The latest evidence of that slavishness comes in the form of growing support among Democrats in both Houses for legislation sponsored by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and co-sponsored by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, commonly known as BDS. 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.
According to the ACLU, the Cardin legislation would “bar U.S. persons from supporting boycotts against Israel, including its settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories (emphasis mine) conducted by international governmental organizations, such as the United Nations and the European Union. It would also… include penalties for simply requesting information about such boycotts. Violations would be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison…This bill would impose civil and criminal punishment on individuals solely because of their political beliefs about Israel and its policies.”
Pretty amazing. Why would anyone support such a law? Yes, lots of people (including me) oppose boycotting Israel (although I certainly support boycotting the settlements) but how is it even possible to criminalize simply supporting a boycott to protest the occupation? After all, we boycott states and municipalities here at home to protest discrimination based on race, sexual identity or anything else. Most recently, the state of North Carolina was faced with a boycott to protest its policy against allowing transgender people to use public bathrooms. How can it be legal to refuse to do business with North Carolina but illegal to refuse to do business with Israeli settlements?
The answer is simple: AIPAC, which is the lobby few Democrats (let alone Republicans) are willing to cross. Here is its “Call to Action” sent to every member of the House and Senate telling them, in no uncertain terms, that the Cardin bill is a top priority of the lobby. As for Cardin, it is no surprise that he is the lead sponsor of the bill (1) because he never, if ever, deviates from doing what the Israeli government wants and (2) he is one of the top recipients of campaign contributions from AIPAC officers and associated donors. The same can be said of Schumer who has always carried water for the lobby. (Both senators opposed President Obama’s bill to end sanctions on Iran in exchange for its terminating its nuclear weapons program.)
Am I being unfair to ascribe such venal motives to those Democrats who support this bill? (I don’t mention Republicans because their support for it comports completely with their worldviews which is not the case with the Democrats). I don’t think so because every single Democrat supporting this anti-free speech bill consistently opposes limits on free speech. Their support for this bill represents the only time they promoted legislation to curtail free speech. I cannot imagine any reason for this egregious offense against the First Amendment except to please AIPAC and their AIPAC associated donors.
Fortunately, this legislation can still be stopped. Here are lists of the Senate and House Democrats who are co-sponsoring this abominable bill. Let them know of your opposition. Just as important, if your legislator is not yet a co-sponsor, let him or her know that he or she better not become one.
Many years ago, the #2 man at AIPAC, Steve Rosen (later indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917 wrote me the following about AIPAC’s activities: “A lobby is a night flower. It thrives in the dark and dies in the sun.”
The same applies to those in Congress who, disregarding their constituents, take their marching orders from AIPAC. It’s time to shine some sunlight on them.
The First Amendment does not include an exception stating “does not apply to speech about Israel or its settlements.” We can’t allow a lobby and its Congressional cutouts to insert one. But, believe me, that is their goal and going after BDS supporters is just the beginning.