March 28, 2017

J Street is concerned by new legislation that would, under the guise of combatting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the state of Israel, actually harm US and Israeli interests by extending US legal protections to illegal West Bank settlements that undermine the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” (S.720; H.R.1697) defines “actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel” as having the meaning given that phrase in the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, which in turn defines such actions as “intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories” (emphasis added).

President Barack Obama objected to this definition of BDS against Israel and said in his statement upon signing the 2015 Act into law that it blurs the distinction between Israel and the occupied territory and violates longstanding bipartisan US policy regarding the settlements.

By seeking to erase the legal distinction between Israel and the settlements and placing the settlements, in effect, under US protection, this formulation of what constitutes BDS against Israel turns anti-BDS measures into pro-settlement, anti-two-state vehicles.

Moreover, disturbingly, this is just one of several similar recent efforts in Congress that have the effect – and for some proponents, the goal – of erasing the Green Line and extending US protection to the settlements. These efforts are both divisive and counterproductive. Instead of bringing opponents of the Global BDS Movement together into a broad coalition, they divide us by making the issue about the settlements.

We call on lawmakers to amend this legislation to effectively target the Global BDS Movement against Israel, while leaving decades of bipartisan US policy on the territory Israel controls unchanged.

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