Marco Rubio introduces Senate bill attacking BDS movement

Anti-BDS bills are designed to suppress Palestine rights activism in the US. (Stephen Melkisethian/Flickr)

New legislation seeking to chill speech critical of Israel has been introduced in the US Senate.

And Wyoming joins an expanding list of states where politicians are introducing measures intending to repress the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign which aims to pressure Israel to end its violations of Palestinian rights.

Florida Republican and former presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia have introduced a bill to combat “economic warfare” against Israel and protect “shared national security interests” by impugning the BDS movement.

The bill, S. 170 – dubbed “The Combatting BDS Act of 2017” – would increase “protections for state and local governments in the United States that decide to divest from, prohibit investment in, and restrict contracting with companies knowingly engaged in commerce-related or investment-related BDS activity targeting Israel,” Rubio’s office states.

Rubio likens the bill to legislation passed in several states requiring state bodies, including pension funds, to divest from companies that do business with Iran and Sudan – countries that the US has deemed its enemies.

Rubio says the bill is also meant to counterbalance the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which reaffirmed that Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem, are illegal.

Rubio calls the UN resolution a “deplorable one-sided measure that harms Israel and effectively encourages the BDS movement’s campaigns to commercially and financially target and discriminate against the Jewish state.”

His legislation aims to protect state and local governments that enact such blacklists from having their measures invalidated by any conflicting federal law.

However, “the Rubio bill doesn’t solve the fundamental problem with these anti-BDS laws, which is that they violate the First Amendment,” Rahul Saksena, a staff attorney with Palestine Legal, told The Electronic Intifada.

The federal government cannot permit state and local governments to trample free speech rights, he said.

The bill is similar to the “boycotting the boycotters” blacklist New York governor Andrew Cuomo created by executive order last year.

Legal groups called Cuomo’s blacklist unconstitutional and a revival of “a dark tactic of the McCarthy era.”

Wyoming resolution slams BDS

In Wyoming’s state legislature, a non-binding resolution was introduced by a Democratic lawmaker on behalf of a rabbi who claims that the BDS movement is “a thinly veiled form of discrimination against Jews,” according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

The resolution calls on state agencies to “note” a company’s participation in BDS campaigns when considering it for bids on contracts.

Rep. James Byrd claims that his resolution demonstrates “opposition to discrimination against Jews and other minorities” in the state, according to the Star-Tribune. Byrd insists that it “wasn’t meant to take a stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the newspaper reports.

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Comments

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I am livid. These phony unconstitutional bills supposedly to counter anti-Semitism are being proposed by the same group that would be the first to build gas chambers when it suits their agenda. Jewish Voice for Peace is NOT anti-Semitic and it fully supports the BDS movement.

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Zionists and their co conspirators treat stupidity as if it were a virtue.Let them spend their time and money chasing rainbows.There is no pot of gold for them.Just a big climb down and a return to the drawing table to come up with more anti democratic nonsense.Meanwhile BDS will be making ever increasing steps in the fight against the tyranny and criminal acts of the so called light unto the nations.

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Sen.Rubio who gets financ. and politic.support from AIPAC and the Natanyahu/Lieberman ("de facto" terrorist coalition)is naturally against BDS.- BDS is a peaceful,bi-partisan Jewish/Palestinian
alternative to violence ! Contrary to these "pay-for-play" Politicians, BDS a peaceful tool of the people is here to stay !Gabriel.

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These unconstitutional actions have remedies. Importantly, they demonstrate BDS works.
Keep working!

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).