LOS ANGELES,CA, ( 12/20/18) — From the Montgomery Bus Boycott that protested segregation in public transportation to the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement that challenged and defeated institutionalized racism, boycotts have long been an important tool for effecting social change.
Today however, prominent Muslim American groups are claiming your constitutional right to boycott is under threat. On Friday, December 21st Congress will vote to ratify a bill criminalizing boycotts of Israel, as part their end-of-year spending bill. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is strongly opposed by the ACLU, and other national civil rights organizations, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Council on American Isalmic Relations (CAIR).
On Wednesday, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sent a letter urging the Senate to not include the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” in any year-end appropriations bill.
The Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720 / H.R.1697) penalizes Americans who participate in political boycotts aimed at Israel and its settlements in the West Bank. Knowingly violating the act could result in fines up to $1 million. Earlier versions of the bill would have made it a crime, subject to up to 20 years in jail.
“Senators Sanders and Feinstein’s decision to stand by the First Amendment and reject the Israel Anti-Boycott Bill is a step in the right direction,” said CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw. “American involvement in foreign boycotts started with throwing tea in Boston Harbor. It is un-American and illegal for the U.S. Government to deny U.S. businesses and persons the right to challenge the illegal and discriminatory actions of a foreign government.”
The Senators Sanders and Feinstein letter said, in part:
“While we do not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, we remain resolved to our constitutional oath to defend the right of every American to express their views peacefully without fear of or actual punishment by the government… At a time when the Netanyahu government is pursuing policies clearly aimed at foreclosing the two-state solution, it is deeply disappointing that Congress would consider penalizing criticism of those policies.”
ACLU has claimed the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720 / H.R.1697) violates the constitutionally-guaranteed free speech rights of American business owners and individuals who participate in the international boycott of Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine territories.
Both CAIR and MPAC have issued statements calling on all Americans who value the Constitution to contact their representatives and urge them to oppose the proposed legislation.
"There is a very short window to stop this bill," stated MPAC on their blog. "Join us by calling on your members of Congress to oppose this boycott ban."