What we’re reading on the criminalization of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement

A bill called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act is gaining traction in the Senate. The bill—sponsored by 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats—would make supporting the international boycott against Israel a felony punishable by up to a $1 million fine and 20 years in prison. Here’s what we’re reading to learn more: 

U.S. lawmakers seek to criminally outlaw support for boycott campaign against Israel, by Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim via The Intercept

"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."


Self-proclaimed guardians of free speech push bill to make it a felony, by Josh Israel via Think Progress

"The bill is clearly a response to those who want to boycott Israel, divest from its businesses, and enact sanctions against the country as pressure to end its occupation of Palestinian territories — a campaign known as BDS. But rather than use their own speech to make a case to Americans as to why they believe efforts to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel are wrong, the supporters of this bill would simply attempt to criminalize advocacy for the opposite view."


America's BDS law is an attack on far more than free speech, by  Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man via +972

"But the efforts to stymie boycott efforts in the United States and elsewhere — similar legislation has popped up in Europe — are far more sinister than just restricting the free speech and political expression of American and other supporters of Palestinians. Its true purpose is to block one of the few remaining legitimate, nonviolent tactics Palestinians have for achieving national self-determination and individual rights."


Criminalizing critics of Israel: Congress considers sweeping bills to fine & jail backers of BDS via Democracy Now

"What We're Reading" is a weekly feature on AFSC’s News and Commentary blog, where we share a curated collection of recent articles on timely issues. "What We're Reading" is meant to spark discussion, debate, and knowledge sharing, and the articles we highlight do not necessarily reflect the official organizational positions of AFSC. We encourage you to tell us what you're reading on these issues in the comments below.