Senate Bill 720: Making It a Crime to Support Palestinian Human Rights

September 17, 2017 in News by Slad

By James Zogby

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, S.720, was introduced on March 23, 2017 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). S.720 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 U.S. person from supporting this U.N. 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 S.720 grossly mischaracterize the intent of the U.N. approach as “anti-Israel.” In fact, as S.720, itself, acknowledges, the U.N. Human Rights Council specifically targets only businesses that engage in activities in “territories occupied [by Israel] since 1967.” The U.N. 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, S.720 is criminalizing free speech and stifling legitimate peaceful protest.

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