Aipac Wants Congress to Criminalize BDS
Of all the lame-brained, lumpen-brained, hare-brained schemes emanating from Aipac’s lobby shop, this is one of the truly lamest. As Israel forms the most dangerous, aggressive, racist government in its history, Aipac thought this was a good time to remind the American people of that by conniving to amend an already contentious fast-track trade bill with a new amendment that would criminalize BDS in the U.S. The specific language seeks:
“To discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel and seek the elimination of politically motivated non-tariff barriers on Israeli goods, services, or other commerce imposed on the State of Israel…
[This] means actions by states, non-member states of the United Nations, international organizations, or affiliated agencies of international organizations that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or…in Israeli-controlled territories.”
What interesting about this language is that it outlaws both BDS and BDS-lite. Even liberal Zionists like Peter Beinart and Peace Now support a boycott of products from settlements, though they do not support boycotting products from within the Green Line. The Lobby-written bill would even criminalize the much softer version of BDS.
The amendment is designed to pressure the EU, which is negotiating a U.S.-Transatlantic trade deal, to drop consideration of its own planned version of BDS, which would sanction commerce with Israeli settlements.
This amendment is similar to a law already passed by the Israeli Knesset, a body not known for cherishing free speech rights or democratic values. It too outlawed support for BDS inside Israel in such a way that long-time supporters of BDS like Prof. Neve Gordon feel their hands are shackled and lips sealed shut by such legislation. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Aipac wants to do it to ya here in the U.S.
The fast track legislation sought by Pres. Obama and supported by most Republicans is already fraught with conflict over the usual issues confronting Democrats when they approach foreign trade pacts: how to protect American jobs and grant protections to foreign workers who will be making the products imported to this country.
To add even more contention to the process seems, well spiteful. It’s almost as if the Lobby was taking revenge on Obama for championing a different matter it detests: the Iran nuclear deal. Aipac knows the fast-track legislation is a hallmark of the President’s last term. He wants it bad. The Lobby figures if it can tank this bill, it may gain some leverage or clout in torpedoing the Iran deal as well.
Let’s get to another small matter of the legal status of BDS. Boycotts are hallowed practices in Anglo-American democracy. The Montgomery Bus Boycott sparked the civil rights movement. In the 1980s and 90s, the South African divestment movement pressured that country to end apartheid.
There have been legal rulings on the issue as well. Here in Seattle, the Israeli government and StandWithUs brought suit against the Olympia Food Coop for eliminating nine Israeli products from its shelves. That case ended in defeat for the plaintiffs. The Lobby appealed it all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court and lost there as well.
Despite what Lobby legal “scholars” will tell you, there is no jurisprudence supporting their point of view. BDS is a free speech issue as it relates directly to political speech, a protected category under the Constitution. It has nothing to do with commercial disputes or boycotts related to such matters.
Americans: write, call or e-mail your Congressional representatives. This is a hare-brained scheme. Tell them not to embarrass themselves and Congress as an institution by proposing legislation that is fundamentally unsound, prejudicial and in violation of the Bill of Rights.
18 thoughts on “Aipac Wants Congress to Criminalize BDS – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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From your recent article – GOP’s Go-To Jews, my posts are apt to this BDS political blackmail as well how earlier presidents were confronted …
○ Abe Feinberg about Harry Truman: “Any President worth his salt will not respond to political blackmail.”
○ Israel lobby in 1967 helped to cover-up the attack on the USS Liberty
Thank you for the recent serie of excellent articles, quite profound!
The obvious: consumers can and do boycott anything for any reason. The motivation for buying one product over another is not challengeable at the point of sale. If consumers boycott, retailers have valid reasons not to stock — etc. Making the BDS illegal is toothless legislation and is simply a power play. Like Israel sticking it to Obama, as observed.
It’s a dumb idea, I agree.
I don’t think so. Such an amendment provides a ready excuse for retailers to reject BDS appeals. As it is, many will not even meet with BDS organizations.
Right now, a bill is being pushed through the Illinois General Assembly to make it illegal for the state pension funds to invest in any company that has responded to the BDS call to divest. What’s most interesting to me is this bill which is of absolutely no value to the people of Illinois is sailing through. The state senate committee approved it 15-0 and yesterday the state house exec committee approved it unanimously. I checked the Illinois General Assembly website and found that legislators are rushing to co-sponsor the bill at the last minute. The Israel lobby reaches into every nook and cranny. I would bet few Illinois legislators even know what BDS stands for.
Right now, a bill is being pushed through the Illinois General Assembly to make it illegal for the state pension funds to invest in any company that has responded to the BDS call to divest.
But the Supreme Court held in the “Citizens United” case that a corporation’s political decisions, including how it decides to spend its own money, is a form of speech protected by the 1st Amendment. In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. the Supreme Court held that participation in human rights boycotts are exempt from the general state and federal prohibitions contained in antitrust or commerce statutes and codes which otherwise declare that any boycott is illegal per se. There are dozens of Supreme Court cases striking down state statutes or regulations that have attempted to discriminate against speech by imposing content restrictions, or withholding funding based upon viewpoint discrimination, e.g. Widmar v. Vincent and Rosenburger v. University of Virginia.
Another problem with the idea is that the EU and the UN have already started warning corporations and banks doing business in the settlements, like US-based ReMax, that they can be held criminally liable under existing statutes regarding complicity in a joint criminal enterprise, recovery of stolen property, money laundering, and forfeiture of proceeds from racketeering or corrupt organizations. The only obvious thing that keeps the US Attorney General from going after the 1 in 10 persons among the illegal settlers in the West Bank who hold US citizenship and their sponsors in this country in accordance with the 1998 War Crimes Act, the RICO Act, or the monetary instruments laundering statutes is politics. All of those laws have the necessary extraterritorial scope and applicability to plundered Palestinian property, falsified titles, fraudulent solicitation of donations, & etc.
“All of those laws have the necessary extraterritorial scope and applicability to plundered Palestinian property, falsified titles, fraudulent solicitation of donations, & etc.”
Can you explain in greater detail how these American laws have the necessary extraterritorial scope?
Re: Can you explain in greater detail how these American laws have the necessary extraterritorial scope?
See my comments here: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/05/congress-legislatures-against#comment-769160
The pension fund can argue that upholding the boycott is good business and good for returns. As fiduciaries, these funds must seek the best returns for the least risk. Can the legislature waive the fiduciary principles they have endorsed? Probably…or a Supreme Court Case. Generally, even the membership, the ones who have a claim on the $ cannot tel the board what to do.
Re: Generally, even the membership, the ones who have a claim on the $ cannot tel the board what to do.
My main point, that the amendment violates the law of of treaties, is in a post awaiting moderation. The EU and the UN have already started putting corporations, banks, and pension funds on constructive notice that doing business in the illegal settlements can subject them to criminal and civil liability, including forfeitures. So, there is definitely a fiduciary responsibility to avoid all such investments.
Seems to be a bit of a trend…
Ottawa Cites Hate Crime Laws When Asked About its ‘Zero Tolerance’ for Israel Boycotters
“The Harper government is signalling its intention to use hate crime laws against Canadian advocacy groups that encourage boycotts of Israel. Such a move could target a range of civil society organizations from the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Quakers to campus protest groups and labor unions….another measure of the Conservative government’s lockstep support for Israel…”
Personally, I think this type of fascist palooka nonsense is only going to get people’s backs up and goose the BDS into high gear like never before.
Yep. Picking on quakers and the uniting church?
When did that ever get smart?
Re: Yep. Picking on quakers and the uniting church?
Not to mention Anti-Zionist and Non-Zionist Jews in organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace. When the Zionists went to Versailles and the League of Nations to secure a Jewish national home in Palestine by public law, Anti-Zionist and Non-Zionist Jewish doctrinal and ethical statements, like the Pittsburgh Platform of 1885, were still de rigueur. The Zionist agreed that “that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”. One of the rights enjoyed by Jews in other countries was the right to claim their own non-Jewish nationality and to retain their own right of political Non-Zionist or Anti-Zionist action based upon their Jewish ethical or religious beliefs. If the Harper government and the Zionists are still claiming a Jewish national home in Palestine, then we are still claiming or political right of action and universal social justice for the non-Jewish communities of Palestine too, Pacta sunt servanda, agreements must be kept.
Therefore, Anti-Zionist an Non-Zionist Jews have a perfect right to recite the Pittsburgh Platform to Canadian Courts today to illustrate that point: “We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.” Our ranks may have thinned a bit after the Six-Day War, but that is still a valid expression of modern-day Judaism. Likewise, have a perfect right to demand universal social justice for Palestinians and an end to arms sales to Israel in accordance with the provisions of the Columbus Platform (1937) regarding “universal disarmament” and the aim of “universal brotherhood, Justice, truth and peace on earth”.
Free speech is friendless among the political elite because it doesn’t fund campaigns. Still, any such law in the US is certain to be judged a violation of First Amendment. If “speech” is expressed in campaign contributions, then it is expressed in refusals to spend money.
It is historically interesting however that this Free Speech issue arises in “wartime” yet again, the “War Against Terror” or rather the “War to Preserve the Status Quo Forever.” It’s a phony war, but dissent is now being legislated, including legislation criminalizing anti-semitism specifically but not specifically the much louder racism of Zionism, Jewish racism encapsulated in a political program . The good thing is that Israel has no case left, nobody is sitting still for the excuses e.g. “only democracy”, “singled out”, “demonization”. After Gaza, who can?
Re: What is interesting about this language is that it outlaws both BDS and BDS-lite.
No, it’s a self-defeating amendment that would render any resulting trade agreement null, void, and unenforceable. It would violate the content and intent of Article 53 of the UN’s Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties: “Treaties conflicting with a peremptory norm of general international law “jus cogens” A treaty is void if, at the time of its conclusion, it conflicts with a peremptory norm of general international law.”
The Law of Treaties reflects the fact that certain overriding principles of international law, like the prohibition of pillage, plunder and many other war crimes and crimes against humanity, exist from which it is accepted that no State may deviate by way of a treaty. Senator Cardin is never going to convince our EU allies that colonizing an occupied territory isn’t a war crime. After all, it was our own President that asked the UN and the Geneva Diplomatic Conference to codify the legal principles found in the Nuremberg Charter as international law. http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/FRUS/FRUS-idx?type=goto&id=FRUS.FRUS1946v01&isize=M&submit=Go+to+page&page=539
Count 3 of the Nuremberg Indictment, i.e. “(J) GERMANIZATION OF OCCUPIED TERRITORIES” charged the Nazis as follows:
In certain occupied territories purportedly annexed to Germany the defendants methodically and pursuant to plan endeavored to assimilate those territories politically, culturally, socially, and economically into the German Reich. The defendants endeavored to obliterate the former national character of these territories. In pursuance of these plans and endeavors, the defendants forcibly deported inhabitants who were predominantly non-German and introduced thousands of German colonists.
— See pdf page 73 (printed page 63) of The International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, Trial of the Major War Criminals, Vol. 1 at the Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/NT_Vol-I.pdf or see the Indictment, Count 3 “War Crimes” at the Avalon Project http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/count3.asp
The execrable Harper, than whom there is no better friend of Israel, makes me think of the longest serving and possibly one of the most corrupt Premiers of the Australian state of Queensland, the late Joh Bjelke Pedersen.
This tinpot despot was against the boycot of apartheid South Africa though even he did not try to come up with state legislation against it. But when the South African rugby team, the Springboks, played in Brisbane, sometime in 1971, he declared a state of emergency for one month and secretly advised the police that they would not be penalised for any hardhanded actions they took against the demonstrators…What an invitation to use the batons and the boots.
Pedersen’s show of force made him popular in the “deep North” and helped to keep him in power.
Ultimately he came to a bad end however when the stench of corruption around him could no longer be contained and a Royal Commission uncovered the wrongdoings of his government. Pedersen had to resign and ultimately barely escaped jail for perjury and corruption. A jury, led by an “under cover” adherent of Joh, could not come to a decision and the man was after this judged to be “too old” for a retrial.
Harper might one day duplicate his fate.
At the end of 1945 when I lived in Amsterdam, Netherlands I did my own form of boycott when I was urged by a soldier of the Jewish Brigade of the British Armed Forces to go to the British Mandate of Palestine to help kick the Arabs out after the British had left. I refused.
The reason why he was in Amsterdam was well known at the time. Allied soldiers stationed in defeated Germany had not much fun so Amsterdam with its well-known Red Light District had become one of the several “Leave Centers” for these soldiers. He began to date my sister and so he came to our house.