J Street welcomes a new letter in which Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) urge Senate leadership not to include the controversial “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” (S. 720) in any must-pass appropriations bill.
This misguided legislation would enable greatly expanded federal action to penalize Americans for non-violent political action and speech — including support for certain boycotts of Israeli settlements. As Senators Feinstein and Sanders note, it has faced strong opposition from the ACLU, which has warned that “this bill would punish American citizens for engaging in peaceful protest and violate their First Amendment right of free speech.” The constitutionality of similar state laws has already been challenged by federal district courts.
J Street opposes the Global BDS Movement. And we oppose this bill on the grounds that it extends US legal protections to settlements, infringes on First Amendment rights and hurts, rather than helps, efforts to counter the BDS movement. We strongly agree with Senators Feinstein and Sanders that “criminalizing acts such as the mere furnishing of information on companies that do business in the settlements would represent a significant and heavy-handed departure from five decades of bipartisan opposition to the settlement enterprise.”
Quietly passing such a problematic and widely-criticized bill without full Senate debate on the merits would be a disturbing subversion of standard and appropriate legislative process. As Senators Sanders and Feinstein write, “[W]e respectfully ask that you reject any effort to bury this controversial measure in a must-pass, year-end appropriations bill.”
We continue to urge Senate and House leaders and all Members of Congress to oppose this deeply flawed legislation — and to refuse to allow it to be smuggled into law as part of any new appropriations bill.