News Release

Lawmakers Seek to Prohibit Criticism of Israel

newsrelease29Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim write in The Intercept today in “U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Criminally Outlaw Support for Boycott Campaign Against Israel” that: “The criminalization of political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the west. In France, activists have been arrested and prosecuted for wearing t-shirts advocating a boycott of Israel. The U.K. has enacted a series of measures designed to outlaw such activism. In the U.S., governors compete with one another over who can implement the most extreme regulations to bar businesses from participating in any boycotts aimed even at Israeli settlements, which the world regards as illegal. On U.S. campuses, punishment of pro-Palestinian students for expressing criticisms of Israel is so commonplace that the Center for Constitutional Rights refers to it as ‘the Palestine Exception’ to free speech.

“But now, a group of 45 Senators — 30 Republicans and 15 Democrats — want to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. …

“Perhaps most stunning is our interview with the primary sponsor of the bill, Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin, who seemed to have no idea what was in his bill, particularly insisting that it contains no criminal penalties. But as the ACLU put it, ‘violations would be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $ 1 million and 20 years in prison.’

“That’s because, as Josh Ruebner expertly detailed when the bill was first unveiled, ‘the bill seeks to amend two laws — the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945,’ and ‘the potential penalties for violating this bill are steep: a minimum $250,000 civil penalty and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years imprisonment, as stipulated in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.'”

JOSH RUEBNER, josh at uscpr.org, @joshruebner
Policy director, U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Ruebner wrote the piece “New U.S. Bill Would Punish Settlement Boycotters” for the Electronic Intifada, which parses out how the legislation “shrewdly shrouds” its criminal penalties. Also see the resource page “Oppose the Israel Anti-Boycott Act.”

The recent ACLU letter states the legislation would mean “penalties for simply requesting information about such boycotts” and that it “aims to punish people who support international boycotts that are meant to protest Israeli government policies, while leaving those who agree with Israeli government policies free from the threat of sanctions for engaging in the exact same behavior.”

Background, see recent report from The Real News: “Gaza Crisis, Global Silence,” and from this morning’s “Democracy Now”: “Gaza on Verge of Collapse as Israel Sends 2.2M People ‘Back to Middle Ages’ in Electricity Crisis.”