Senate Bill 720: Making It a Crime to Support Palestinian Human Rights
VIA – WASHINGTON REPORT ON MIDDLE EAST AFFAIRS — Telling the truth for more than 35 years
By: James J. Zogby September 4, 2017
It is fascinating to watch some U.S. senators tripping over themselves as they attempt to defend their support for or opposition to proposed legislation that would make it a federal crime to support the international campaign to Boycott, Divest, or Sanction (BDS) Israel for its continued occupation of Palestinian lands. What ties these officials up in knots are their efforts to square the circle of their “love of Israel,” their opposition to BDS, their support for a “two-state solution,” and their commitment to free speech.
The bill in question, S.720, was introduced on March 23, 2017 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). S.720 opposes calls by the United Nations to boycott or “blacklist” companies that support Israeli activities in the territories occupied in the 1967 war. The bill further prohibits any U.S. person from supporting this U.N. call to boycott and establishes stiff fines and/or imprisonment for Americans who violate this prohibition.
Then there is the concern that by making illegal either the act of boycotting Israel, or advocating for such a boycott, S.720 is criminalizing free speech and stifling legitimate peaceful protest.
Finally, the legislation continues to build on earlier congressional legislation using sleight-of-hand language in an attempt to erase the distinction in U.S. law between Israel and illegal Israeli settlements in occupied territories. While earlier legislation accomplished this by referring to “Israel and areas under Israel’s control,” S.720 notes that its boycott prohibition applies to “commercial relations…with citizens or residents of Israel, entities organized under the laws of Israel, or the Government of Israel.”
Since S.720 quickly gained 48 co-sponsors (35 Republicans and 13 Democrats) and has been supported by AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League, one might have expected it to sail effortlessly through the Congress and be put on the president’s desk for his signature. That, however, has not been the case, due to the efforts of many, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other progressive organizations led by MoveOn.
While the ACLU has based its opposition on the concern that the legislation violates the free speech rights of American citizens, MoveOn has taken a more expansive approach addressing both the concern with free speech and the fact that S.720 “erases the distinction in U.S. law between Israel and Israeli settlements.”
Featured Image: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Capitol Hill with (l-r) Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and John McCain (R-AZ), Feb. 15, 2017. (ZACH GIBSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
2017 October Table of Contents
VIA – WASHINGTON REPORT ON MIDDLE EAST AFFAIRS – 02 September 2017
THE U.S. ROLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION OF PALESTINE
7 Israel Seeks to Rid Itself of Palestinian Citizens of Northern “Little Triangle” Villages—Jonathan Cook (Archive)
10 Power to the People: Why Palestinian Victory in Jerusalem Is a Pivotal Moment—Ramzy Baroud (Archive)
12 Abducted From Their Homeland by Israel’s Mustarebeen—Kate Daher (Archive)
14 Europe Must Not Buy What Israel Is Selling to Combat Terror—Jeff Halper (Archive)
16 Surrounded by the Mediterranean’s Water, but Nothing From the Faucets to Drink—Mohammed Omer (Archive)
18 Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters Helps Tear Down the Last Taboo—Delinda C. Hanley (Archive)
20 Trump, Congress Target Iran—Two Views—Trita Parsi, Shireen T. Hunter (Archive)
24 Trump Pulls the Plug in Syria—Graham E. Fuller (Archive)
26 The Conflict in Afghanistan Is Trump’s War Now—Andrew J. Bacevich (Archive)
27 Ambassadors for Israel (One American) Do Their Thing at the U.N.—Ian Williams (Archive)
29 Senate Bill 720: Making It a Crime to Support Palestinian Human Rights—James J. Zogby (Archive)
30 Congress Approves Sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea—Shirl McArthur (Archive)
22 Turkey’s Refugee Camps at the Dawn of Summer—Javier Delgado Rivera 48 Kurdish Independence Prospect Cements a Turkish-Iranian Alliance—Yavuz Baydar (Archive)
5 Publishers’ Page
6 Letters to the Editor
54 Israel and Judaism: Israel Rejects Freedom for Non-Orthodox Streams of Judaism—Allan C. Brownfeld
56 Music and Arts:
57 Muslim American Activism:
59 Arab American Activism
How the Media Covers Israel and Palestine
Omar Baddar Confronts Anti- Palestinian Bias in the Media
Tareq Baconi on Media Misrepresentation of Palestinian Issues
Celebrating the Life of Dr. Jack Shaheen
62 Waging Peace
Muslims, Jews And Christians: All United for One Cause
Gaza Approaching a Boiling Point?
New Story Leaders Speak at DC Events
The Dove: Stories of Hope Amidst Conflict
Restoring Biodiversity to Palestine
U.S. and Coalition Viewpoints on Post-ISIS Stabilization in Iraq
The Future of Iraq’s Minorities
Rebuilding Iraq and Syria
MAPs Aids Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
Kathy Kelly Speaks at Des Moines Drone Warfare Vigil
Poll: Iran Deal Helped Re-Elect President Rouhani
72 Human Rights
72 Diplomatic Doings
74 Book Review: An Unlikely Audience: Al Jazeera’s Struggle in America—Reviewed by David DePriest
81 2017 AET Choir of Angels
28 Index to Advertisers
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Senate Bill 720: Making It a Crime to Support Palestinian Human Rights
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S.720 – Israel Anti-Boycott Act 115th Congress (2017-2018)
Sponsor: Sen. Cardin, Benjamin L. [D-MD] (Introduced 03/23/2017)
Committees: Senate – Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Latest Action: 03/23/2017 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
Foreign Trade and International Finance
Summary (1) Text (1) Actions (1) Titles (2) Amendments (0) Cosponsors (48) Committees (1) Related Bills (1)
Summary: S.720 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)All Information (Except Text)
There is one summary for S.720. Bill summaries are authored by CRS.
Introduced in Senate (03/23/2017)
Israel Anti-Boycott Act
This bill declares that Congress: (1) opposes the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution of March 24, 2016, which urges countries to pressure companies to divest from, or break contracts with, Israel; and (2) encourages full implementation of the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 through enhanced, government wide, coordinated U.S.-Israel scientific and technological cooperation in civilian areas.
The bill amends the Export Administration Act of 1979 to declare that it shall be U.S. policy to oppose:
requests by foreign countries to impose restrictive practices or boycotts against other countries friendly to the United States or against U.S. persons; and
restrictive trade practices or boycotts fostered or imposed by an international governmental organization, or requests to impose such practices or boycotts, against Israel.
The bill prohibits any U.S. person engaged interstate or foreign commerce from supporting:
any request by a foreign country to impose any boycott against a country that is friendly to the United States and that is not itself the object of any form of boycott pursuant to United States law or regulation, or
any boycott fostered or imposed by any international governmental organization against Israel or any request by any international governmental organization to impose such a boycott.
The bill amends the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945 to include as a reason for the Export-Import Bank to deny credit applications for the export of goods and services between the United States and foreign countries, opposition to policies and actions that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with citizens or residents of Israel, entities organized under the laws of Israel, or the government of Israel.