“I think the boycott is wrong, but I think outlawing protected free speech activity violates our basic constitutional rights,” Warren told constituents in Massachusetts on Friday.
Jewish Voice for Peace published this video of Warren’s statement:After slamming the bill, Warren turned to Katherine Clark, a member of the US House of Representatives who shared the stage with her, and asked her “do you feel the same?”
When Clark apparently signaled assent, Warren said to the audience, “Good, we’ve got two of us here.”
Warren’s opposition to the bill comes after her fellow Democrat, New York’s Senator Kirsten Gillibrand pulled her sponsorship of the legislation last week.
The American Civil Liberties Union wrote to members of Congress last month urging them to oppose the bill, which it termed a “direct violation of the First Amendment.”
As first reported by The Electronic Intifada in April, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act is the most draconian of the dozens of bills introduced in state and federal legislatures in recent years in an attempt to curb the growth of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.
As Josh Ruebner of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights explains, “the bill would impose fines of up to $1 million and criminal penalties of up to 20 years in prison against any US person, including individuals, whose actions further a boycott of Israel or of Israeli settlement products called for by an international governmental organization.”
Ruebner adds: “It would even criminalize the requesting or furnishing of information about such a boycott. The bill would also deny government loans through the Export-Import Bank to firms that refuse to do business with corporations based in or operating out of Israeli settlements in occupied territory, which are illegal under international law.”
Challenge to Democrats
Despite her reputation as a firebrand progressive, Warren has never been courageous on the question of Palestinian rights. Nothing symbolized her fear better than when she was caught on video hurrying away from a question about Israel’s assault on Gaza three years ago that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians.
Warren, along with fellow progressive stalwart Bernie Sanders, joined every other member of the Senate in signing a letter in April reaffirming key lobby talking points that Israel is being unfairly picked on by efforts at the UN to hold it accountable.
Her opposition to BDS means she continues to stand against a nonviolent movement for equal rights by a people subjected to decades of Israeli occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid enabled largely by US military and political support.
But Warren’s willingness to oppose this bill reflects the ongoing challenge to Democratic Party leaders from a base that is far more supportive of Palestinian rights.
It also recalls a warning in a leaked report from prominent Israel lobby groups earlier this year that anti-BDS laws are raising concerns over violations of free speech, which may alienate potential supporters of Israel.
Other lawmakers are being challenged over their support of the bill too. As Mondoweiss reported on Monday, Ron Wyden, a Democratic senator from Oregon, was repeatedly challenged over his support for it at a townhall meeting in Portland on Saturday.
“Wyden, who has a reputation for supporting civil rights, got flustered by hecklers and questioners,” Mondoweiss observed.
The senator conceded that the impetus for the bill was the fact that “the boycott movement has grown.”