US: Anti-BDS Bill Gains Traction

ACLU: Such laws seek to 'punish individuals for no reason other than their political beliefs.' (Photo: via Mondoweiss)

As the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement continues to claim victories, attacks against its supporters continue to grow and gain momentum.

The latest attack comes from the United States, where a bipartisan vote on the United States House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs approved a measure giving president Donald Trump the power to decide how to punish U.S. based companies that promote boycotts of Israel.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is practically ready for a house vote after being approved by the committee Thursday and would allow for the punishment of businesses engaged in BDS with criminal penalties of a maximum US$1 million fine and 20 years in prison.

Brian Hauss, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), criticized the bill arguing it “seeks to dictate the political activities Americans can and can’t engage in.”

A similar bill was introduced last year, but the proposal drew sharp criticism from rights organizations who said it was unconstitutional and threatens the First Amendment, which protects the right to boycott as a form of free speech.

In response to criticism, Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said the new version of the bill clarifies U.S. citizens will not be imprisoned for boycotting Israel.

Max Geller, of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee in New Orleans, said that the pro-Israel lobby benefits from presenting laws that will be rejected because they are unconstitutional.

Geller explained:

“Even though they lose in court over and over again, there is a benefit for pro-Israel partisans to bring bills like this… They force activists to talk about their First Amendment rights, and not the human rights violations they’re protesting.”

Pro-Palestinian activists, including Jewish groups in the U.S., have warned that none of the versions of the bill make a distinction between Israel, within 1948 borders, and Israeli illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. That would mean that businesses could even face penalties for boycotting companies and products from illegal settlements.

Attempts to silence BDS activists and undermine its growing popularity has also reached Germany.

Uwe Becher, deputy mayor of Frankfurt, announced on Tuesday:

“Artists who support the anti-semitic BDS movement are not welcome in Frankfurt, (warning) festivals or organizations risk possible city funds if they provide a platform in Frankfurt to supporters or support BDS.”

His announcements come after the Scottish band Young Fathers were re-invited to the Ruhrtriennale festival in the German city of Bochum.

The band’s concert had been canceled after they refused to distance themselves from the BDS movement.

Frankfurt, Berlin, and Munich have ruled that BDS uses Nazi-era language, and thus banned the BDS campaign. BDS supporters cannot use public spaces or locations for their activities, and any organization linked to BDS is subject to losing federal subsidies.

(TeleSur, PC, Social Media)

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