The Anti-Defamation League, a major Israel lobby group, has given its backing to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a bill that could impose large fines and long prison sentences on those who boycott Israel.
The legislation, already a key priority for the Israel lobby group AIPAC, has faced stiffer than usual resistance in Congress after the American Civil Liberties Union denounced it as an unconstitutional attack on free speech rights.
Violating First Amendment
Justifying the legislation, the Anti-Defamation League is claiming that the Israel Anti-Boycott Act “is not intended to limit the First Amendment rights of US individuals and companies who want to criticize Israel or penalize those who want to refuse to do business with Israel based on their own personal convictions.”
But the ACLU was quick to reject this assertion, tweeting, “ ‘Not intended’ to violate the First Amendment is not good enough. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act does just that.”
In the face of growing opposition, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has withdrawn her sponsorship of the bill, while her Massachusetts colleague, the prominent progressive Elizabeth Warren, has said she won’t back it either.
“He’s better than this”
But despite the pushback, the unconstitutional measure is still garnering support. Jewish Voice for Peace, which has been campaigning against the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, sent out an action alert this week noting that Illinois congressman Bobby Rush has signed on as a cosponsor of the bill.
Rush, a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panther Party during the civil rights movement, “has supported Palestinian human rights in the past, most recently signing on to a congressional letter in support of Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro,” the JVP alert states. “He’s better than this.”
The bill currently has 252 House sponsors and 48 in the Senate.
Ignoring own warning
The Anti-Defamation League was, notably, the co-author of a secret report leaked to The Electronic Intifada earlier this year that concedes the failure of Israel lobby groups to counter the Palestine solidarity movement, despite vastly increasing their spending.
The report outlines Israel’s inability to stem the “impressive growth” and “significant successes” of the BDS movement.
It even cautions that legislation violating the free speech of BDS activists would cost Israel further support. By endorsing the bill, the Anti-Defamation League is ignoring its own warning.