wing, the Sanders wing– young Jews, young Latinos, blacks, women — they want a more progressive policy on Israel and many of them support BDS. Bernie Sanders did not attend the AIPAC conference in 2016, because his base opposed such pandering, and that base is fighting for the party.

Lastly, remember this story and the frank declaration of support for a foreign nation by legislators the next time you hear about the insidious influence of Russia in our politics. As the Intercept notes, “Among the co-sponsors of the bill are several of the politicians who have become political celebrities by positioning themselves as media leaders of the anti-Trump #Resistance, including three California House members who have become heroes to Democrats and staples of the cable news circuit: Ted Lieu, Adam Schiff, and Eric Swalwell.”

Adam Schiff is worthy of special mention, as David Bromwich points out to me. “He is among the scores of obedient Democrats co-sponsoring the bill. Schiff has a high reputation in liberal circles, but he voted for the Iraq war, supported the Saudi intervention in Yemen, said the assassination of Qaddafi was ‘an end to the first chapter of another popular revolution,’ and approved of Trump’s bombing of Syria. On foreign policy he is a believer in the conventional wisdom of the Cold War and the War on Terror, that’s all; but his opinions have taken on an outsize importance since he is now routinely accepted as the party’s outstanding authority on Russia. He knows Russia about as well as he knew Iraq and Libya.” your social media marketing partner


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+46 # Richard Martin-Shorter 2017-07-20 14:52
Isn't life in America criminalized enough? How can ANY legislator vote to make felons out of protesters who are non-violently protesting another county's apartheid?

Answer: Follow the money. A legislator will do ANYTHING to get money for the next campaign. What they say about their intent doesn't matter. Even putative or self-described "progressives" will vote for enriching themselves over the people they represent. And, in particularly toxic votes, they will rotate the fall-guys amongst the most secure seats, just enough to ensure that their coffers are well filled.
+22 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-07-21 05:09
"How can ANY legislator vote to make felons out of protesters who are non-violently protesting a"

They are trying to declare you a felon because you believe in justice and human rights. Pretty amazing.
+10 # Navrongo80 2017-07-21 06:29
I agree, but am more cynical. Those who support this legislation know it will not pass Constitutional muster. They just have their greedy hands outstretched for AIPAC contributions. This is just another dog and pony show.
+9 # Richard Martin-Shorter 2017-07-22 09:14
You know, Nav, that this might have actually gotten passed into law without the exposure from Greenwald et al? I am ashamed to be associated with politicians who are so cynical that they will support such a patently unconstitutiona l law, just to get political contributions. (Can you hear me, Ron Wyden?) Any argument that the bill would be neutralized as unconstitutiona l in the first case that was tried doesn't justify the betrayal that these legislators have performed. It's very much akin to my disgust with Republican justifications for killing the ACA, saying that some future legislator will fix it before it actually goes into effect.

This clearly shows that legislators on neither side of the aisle have any shame at all, and that we should watch their every move for the betrayals that they repeatedly plan and execute, to further their political careers.

What a repellent bunch we have as lawmakers!
+41 # nice2bgreat 2017-07-20 16:00
I'm not personally boycotting Israel or Israeli products, but I fully support and encourage others to do so.

And although I may decide to support BDS in the future, anyway, if this bill passes and becomes law, I will fully and personally support BDS against Israel, Israeli products, as well as banning Benjamin Netanyahu and any other Israeli Nazi from entering the US.
+17 # lfeuille 2017-07-21 01:02
I do support BDS and I find this just outrageous. I really glad Greenwald and Grim had the guts to do this story. I didn't even know about this legislation, which I sure is what the sponsors wanted.
I read elsewhere that many of the congress critters who put their name on this abomination claimed to have no idea what it does. How can someone endorse legislation that they haven't read? That is mind bogglingly irresponsible.
+42 # ReconFire 2017-07-20 17:33
Supporters of this legislation are making fools of themselves. Unconstitutiona l plain and simple.
Legislative supporters also have forgotten their oath of office.
+7 # librarian1984 2017-07-21 17:32
Like Navrongo80 above, I don't see this in such an innocent light. This bill was introduced in March and would quietly have passed if it gadn't been for the action of the ACLU and the reporting of Intercept.

Several pols are now saying they didn't know what was in the bill, including the sponsor. Then who wrote it? And who lied to our senators and representatives about what was in it?

In the midst of all the Russia hoopla, our broken electoral system, the cri de coeur of healthcare, instead of dealing with any of that, they are sneaking behind our backs to outlaw free speech?

Against Israel, who every other country agrees is abusing Palestinians. They're committing war crimes. They're allied with Saudi Arabia, the source of the 9/11 plot and perpetrators, and enflaming ME politics -- but we're going to declare the First Amendment null and void so we can be butt buddies?

wtf. Every one of them should be gone asap.

We are not safe from these people.

Our hope should be to help each other survive the next 7/8 of this administration, not wallowing in despair but working to get real progressives in Congress in 2018 and WH in 2020. We can reverse some of this damage, fix the elections, get money out of politics, end the wars, get Medicare-for-al l, stop fracking, build a green economy.

Darkness before the dawn.

But this fight would be a whole fracking lot easier if the f^ing DP was ON OUR SIDE.

I'm not going to forget this.
+14 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-07-20 20:12
Congress can pass this law and Trump will probably sign it. But no one will obey it. This is a perfect case for civil disobedience. When a law is wrong, people are right to disobey it. The case will go to the supreme court.

Opposing and boycotting the criminal regime in Israel is a matter of conscience. No one can order you to support criminal acts such as the occupation of Palestine, the murder of Palestinians, and the apartheid system that governs Israel.

In the US, there were apartheid or Jim Crow laws that made African Americans second class citizens. Heroes like MLK and thousands of others disobeyed those laws. Eventually the laws were repealed. The same will happen to Israel.

Now everyone should know the power of the Israeli lobby. But I must have forgotten -- when did Putin write a law and give it to Democrats to sponsor in Congress? I thought the Washington Post said that the Republicans were now the "Party of Putin." Wrong -- both democrats and republicans are the party of the zionists. Congress is another occupied territory.

Free Palestine. Free Congress. Zionism is the enemy, not Russia.
+21 # librarian1984 2017-07-20 20:19
Substitute 'Russia' for 'Israel' to see how this legislation should be perceived -- and who the ACTUAL country is that holds the leash around Congress' throat.

ANY cosponsor, any representative who votes FOR this bill, should be primaried and ousted.

This is one of the most appalling things I've seen Congress attempt. Normally one might trust SCOTUS to stop this -- but who the hell knows anymore.

So FINALLY we see bipartisanship -- all the m-f-ers united to shred our constitution.
+31 # Moxa 2017-07-20 21:23
This is an appalling development, blatantly violating the first amendment and exemplifying the most extreme pandering.

I say this as a Jew, not a young Jew (I'm 70).Unlike some here, I support the existence of a Jewish state for the simple reason that Jews have been persecuted throughout their history--no place has been safe for them, and the holocaust was the latest and most horrible reminder of that.

But what the Israeli government is doing with the help of its American enablers is an atrocity. The whole raison d'etre of Israel's own existence is mocked by the treatment it has dealt the Palestinians.

To now make it a CRIME to actively protest this behavior--in the UNITED STATES!--is to turn decency on its head. No one objected to the South African divestment movement. Why? Because American politicians were not dependent on South African money. The hypocrisy of the politicians who are supporting this is astounding.
0 # treerapper 2017-07-22 01:01
Moxa, I agree with you in most part but there has never been a moment's introspection as to why the persecution has been so relentless all these centuries. I will offer you an analogy. Te Tibetans have suffered extraordinary persecution at the hands of the Chinese, beginning with the invasion in 1950. If you discuss this with a knowledgeable Lama, you will get a taste of the realities of Karma. The shoe has been on the other foot in prior centuries and most Lamas will agree that this negative Karma tha was collected has to be repaid and here we are.

When horrible things like the holocaust happen, it is not only important to point the finger at the initiator of the atrocities, it is also important to be a bit self analytical - how and why has such a thing come to pass. If you look at the atrocities Israel is inflicting on the Palestinian people, it is quite clear to me, as a Jew of your vintage and also as a Buddhist, that this negative Karma being collected will have to be repaid and it won't be pretty. I doubt if Israel will look at its past and see that it only has itself to blame for what its people will again have to endure.
+5 # RLF 2017-07-22 07:21
It would be a lot easier to support Israel if they hadn't turned into exactly what they have been afraid of for decades if not centuries! I'm disgusted by the pandering of my senators, Schumer and Gillibrand! Schumer is a Wall St. dupe anyway...just one more reason to work against him!
+2 # NAVYVET 2017-07-23 08:14
While many Israelis and a fast growing number of American Jews are opposed and horrified by Israel's endless genocide, Netanyahu and his supporters, who pretend to be religious Jews, are actually fascist European imperialists whose goal is to bully, tyrannize and steal land. They should all be wearing uniforms with swastikas. I honor anyone who boycotts and divests Israel under its present regime.

I'm not Jewish but lived a long time in and around NY City and, being an activist, have known many Jewish refugees from Israel's religious bigotry reign of terror, including Sabras, starting with their escape to the US after the 1948 war and the greater numbers who fled the 6-Day War.

Because I admire those honest Jewish friends, a few of whom are (like me) still alive, I've long been a member of Tikkun Community, which supports the existence of a free, democratic Israel that respects all religions and condemns terror against Muslims.

This Israel could exist, but even innocent children of that faith, proven by DNA to be close cousins of the Jewish immigrants, were targeted from the beginning by extreme Zionists. Later Zionists produced the bomb-tossing terrorists of the Stern Gang, the 1948 (and ongoing) war against local Muslims to force them out of their homes--a la the US Indian wars--and Israeli policy for most of that country's existence. That policy says: if an Intifada kid throws a rock, it's OK for a Jewish Israeli soldier to kill him and his family.
+19 # dotlady 2017-07-20 23:51
This is possibly the most egregious and ridiculous example of hypocrisy on a sterling plateful of government hypocrisy that we are being served today. Craven, money-addicted and without any moral fiber, the lot of them.
+10 # Jaax88 2017-07-21 00:02
What has gotten into people in Congress? America supported the boycott of South Africa against its apartheid regime. What is different about Israel's apartheid program? America used to be known as the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Now it can be call the Land of Greed and Home of the hypocritical Cowards.
+14 # treerapper 2017-07-21 02:32
I have emailed the entire lot of them to tell them what I think of them and their goosestepping to AIPAC's and Netanyahu's drum. While Schumer and Blumenthal are no surprise as they are both spineless twits and deep in AIPAC's pocket, I am surprised at Gilibrand, Wyden and Cantwell.

I have been personally boycotting Israeli products for decades. Once you really know the extent of the abuse - not just stealing water, not just taking land or making it impossible to farm land, it's controlling the money and the ability to import and export goods, re-labeling Palestinian products so they appear Israeli, abusing the Jaffa orange label to gain income from this Palestinian and on and on. This behavior on the part of any government is completely intolerable and the only recourse I, as a private citizen have is to refuse to spend my money on anything Israel produces, either directly or indirectly.

To deny me that right and my right to support BDS is a violation of my rights as an American and a human being.
+12 # ddd-rrr 2017-07-21 04:56
If true, this is simply ASTOUNDING!
+4 # EternalTruth 2017-07-21 14:59
Astounding indeed. If anyone had doubts about the integrity of our elected officials, this should put a definitive end to those doubts. The cosponsors should be ousted as traitors to the constitution and American people. Any congressperson not shouting loudly (...crickets) in opposition to this needs to be voted out in 2018 regardless of what else they supposedly support or not. If this can't wake people the fuck up, nothing will.
+2 # librarian1984 2017-07-21 23:14
I made myself watch CNN and MSDNC all day -- not a word about this story. Not one peep.

Also watched CSPAN a bit, a call-in show asking if Sessions should leave the AG spot, and was very surprised that almost everyone, of all persuasions, said he should stay! I hate that guy. I would be very glad to see him go, whatever the reason.
+2 # Jaax88 2017-07-22 13:36
Agreed on Sessions
+8 # relegn 2017-07-21 05:33
How soon will any political activism be called a criminal activity if it is not sanctioned by those in power. Just like Mother Russia.
+2 # hectormaria 2017-07-21 07:13
Congress better do what AIPAC says or they will grab all of those congressmen by their matzo balls.
+5 # Dale 2017-07-21 08:18
Just how far will the Democrats go in support of the most reactionary, warlike, interventionist measures?

Human Evolution took a wrong turn. The Neanderthals are back. They call themselves Liberal Democrats, but they are zombies, risen from the grave of history. Now chasing every social advance of human kind. Now making it a crime to support peace and justice in Palestine, in Venezuela, in Syria, most everywhere where violence and oppression reign,
+4 # librarian1984 2017-07-21 08:54
Democrap sponsors of Senate bill S.720:

Bennet, CO
Blumenthal, CT
Coons, DE
Donnelly, IN
Cardin, MD
Peters, MI
McCaskill, MO
Hassan, NH
Menendez, NJ
Gillibrand, NY
Schumer, NY
Wyden, OR
Cantwell, WA
Manchin, WV
+2 # librarian1984 2017-07-21 09:14
Democrap sponsors of H.R.1697:

Gallego, AZ
O'Halleran, AZ
Sinema, AZ

Aguilar, CA
Barragen, CA
Cardenas, CA
Correa, CA
Lieu, CA
Napolitano, CA
Panetta, CA
Roybal-Allard, CA
Schiff, CA
Sherman, CA
Swalwell, CA
Vargas, CA

Courtney, CT
Larson, CT

Castor, FL
Deutch, FL
Hastings, FL
Soto, FL
Wilson, FL

Bishop, GA
Scott, GA

Hanabusa, HI

Lipinski, IL
Schneider, IL

Kennedy, MA
Neal, MA

Brown, MD
Delaney, MD
Hoyer, MD
Sarbanes, MD
Ruppersberger, MD

Levin, MI

Peterson, MN

Gottheimer, NJ
Norcross, NJ
Pallone, NJ
Sires, NJ

Titus, NV

Engel, NY
Higgins, NY
Jeffries, NY
Lowey, NY
Maloney, NY
Meng, NY
Rice, NY
Rosen, NY

Beatty, OH

Schrader, OR

Brady, PA

Gonzalez, TX
Green, TX
Veasey, TX
Vela, TX

McEachin, VA

Kilmer, WA
Larsen, WA
Smith, WA
-1 # Brice 2017-07-22 03:52

>> I don’t like that the Saudis somehow got themselves
>> appointed as chair of a key panel on the United Nations
>> Human Rights Council while simultaneously deciding to
>> behead and then crucify a 17-year-old boy after convicting
>> him of participating in an anti-government protest,
>> “breaking alliance with the king,” and sedition.

This is an astounding admission to proclaim to a so-called "progressive" audience. It by implication impeaches the whole UN as being a human rights joke.

What that really shows is that UN resolutions that dump on Israel and blame if for everything bad in the world, the resolutions that are hauled out by the Jihadi-adjacent fake-politician s of the Islamic milieu are worthless and contemptible.

It also shows that there is a deep, deep unconscious fracture in many of the Progressive mindset that allowed them to know better and yet ignore that for whatever reason ... and to continue to do so.

I think I am the first one to ever say or write about this, but Progressives like the think they are more open-minded, more intelligent and morally superior to Conservatives, and one of the reasons I subscribe to most ( but not all ) of the Progressive agenda is that this is true. However, the Progressives deserve the contempt heaped on them by Conservatives and leave themselves open to having their whole agenda ignored when they support certain groups in the Middle East that are clearly .... well, evil.
-2 # Brice 2017-07-22 04:00
Want to get fired up over something that is wrong ... worry about bills that forbid the labelling of GMO products. Of bills that might stop you from recording video of the police.

This wrongheaded thing of taken everything out on Israel for the problems of the Middle East is supported by people who I am convinced do not really understand the history of the region.

Somehow while Progressives correctly perceive and react to the radical Islamic countries in the region and the corrupt religious totalitarian tyrannies they are, get confused over two of them ... Palestine ( which is not even a real country ) and Iran.

Somehow since they are the enemies of the mainstream defense establishment in the US, and enemies of Israel, the more low functioning, non thinking, group of people who still somehow believe they fit under the description of Progressive have an automatic affinity for these two corrupt countries, as evil and corrupt as any of the other countries in the region ... mostly worse.

I count the people who call themselves Progressives and hate Israel as just as whacked and outlying sanity as those on the right who think Trump is the answer to anything other than how to wreck this country the fastest way possible.
+2 # Jaax88 2017-07-22 13:54
I like to think I am a progressive, but I do not hate Israel. However, I hate what the Zionists have done and are doing to the Palestinians. I will support boycotting Israel and its commerce until it lets up on the Palestinians and recognizing them as human beings with rights and privileges as all humans should have and allow them to exercise those rights fully without fascistic restrictions. Given that, the Islamic hotheads and terrorists must quit killing
Israelis and make appropriate accommodations while insisting on their human and legal rights.
0 # Brice 2017-11-21 06:24
The Palestinians are doing this to themselves.
Two days ago a Palestinian man knifed more innocent people on the street in Israel. Hamas and Hezbollah both reiterated that their primary goal is to destroy Israel. The war is due to Palestinian extreme Muslims.
+1 # PABLO DIABLO 2017-07-22 13:04
-1 # librarian1984 2017-07-23 00:22
BDS the DP!
-1 # treerapper 2017-07-23 07:17
BRAVO PABLO!!! The power of the purse - yours and mine and anyone else who understands this power. It is a primary voice of the powerless.

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