America's last? First Senate bill of 2019 aims to protect Israel from boycott, report reveals
According to The Intercept, the first piece of legislation to be rolled out by the 2019 GOP-controlled Senate will give the US government the authority to cut ties with companies that choose to boycott Israel. The not-very-America-first decree is part of a series of foreign policy-related measures which will make up S.1 – the designation given to the symbolically important first bill of the session.
The boycott-banning legislation has apparently taken precedence over the ongoing government shutdown – already the third-longest on record, shuttering nine departments and leaving hundreds of thousands of government workers without paychecks.
The Senate sure has got its priorities straight. In the midst of devastating #shutdown, THE FIRST order of business is a bill defending #Israel from boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign at expense of our 1st Amendment rights. #BDSMovement#FreePalestinehttps://t.co/a3NtQJWSRV— Azadeh Shahshahani (@ashahshahani) January 6, 2019
With Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) as the lead sponsor, the Combating BDS Act is expected to receive bipartisan support. Coincidentally, punishing corporations and individuals who support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is a top legislative priority for AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby. The bill was previously introduced (but never passed) last year, and gave state and local governments the authority to refuse to do business with US firms participating in a boycott against Israel. Similar anti-BDS legislation has already been adopted in 26 states. So far, two federal courts have ruled that punishing companies or individuals who boycott goods produced in Israel violates constitutionally-protected rights under the First Amendment.
Courts have found state laws penalizing Israel & settlement boycotters to be unconstitutional, but GOP Senate leaders are making a bill authorizing & encouraging states to enact such laws their first order of business in a package to be voted on next weekhttps://t.co/p9s1PcBpFX— Dylan Williams (@dylanotes) January 6, 2019
S.1 is purportedly being specially drafted to avoid similar legal challenges – but has already come under fire from civil liberties groups. In a comment provided to The Intercept, the ACLU said that the bill would “weaken Americans’ First Amendment protections” and “sends a message to Americans that they will be penalized if they dare to disagree with their government” – or Israel, for that matter.
Many on Twitter expressed disgust that senators were giving Israel priority over their own constituents.
When the government seek to criminalize its own citizens in defense of a foreign power - there is no better proof that Americans don't own their own country anymore.— OSAI (@BytesZero) January 6, 2019
If the bill passes the Senate, it would then go before the Democrat-controlled House, where Nancy Pelosi may have to choose between her ardent support for Israel – or freedom of speech.
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