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Elizabeth Warren Opposes Bill Targeting Israel Boycotts – Forward

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Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Groups opposing the proposed Israel Anti-Boycott Act registered another victory this week after progressive icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined the ranks of those critical of the legislation.

At an August 4 event, the Massachusetts Democrat was asked by an activist from Jewish Voice for Peace, a group fighting against the bill, for her opinion.

I do not support the boycott, I think the boycott is wrong, Warren said. But I think outlawing protected free speech activity violates our basic constitution.

This view seems to be in line with that of the American Civil Liberties Union, which asked senators to oppose the bill because it may prevent Americans from expressing their free speech in the form of boycotting Israeli products. Authors of the bill argue that it does not penalize individuals seeking to boycott Israel, and that it only targets companies adhering to boycott demands presented by foreign governments or international organizations.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand decided last week to withdraw her sponsorship of the bill after hearing from critical constituents during a town hall meeting.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman

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Elizabeth Warren Opposes Bill Targeting Israel Boycotts – Forward

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August 8, 2017   Posted in: Boycott Israel  Comments Closed

50 Senators Want to Make It a Crime to Boycott Israel

In 1966, the NAACP of Claiborne County, Mississippi launched a boycott of several white-owned local businesses on the basis of racial discrimination.

It was so impactful that the local hardware store filed a lawsuit against the individuals and organizations who coordinated the boycott. After 10 long years of litigation, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in favor of the white businesses and ordered the NAACP to pay for all their lost earnings.

Years later, in 1982, theU.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-0 to overturnthe lower courts decision on the basis that nonviolent boycotts are a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. In announcing the unanimous decision, Justice John Paul Stevenssaid, One of the foundations of our society is the right of individuals to combine with other persons in pursuit of a common goal by lawful means.

That should have been the end of it. But now, Americans right to boycott is under attack once again thanks to avicious anti-boycott billmaking its way through the Senate.

In particular, it appears to target the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS is an international movement calling on individuals, institutions, and governments to boycott Israeli products until it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands. The boycott is explicitly nonviolent and is supported by activists, celebrities, faith-based groups, and political and social justice organizations around the world.

The proposed Israel Anti-Boycott Act would make it afelonyfor Americans to support BDS, with a penalty of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison.

Unfortunately, the bill enjoys bipartisan support:32 Republicans and 15 Democratsare currently signed on as cosponsors, including party leaders like Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Ted Cruz (R-TX). In response, theACLU issued a letterurging members of the Senate to oppose the bill based on itsdirect violation of the First Amendment.(Following the publication of the ACLUs letter, several members of Congress have agreed to review their sponsorship, but so far none have removed their names.)

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would function by amending an earlier law from 1979, which prohibits American citizens and corporations from complying with boycotts called for by foreign nations against U.S. allies. The new law would include boycotts fostered and imposed by international governmental organizations like the United Nations. In this, its a direct response to the2016 UN Human Rights Council resolutiondiscouraging businesses from operating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In one way, its genius. By claiming a connection between BDS and the UN a connection the UN has never embraced, in that resolution or any other the bill attempts to work aroundNAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co.

But the BDS movement isnota product of the UN it has nothing to do with it at all, except to the degree that its based on international law. TheBDS call to actionwas issued in 2005 by a coalition of 170 Palestinian political parties, professional associations, refugee networks, and civil society organizations. BDS is a tactic, not an organization, and the boycott has always been grassroots and decentralized, meaning anyone anywhere can partake in BDS by making the simple decision to do so.

Whether the congressional supporters of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act misunderstand or are intentionally misrepresenting BDS is uncertain, but the Supreme Court decision of 1982 is clear as crystal: Americans right to peaceful boycott with the aim to bring about political, social, and economic change is protected by the First Amendment. That means this bill is more than egregiously immoral its unconstitutional.

The bills language also lumps Israels settlements in with the countrys internationally recognized borders.

Significantly, it declares the UN Human Rights Councils 2016 position on Israeli settlements an action to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel. Yet that resolution took no position on the boycotting of goods produced in Israel proper it only took aim at Israelisettlementsin Palestinian territory, which are illegal under international law.

U.S. policysince 1979has recognized that the Israeli settlements are inconsistent with international law.By contrast, the new bill effectively erases any distinction between Israel and its settlements in the West Bank. If its passed, anyone who chooses not to do business with or buy items manufactured in illegal Israeli settlements can be convicted, fined, and even jailed.

Efforts to curb this kind of activism are often touted as efforts to combat anti-Semitism. Yet polls show thatonly 17 percent of American Jewssupport the continued construction of settlements. The bill is so controversial, in fact, that the liberal pro-Israel organization J Street, which has long opposed BDS,recently announced its oppositionto the proposed law on the basis that it divides [opponents of the global BDS movement] by making the issue about the settlements.

Its difficult to know exactly how broadly the law, if passed, will be enforced. Its intentionally vague language leaves a lot to the imagination, and perhaps thats exactly whats intended. The real goal may be to frighten people from engaging in the completely legal act ofliving outtheir values in their economic choices.

But we cant let fear prevent us from exercising our rights and fulfilling our moral obligations. The silver lining is that every effort to quell the BDS movement has served to strengthen it. Each attempt at criminalizing the boycott, whether on the state or federal level, has been met with a spike in Google searches for BDS and related terms.

And with the uproar caused by this new bill, the right-wing pro-Israel lobby just may prove to be the BDS movements best ally.

This article originally appeared on Foreign Policy in Focus.

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50 Senators Want to Make It a Crime to Boycott Israel

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August 6, 2017   Posted in: Boycott Israel  Comments Closed

Anti-Israel Boycott Act Targets Discrimination, Not Free Speech – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Youtube

{Originally posted to the Tower Magazine website}

The Anti-Israel Boycott Act currently being debated in the Senate is an anti-discrimination legislation that does not restrict free speech, in contradiction tocritics claims,Northwestern University law professor Eugene Kontorovich explainedThursday at a briefing on Capitol Hill.

The Senates Anti-Israel Boycott Act, sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D Md.), expands onlaws adopted in the 1970s to fight the Arab Leagues boycott of Israel, includingthe Ribicoff Amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976. The RibicoffAmendment requires U.S persons to report operations in, with, or related to countries known to participate in unsanctioned boycotts. It seeks to prevent U.S. companies from being used to advance the policies of foreign governments thatundermine U.S. policy.

In order to the enforce the 1970s legislation, the U.S Department of Commerce established theOffice of Anti-Boycott Compliance. Although there are stiff criminal penalties for engaging in unsanctioned boycotts at the behest of foreign countries, only violations by businesses have been prosecuted, and no individual has ever been sentenced for such violations.

The Anti-Israel Boycott Act simply extends the 1970s legislation by prohibiting American companies from abiding by unsanctioned boycotts organized by international organizations, not just foreign countries. The impetus for the legislation is the United Nations Human Rights Councils unprecedented decision to create a database of companies that do business inthe West Bank, a move seen as a precursor to a boycott. (Kontorovich noted that Israeli companies that do business with the UN will most likely be the first companies targeted by this boycott.)

While theoriginal Arab League anti-Israel boycott no longer has much force (Kontrovich noted that the boycotts office is in Damascus), the UNHRCs boycott efforts are active and threatening to gain force.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) launched a campaign against the Senate legislation last month, claiming that it attacks free speech. However,Kontorovich explained a number of reasons why the ACLUs criticism is misplaced. (Cardin and Sen. Rob Portman [R Ohio] also answered the ACLUs objections.)

The Anti-Israel boycott Act doesnt change the existing boycott law, but merely addsacategory of prohibited boycott, Kontorovich. While the existing law has been the basis of a number of prosecutions over the years, no prosecuted company ever used the Constitution as a defense.

The law is also very clear that it does not outlaw expressions of support for aboycott, but rather providing material support to an unsanctioned boycott campaign organized by foreign governments andorganizations. The prohibited actions are describedby the Office of Anti-Boycott Enforcement.

Kontorovich reiterated that whilethe Senate bill allows individuals and companies to boycott Israel privately, it prohibits them from engaging in a boycott at the behest of foreign powers.

Henoted that while 22 U.S. states have already adoptedanti-BDS laws, whichforbid the state from contracting with entities that support discrimination based on nationality,theACLU hasnt challenged these laws as violations of free speech rights.

Kontorovich added that, if successful, the ACLUs misguided objections to the bill could undermine the existing anti-boycott laws. (In an open letter attacking the new legislation, the ACLU described the original boycott legislation as being overblown.)

They could also undermine existing U.S. sanctions against countries such as Iran, Russia, and North Korea. If the facilitation of boycottsa commercial activityis protected as free speech, then their violation could also be similarly protected.

Later during the session, Kontorovich noted that the BDS campaign is premised on the conviction that Israels occupation of the West Bank is a uniquely evil activity that necessitates a boycott. The hypocrisy of the UNHRCs decision to single out Israel isamplified by the fact that two of the countries that support its databaseTurkey, which occupies Northern Cyprus, and Morocco, which occupies Western Saharasuffer no consequences for their occupations.

Kontorovich has previously published a study documenting how 44 companies from around the world operate freely in occupied territory without consequence, whileonly Jewish companies operating in the West Bank face repercussions.The study reveals that international businesses play a crucial role supporting occupation and settlement enterprises around the world in places such as Western Sahara, Northern Cyprus, Nagorno-Karabakh and Crimea, Kontorovich said last month as he presentedhis findings beforethe UNHRC, but the Council has never condemned any of this business activity.

Kontorovich suggested a number of actions that could possibly deter the UNHRCs efforts to boycott Israel. These includedcompiling a database of all companies that do business in occupied territories worldwide. This would affect companies such as the Swiss insurance giant Zurich, which just started doing business in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, and which contributes to NGOs that target Israel for boycotts.However, he noted that such a measure would need to be voted on by the UNHRC.

He also considered the viability of threatening to cut off American funds to the UNHRC, but was ultimately skeptical that this would derail the groups efforts to boycott Israel.

Kontorovich said that the best chance to head off the UNHRCs boycott would be for Washington to withdraw from the organization, but seemed skeptical as to whether the Trump administration would do so.

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‘Boycott is not the answer,’ Jewish group says ahead of Waters gigs … – The Jerusalem Post

Roger Waters. (photo credit:REUTERS)

As Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters got ready to take the stage in Washington, D.C. this weekend, a local Jewish group launched a campaign to try to contain the voices of protesters against the prominent BDS activist to social media.

The campaign took the form of a video, produced and sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, is an effort to educate local Washingtonians on the ways Waters uses music to divide people.

Waters is known for his efforts to antagonize musicians who choose to perform in Israel – instead of boycotting the country, as he does – and once compared the Israeli government to Nazi Germany in a live video chat on Facebook last month.

Music has the power to change the world by bringing people together, the video stated. Music breaks down walls and gives people hope – Roger Waters should know that. Instead he’s using music to divide people.

By pressuring musicians to boycott Israel, Waters makes things worse, by shutting down the free flow of ideas, the video continues. It’s too bad that Roger Waters doesn’t understand that peace can only be achieved through dialogue and engagement. BDS will not bring peace. BDS is not the answer. More dialogue, more respect, more music is.

The video was produced in response to calls to hold protests outside Verizon, the venue where the concerts were held. The council sought to limit any resistance to Waters to the sphere of the Internet.

This is a sort of welcoming party for Waters, Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council said of the video, according to The Washington Post. We want him to know when he arrives in DC that the sort of hateful language that hes peddling and the myths he engages in are going to be met with fierce resistance.

Most recently the former Pink Floyd frontman went head-to-head with the lead singer of Radiohead, Thom Yorke, who defended his bands decision to perform in Tel Aviv.

Rogers drew accusations of antisemitism when a concert he held in Belgium in 2013, included an inflatable pig emblazoned with the Star of David and symbols of dictatorial regimes.

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Israel Must Be Boycotted Unless It Saves Our Lives – Algemeiner

Email a copy of “Israel Must Be Boycotted Unless It Saves Our Lives” to a friend

Saeb Erekat. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Weve seen before how BDS activists talk big about boycotting Israel which really means thateveryoneelsemust boycott Israel.

We know, for example, how Omar Barghouti wants everyone to boycott Israeli universities, while he attended (attends?) one. Weve also seen how BDS groupshappily use Israeli website technology and even try tojustifyit.

Now we canaddSaeb Erekat to this list. Erekat haspublicly calledfor BDS policies to be adopted in Europe. But now he needs medical help in Israel, andhe doesnt hesitate to use it:

Palestinian Authority chief negotiator and secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization Saeb Erekat has a serious lung disease and is currently on the waiting list for a transplant in Israel and the US, according to a report Tuesday on the Ynet news site.

Erekat, 62, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis over a year ago and had been on medications that were effectively treating the disease. However, the drugs stopped working several months ago, and his condition has since deteriorated dramatically.

The chief PA negotiator has been receiving additional treatment at a hospital in central Israel, but doctors have warned that his condition cannot improve without an immediate transplant, the report said.

Suddenly, Israeli goods and services seem to be not so terrible!

Erekat could go to Europe or an Arab country to get the transplant and treatment. Butyou guessed it he chooses Israel.

The hypocrisy doesnt end there. The Palestinian Authority has recently slashed the number of medical permits for Gazans to get treated in Israel. YetErekat, of course,hasto get the best medical care possible.

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Israel Must Be Boycotted Unless It Saves Our Lives – Algemeiner

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Palestinian boycott leader waits for lung transplant in Israel – WND.com

(BREITBART) Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians chief negotiator and a global leader in the effort to boycott Israel, is reported to be on a waiting list for a lung transplant in Israel.

Israels Ynetnews reports that Erekat suffers from pulmonary fibrosis and is on the waiting list for a lung transplant in Israel or the United States. Erect, 62, has reportedly already begun medical treatment in Israel, but his condition is so bad that he will need a lung transplant to survive.

The irony is rich. Erekat is one of the leading proponents of the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to isolate Israel internationally. BDS hopes that treating Israel like apartheid South Africa will force it to make concessions at the negotiating table or, like the former South African regime, to collapse. On campuses throughout the U.S., and in legislatures across Europe, BDS advocates inveigh against any connections with Israel.

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Palestinian boycott leader waits for lung transplant in Israel – WND.com

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Legal Expert: ACLU Misrepresenting Senate Bill Against Israel Boycotts – TheTower.org

In its criticism ofSenate legislation against anti-Israel boycotts, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has falsely described the bill as an unconstitutional attack on free speech, a legal scholar arguedin The Washington Post on Thursday.

The ACLUs claims that Israel Anti-Boycott Actinhibits the free expression of ideas areas weak as they are dramatic, argued Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at Northwestern University.

The new legislation is actuallya minor updating of a venerable statute,namely the 1977 Export Administration Act, which prohibits U.S. entities from participating in or cooperating with international boycotts organized by foreign countries, Kontorovich explained. For example, telling a Saudi company, You know, we dont happen to do business with the Zionist entity would be prohibited.

While the 1977 act used broad language, it wasexplicitly aimed at the Arab states boycott of Israel,Kontorovich noted. The law has beenupheld against First Amendment challenges in the yearsafter its passage and has not raised any constitutional concerns in nearly four decades since, he added.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is a necessary extension of the 1977 measures, Kontorovich wrote, because United Nations agencies have begun the process of organizing boycotts of Israel:

Several United Nations agencies have initiated secondary boycotts of Israel that is, boycotting non-Israeli companies because of their connection to the Jewish state. In support of such secondary boycotts, the U.N. Human Rights Council is preparing a blacklist of Israeli-linked companies (using such a broad definition of supporting settlements that the blacklist could sweep in any Israeli-linked firm).

The UNHRCs efforts to boycott Israel are unprecedented, given that the Human Rights Council clearly does not regard businesses supporting settlements to be a human rights issue except when Israel is involved. (Kontorovich argued this point before the UNHRC last month.)

In particular, Kontorovich took issue with the ACLUs charge that the bill would penalize someone for expressing support of anti-Israel boycotts:

There is nothing in the bill to sustain such a criticism. The old law already forbids support for foreign state boycotts of Israel, and the many regulations enacted pursuant to the law already define support to be limited to certain specified actions that go well beyond merely speech support. The new bill does not change or alter the meaning of support. It simply clarifies the list of foreign boycotts covered by the law.

He pointed out that the current laws ban on support of the Arab League boycott has never been used to punish opponents of Israel simply for expression. The expansion of the list of covered boycotts in the new bill wouldnot make it any easier to go after boycott activists.’

In short, Kontorovich wrote, the proposed statute is a timely action to expand the list of prohibited foreign boycotts with which it is forbidden to comply. The legislation does nothing to restrict anti-Israel expressions or even local BDS activity. Anyone who wishes to express their opposition to Israel through boycotts isentirely free to do so.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D Md.), the chief sponsor of the legislation, and Sen. Rob Portman (R Ohio) alsorejected the ACLUs criticism of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, writing earlier this month:

Individuals who actively avoid purchasing goods and services because of their own political viewpoint would not be subject to the bill. Similarly, the bill does not regulate civil society organizations who are critical of Israeli policies or prevent them from speaking in favor of BDS. The legislation does not encourage or compel persons to do business with Israel, nor does it punish individuals or companies from refusing to do business with Israel based on their own political beliefs, for purely pragmatic reasons, or for no reason stated at all. Any suggestion that this bill creates potential criminal or civil liability for these actions is false.

Josh Block, president and CEO of The Israel Project, noted this week in The Hill that the ACLUs opposition to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act comes asa senior member of the organization tweeted that Israeli leaders were exploiting anti-Semitism for political purposes and that anti-Zionism is not linked toanti-Semitisma position rejected by top Jewish leaders and diverse public figuresincluding former British Chief RabbiJonathan Sacks, Anti-Defamation League CEOJonathan Greenblatt,Pope Francis, Minority Leader Sen.Chuck Schumer, French PresidentEmmanuel Macron, and Secretary-General of the UNAntnio Guterres.

It is appalling to see one of the longest-standing and most venerated civil rights organizations in our countrys history disseminating misinformation, fomenting anti-Semitism and lauding hatemongers,Blockobserved.

The Israel Project publishes The Tower.

[Photo:randomwithRon/ YouTube ]

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Bills in North Carolina, Congress Target Companies That Boycott Israel – The Independent Weekly

North Carolina senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis have cosponsored a bill that could impose stiff criminal and civil penalties for engaging in a boycott of Israel or its occupied territories. A similaralbeit less draconianstate bill, passed in the General Assembly in June, currently sits on Governor Coopers desk.

These bills target the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, or BDS, which seeks to stop companies and individuals from supporting businesses that work in Israeli settlements.

Modeled after the anti-apartheid movement, BDS began in 2005 to put pressure on Israel to end policies like its occupation of Palestinian territories, which is considered illegal under international law.

Rahul Saksena, an attorney with the Chicago-based nonprofit Palestine Legal, says he first saw pro-Israel groups shifting their attention toward state legislatures two years ago, a move he thinks was prompted by more Americans supporting BDS.

According to Beth Bruch, a member of Jewish Voices for Peaces Triangle chapter, efforts like these are clear attempts to silence constitutionally protected dissent against Israeli policies. I think this sort of bill is trying to just intimidate corporations and others from engaging actively in solidarity by making them think that there will be consequences, Bruch says.

On July 17, the ACLU sent a letter to U.S. senators sharply criticizing the federal Israel Anti-Boycott Act, pointing out that the bill would threaten serious financial penalties or jail time simply for opposing Israeli policy.

We take no position for or against the effort to boycott Israel or any foreign country, for that matter, the ACLU wrote. However, we do assert that the government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, punish U.S. persons based solely on their expressed political beliefs.

According to the ACLU, the bill would expand the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, which prohibits engaging in a boycott of nations friendly to the U.S. and carries a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and twenty years in prison. (Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat and the lead author of the bill, told The Intercept that he and other supporters did not intend for the bill to carry criminal penalties and would be open to amending it.)

Burr signed on to the bill in May, while Tillis became a cosponsor in late July. Neither senator responded to requests for comment.

The General Assemblys anti-BDS bill, House Bill 161, would require the state to divest from any company the state treasurer determines is boycotting Israel. It also prohibits any state agency or municipality from contracting with companies that are boycotting Israel. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, if HB 161 becomes law, North Carolina would be the twenty-first state to enact anti-BDS legislation.

Since the bill passed 9421 in the House and 45-3 in the Senate, legislators likely have the votes to override Coopers veto, should the governor decide not to sign it.

Like with the national legislation, state ACLU policy director Sarah Gillooly says bills like HB 161 unconstitutionally limit First Amendment rights.

Economic boycotts are a form of expression that the Supreme Court has ruled is protected by the First Amendment, Gillooly writes in an email. North Carolina cant blacklist companies or force them to give up their constitutional rights simply because lawmakers dont like their views.”

Joseph Blocher, a Duke law professor, says the constitutional questions raised by anti-BDS laws are not entirely settled. While a boycott is a protected form of speech and denying government benefits for engaging in a boycott would almost always be a constitutional violation, the state can argue that choosing not to do business with these companies is exercising in its own speech.

The government has the power to control its own message, for example, by deciding which programs it wants to subsidize in the first place. Blocher says. Thats whats called government speech, and one might argue that HB 161 is just a matter of North Carolina choosing not to support certain viewpoints with which it disagrees.

State Representative Jon Hardister, a Republican sponsor, says that while its ultimately for the courts to decide if HB 161 is constitutional, he sees no issue with the state not doing business with those who want to economically damage an ally he believes is important for national security.

When youre dealing with companies that are trying to hurt an ally, an international ally, thats when I think you have a problem, and its admissible for the state to take action, he says. Hardister adds that he doesnt believe many companies will be affected by the bill; he says its meant as more of a preventative measure.

Karah Manning, a spokeswoman for the treasurers office, says its difficult to determine if any companies meet the criteria laid out in HB 161. But if the bill becomes law, the treasurer will make a list publicly available within 120 days.

Brian Hauss, an ACLU attorney, says that even if a law is largely symbolic, it can still chill speech.

If there is a lot out there that says or at least suggests that a certain kind of speech is being prohibited and it threatens really severe sanctions if you engage in it, then a lot of people are just not going to engage in it because thats the smarter thing to do, and that is a First Amendment harm.”

Governor Cooper has not responded to multiple requests for comment. He has until July 30 to decide whether to sign HB 161.

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How the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Threatens First Amendment Rights – ACLU (blog)

Last week, the ACLU came out against a bill that would criminalize constitutionally protected boycotts and certain speech targeting Israel. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which was introduced in both the House and Senate earlier this year, would expand a 1970s-era export law and expose a range of activity to sweeping penalties, including criminal prosecution.

Since we sent our letter to Congress setting out our opposition to the bill, weve received dozens of questions about what it actually does. We attempt to answer the most common ones below.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act principally seeks to amend the Export Administration Act of 1979. That law prohibits U.S. persons a term that refers to both individuals and companies from taking certain actions to comply with or support a boycott imposed by a foreign country against another country that is friendly to the United States.

The 1979 law responded to the Arab Leagues boycott of Israel. At the time, countries in the Arab League would require U.S. businesses to boycott Israel and Israeli companies, and furnish information to verify the boycott, as a condition of doing business. To prevent foreign countries from dragooning U.S. businesses into these compulsory boycotts, the 1979 law prohibited U.S. companies from complying with foreign boycott requirements.

Specifically, the 1979 law prohibits U.S. persons from boycotting a friendly country i.e., by refusing to do business with the boycotted country or with a company operating in that country pursuant to an agreement with, requirement of, or request from another country. It also prohibits the furnishing of information about U.S. persons business relationships in the boycotted country.

For example, suppose a U.S. company had wanted to do business in Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Arabia would allow it to operate in its territory only if the company suspended business ties with Israel and reported its dealings to prove its compliance. The 1979 law would prohibit the U.S. company from complying with the Saudi governments boycott demand and from furnishing information about its business dealings with Israel.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act was drafted in response to the U.N. Human Rights Councils (UNHRC) March 2016 resolution calling for the creation of a database of companies operating in the occupied Palestinian territories. The bills statement of policy declares that Congress opposes the UNHRC resolution and views such policies as actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel.

The bills operative provisions expand the 1979 law by prohibiting U.S. persons from boycotting Israel and Israeli businesses including businesses operating in the occupied Palestinian territories in adherence to boycotts called for by international governmental organizations, such as the United Nations and the European Union. The bill would also prohibit U.S. persons from not only furnishing, but even requesting information about any persons business relations with Israel, if done to support a foreign countrys or international governmental organizations call for boycott.

The bill states that violators shall be fined in accordance with the penalties laid out in Section 206 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. That section provides that violations are punishable by a civil penalty that could reach $250,000 and that willful violations are subject to criminal prosecution, which could result in a fine of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison.

The existing law would be amended as follows (with amendments in bold):

For the purpose of implementing the policies set forth in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (5) of section 4602 of this title, the President shall issue regulations prohibiting any United States person, with respect to his activities in the interstate or foreign commerce of the United States, from taking or knowingly agreeing to take any of the following actions with intent to comply with, further, or support any boycott fostered or imposed by a foreign country, or request to impose any boycott by a foreign country, against a country which is friendly to the United States and which is not itself the object of any form of boycott pursuant to United States law or regulation, or support any boycott fostered or imposed by any international governmental organization against Israel or request to impose any boycott by any international governmental organization against Israel.

As written, the bill would prohibit a U.S. person from:

The bills amendments would significantly expand the 1979 laws prohibitions, untethering them from Congress original concern about foreign governments coercing U.S businesses into boycotting friendly countries in exchange for commercial relations. Instead, the bill risks penalizing U.S. individuals and companies that support a U.N.-led boycott movement by refusing to purchase goods made by certain companies.

In other words, the original intent of the law was to protect U.S. companies from the coercion of foreign governments. While the law may have been overbroad, Congress new amendments make the problem worse. Now, it is the U.S. government prohibiting people from participating in certain boycotts that they wish to join.

On its face, the bill appears to directly prohibit boycott activity that is protected under the First Amendment. Even if the bill could be interpreted more narrowly, as some of its supporters claim, its broad language could still chill protected expression by scaring people into self-censorship. Either way, the bill would impose serious First Amendment harms.

Some people have argued that the bill effectively accomplishes nothing, because no international governmental organization is currently engaged in a boycott against Israel. But, as noted above, the bills statement of policy expressly opposes the UNHRCs March 2016 resolution calling for a database of companies operating in the occupied Palestinian territories, and it declares that Congress views such policies as actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel.

Reading the bill in light of its own statement of policy, a reasonable person could plausibly infer that the UNHRCs March 2016 resolution amounts to a request for a boycott within the meaning of the bill. That would mean that anyone who attempts to support the resolution, as Congress has described it, by refusing to purchase goods made in Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories would be violating the law. Given the severe penalties at stake, many people would undoubtedly choose to refrain rather than risk prosecution.

But even apart from limiting the right to boycott by refusing to purchase goods for political reasons, the bill infringes on pure speech. It prohibits even requests for information about whether a person is doing business in Israel in order to support a boycott of Israel, regardless of whether the requester is actually engaged in a boycott. This additional prohibition will chill people from seeking information about companies boycotting Israel or engaged in business dealings in Israel.

For example, suppose a consumer wishes to make a decision about whether to purchase a product made by a certain company. She posts a request on Facebook seeking information about that companys environmental, labor rights, or human rights record. Her request is protected speech. But if the company she is asking about operates in the occupied Palestinian territories, and she is asking about that activity in order to support the U.N.s resolution and then publicly shares any information she receives, she would have reason to fear prosecution under the law.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is a global campaign that seeks to apply economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with international law. Because the BDS movement is not itself an international governmental organization, support for BDS and its activities should not violate the bills provisions. However, BDSs members and supporters may refer to international governmental organizations boycott requests or policies to support their own advocacy. Thus, the bill threatens to sanction a BDS-supporting individual or company that declares an intention to boycott every business listed in the UNHRC database. The bill also threatens to sanction BDS supporters who identify companies dealing with businesses listed in the UNHRC database.

Additionally, even though BDS participation does not by itself violate the bills provisions, BDS members and supporters may fear that they will be targeted for investigation based on their affiliation and expressive activities, and self-censor accordingly.

The Office of Antiboycott Compliances website explicitly states:

The term U.S. person includes all individuals, corporations and unincorporated associations resident in the United States, including the permanent domestic affiliates of foreign concerns. U.S. persons also include U.S. citizens abroad (except when they reside abroad and are employed by non-U.S. persons) and the controlled in fact affiliates of domestic concerns.

Even if the government has in the past chosen to pursue penalties against corporations, not individuals, the bills language plainly applies to individuals. And even if the government promises not to prosecute individual consumers under the bill, such a promise can be changed at any time, at the whim of any presidential administration. Because the bill applies to individuals, flesh and blood people have reason to be concerned that their own protected boycott activity and speech could violate the law.

The ACLU believes that the 1979 law is overbroad. However, courts upheld the law against First Amendment challenge, concluding that it was a sufficiently narrow attempt to prevent foreign countries from dragooning American businesses into boycotts against Israel, thereby raising delicate foreign policy questions. Whatever their merits, these rulings envisioned a narrow scope for the law and did not involve challenges by individuals engaged in political speech and advocacy.

The bill goes beyond any such narrow scope. The UNHRC does not engage in trade with U.S. companies, and the law is not narrowly tailored to situations involving export relationships that trigger foreign policy concerns. The bill threatens to sanction businesses and individuals who seek to demonstrate their support for the UNHRCs March 2016 resolution and similar future policies by the EU or international governmental organizations through protected speech and boycott activity.

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How the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Threatens First Amendment Rights – ACLU (blog)

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July 27, 2017   Posted in: Boycott Israel  Comments Closed

Elizabeth Warren Opposes Bill Targeting Israel Boycotts – Forward

Getty Images Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Groups opposing the proposed Israel Anti-Boycott Act registered another victory this week after progressive icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined the ranks of those critical of the legislation. At an August 4 event, the Massachusetts Democrat was asked by an activist from Jewish Voice for Peace, a group fighting against the bill, for her opinion. I do not support the boycott, I think the boycott is wrong, Warren said. But I think outlawing protected free speech activity violates our basic constitution. This view seems to be in line with that of the American Civil Liberties Union, which asked senators to oppose the bill because it may prevent Americans from expressing their free speech in the form of boycotting Israeli products. Authors of the bill argue that it does not penalize individuals seeking to boycott Israel, and that it only targets companies adhering to boycott demands presented by foreign governments or international organizations. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand decided last week to withdraw her sponsorship of the bill after hearing from critical constituents during a town hall meeting. Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman

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August 8, 2017   Posted in: Boycott Israel  Comments Closed

50 Senators Want to Make It a Crime to Boycott Israel

In 1966, the NAACP of Claiborne County, Mississippi launched a boycott of several white-owned local businesses on the basis of racial discrimination. It was so impactful that the local hardware store filed a lawsuit against the individuals and organizations who coordinated the boycott. After 10 long years of litigation, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in favor of the white businesses and ordered the NAACP to pay for all their lost earnings. Years later, in 1982, theU.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-0 to overturnthe lower courts decision on the basis that nonviolent boycotts are a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. In announcing the unanimous decision, Justice John Paul Stevenssaid, One of the foundations of our society is the right of individuals to combine with other persons in pursuit of a common goal by lawful means. That should have been the end of it. But now, Americans right to boycott is under attack once again thanks to avicious anti-boycott billmaking its way through the Senate. In particular, it appears to target the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS is an international movement calling on individuals, institutions, and governments to boycott Israeli products until it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands. The boycott is explicitly nonviolent and is supported by activists, celebrities, faith-based groups, and political and social justice organizations around the world. The proposed Israel Anti-Boycott Act would make it afelonyfor Americans to support BDS, with a penalty of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison. Unfortunately, the bill enjoys bipartisan support:32 Republicans and 15 Democratsare currently signed on as cosponsors, including party leaders like Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Ted Cruz (R-TX). In response, theACLU issued a letterurging members of the Senate to oppose the bill based on itsdirect violation of the First Amendment.(Following the publication of the ACLUs letter, several members of Congress have agreed to review their sponsorship, but so far none have removed their names.) The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would function by amending an earlier law from 1979, which prohibits American citizens and corporations from complying with boycotts called for by foreign nations against U.S. allies. The new law would include boycotts fostered and imposed by international governmental organizations like the United Nations. In this, its a direct response to the2016 UN Human Rights Council resolutiondiscouraging businesses from operating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In one way, its genius. By claiming a connection between BDS and the UN a connection the UN has never embraced, in that resolution or any other the bill attempts to work aroundNAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. But the BDS movement isnota product of the UN it has nothing to do with it at all, except to the degree that its based on international law. TheBDS call to actionwas issued in 2005 by a coalition of 170 Palestinian political parties, professional associations, refugee networks, and civil society organizations. BDS is a tactic, not an organization, and the boycott has always been grassroots and decentralized, meaning anyone anywhere can partake in BDS by making the simple decision to do so. Whether the congressional supporters of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act misunderstand or are intentionally misrepresenting BDS is uncertain, but the Supreme Court decision of 1982 is clear as crystal: Americans right to peaceful boycott with the aim to bring about political, social, and economic change is protected by the First Amendment. That means this bill is more than egregiously immoral its unconstitutional. The bills language also lumps Israels settlements in with the countrys internationally recognized borders. Significantly, it declares the UN Human Rights Councils 2016 position on Israeli settlements an action to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel. Yet that resolution took no position on the boycotting of goods produced in Israel proper it only took aim at Israelisettlementsin Palestinian territory, which are illegal under international law. U.S. policysince 1979has recognized that the Israeli settlements are inconsistent with international law.By contrast, the new bill effectively erases any distinction between Israel and its settlements in the West Bank. If its passed, anyone who chooses not to do business with or buy items manufactured in illegal Israeli settlements can be convicted, fined, and even jailed. Efforts to curb this kind of activism are often touted as efforts to combat anti-Semitism. Yet polls show thatonly 17 percent of American Jewssupport the continued construction of settlements. The bill is so controversial, in fact, that the liberal pro-Israel organization J Street, which has long opposed BDS,recently announced its oppositionto the proposed law on the basis that it divides [opponents of the global BDS movement] by making the issue about the settlements. Its difficult to know exactly how broadly the law, if passed, will be enforced. Its intentionally vague language leaves a lot to the imagination, and perhaps thats exactly whats intended. The real goal may be to frighten people from engaging in the completely legal act ofliving outtheir values in their economic choices. But we cant let fear prevent us from exercising our rights and fulfilling our moral obligations. The silver lining is that every effort to quell the BDS movement has served to strengthen it. Each attempt at criminalizing the boycott, whether on the state or federal level, has been met with a spike in Google searches for BDS and related terms. And with the uproar caused by this new bill, the right-wing pro-Israel lobby just may prove to be the BDS movements best ally. This article originally appeared on Foreign Policy in Focus.

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August 6, 2017   Posted in: Boycott Israel  Comments Closed

Anti-Israel Boycott Act Targets Discrimination, Not Free Speech – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Youtube {Originally posted to the Tower Magazine website} The Anti-Israel Boycott Act currently being debated in the Senate is an anti-discrimination legislation that does not restrict free speech, in contradiction tocritics claims,Northwestern University law professor Eugene Kontorovich explainedThursday at a briefing on Capitol Hill. The Senates Anti-Israel Boycott Act, sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D Md.), expands onlaws adopted in the 1970s to fight the Arab Leagues boycott of Israel, includingthe Ribicoff Amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976. The RibicoffAmendment requires U.S persons to report operations in, with, or related to countries known to participate in unsanctioned boycotts. It seeks to prevent U.S. companies from being used to advance the policies of foreign governments thatundermine U.S. policy. In order to the enforce the 1970s legislation, the U.S Department of Commerce established theOffice of Anti-Boycott Compliance. Although there are stiff criminal penalties for engaging in unsanctioned boycotts at the behest of foreign countries, only violations by businesses have been prosecuted, and no individual has ever been sentenced for such violations. The Anti-Israel Boycott Act simply extends the 1970s legislation by prohibiting American companies from abiding by unsanctioned boycotts organized by international organizations, not just foreign countries. The impetus for the legislation is the United Nations Human Rights Councils unprecedented decision to create a database of companies that do business inthe West Bank, a move seen as a precursor to a boycott. (Kontorovich noted that Israeli companies that do business with the UN will most likely be the first companies targeted by this boycott.) While theoriginal Arab League anti-Israel boycott no longer has much force (Kontrovich noted that the boycotts office is in Damascus), the UNHRCs boycott efforts are active and threatening to gain force. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) launched a campaign against the Senate legislation last month, claiming that it attacks free speech. However,Kontorovich explained a number of reasons why the ACLUs criticism is misplaced. (Cardin and Sen. Rob Portman [R Ohio] also answered the ACLUs objections.) The Anti-Israel boycott Act doesnt change the existing boycott law, but merely addsacategory of prohibited boycott, Kontorovich. While the existing law has been the basis of a number of prosecutions over the years, no prosecuted company ever used the Constitution as a defense. The law is also very clear that it does not outlaw expressions of support for aboycott, but rather providing material support to an unsanctioned boycott campaign organized by foreign governments andorganizations. The prohibited actions are describedby the Office of Anti-Boycott Enforcement. Kontorovich reiterated that whilethe Senate bill allows individuals and companies to boycott Israel privately, it prohibits them from engaging in a boycott at the behest of foreign powers. Henoted that while 22 U.S. states have already adoptedanti-BDS laws, whichforbid the state from contracting with entities that support discrimination based on nationality,theACLU hasnt challenged these laws as violations of free speech rights. Kontorovich added that, if successful, the ACLUs misguided objections to the bill could undermine the existing anti-boycott laws. (In an open letter attacking the new legislation, the ACLU described the original boycott legislation as being overblown.) They could also undermine existing U.S. sanctions against countries such as Iran, Russia, and North Korea. If the facilitation of boycottsa commercial activityis protected as free speech, then their violation could also be similarly protected. Later during the session, Kontorovich noted that the BDS campaign is premised on the conviction that Israels occupation of the West Bank is a uniquely evil activity that necessitates a boycott. The hypocrisy of the UNHRCs decision to single out Israel isamplified by the fact that two of the countries that support its databaseTurkey, which occupies Northern Cyprus, and Morocco, which occupies Western Saharasuffer no consequences for their occupations. Kontorovich has previously published a study documenting how 44 companies from around the world operate freely in occupied territory without consequence, whileonly Jewish companies operating in the West Bank face repercussions.The study reveals that international businesses play a crucial role supporting occupation and settlement enterprises around the world in places such as Western Sahara, Northern Cyprus, Nagorno-Karabakh and Crimea, Kontorovich said last month as he presentedhis findings beforethe UNHRC, but the Council has never condemned any of this business activity. Kontorovich suggested a number of actions that could possibly deter the UNHRCs efforts to boycott Israel. These includedcompiling a database of all companies that do business in occupied territories worldwide. This would affect companies such as the Swiss insurance giant Zurich, which just started doing business in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, and which contributes to NGOs that target Israel for boycotts.However, he noted that such a measure would need to be voted on by the UNHRC. He also considered the viability of threatening to cut off American funds to the UNHRC, but was ultimately skeptical that this would derail the groups efforts to boycott Israel. Kontorovich said that the best chance to head off the UNHRCs boycott would be for Washington to withdraw from the organization, but seemed skeptical as to whether the Trump administration would do so.

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‘Boycott is not the answer,’ Jewish group says ahead of Waters gigs … – The Jerusalem Post

Roger Waters. (photo credit:REUTERS) As Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters got ready to take the stage in Washington, D.C. this weekend, a local Jewish group launched a campaign to try to contain the voices of protesters against the prominent BDS activist to social media. The campaign took the form of a video, produced and sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, is an effort to educate local Washingtonians on the ways Waters uses music to divide people. Waters is known for his efforts to antagonize musicians who choose to perform in Israel – instead of boycotting the country, as he does – and once compared the Israeli government to Nazi Germany in a live video chat on Facebook last month. Music has the power to change the world by bringing people together, the video stated. Music breaks down walls and gives people hope – Roger Waters should know that. Instead he’s using music to divide people. By pressuring musicians to boycott Israel, Waters makes things worse, by shutting down the free flow of ideas, the video continues. It’s too bad that Roger Waters doesn’t understand that peace can only be achieved through dialogue and engagement. BDS will not bring peace. BDS is not the answer. More dialogue, more respect, more music is. The video was produced in response to calls to hold protests outside Verizon, the venue where the concerts were held. The council sought to limit any resistance to Waters to the sphere of the Internet. This is a sort of welcoming party for Waters, Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council said of the video, according to The Washington Post. We want him to know when he arrives in DC that the sort of hateful language that hes peddling and the myths he engages in are going to be met with fierce resistance. Most recently the former Pink Floyd frontman went head-to-head with the lead singer of Radiohead, Thom Yorke, who defended his bands decision to perform in Tel Aviv. Rogers drew accusations of antisemitism when a concert he held in Belgium in 2013, included an inflatable pig emblazoned with the Star of David and symbols of dictatorial regimes. Share on facebook

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August 5, 2017   Posted in: Boycott Israel  Comments Closed

Israel Must Be Boycotted Unless It Saves Our Lives – Algemeiner

Email a copy of “Israel Must Be Boycotted Unless It Saves Our Lives” to a friend Saeb Erekat. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Weve seen before how BDS activists talk big about boycotting Israel which really means thateveryoneelsemust boycott Israel. We know, for example, how Omar Barghouti wants everyone to boycott Israeli universities, while he attended (attends?) one. Weve also seen how BDS groupshappily use Israeli website technology and even try tojustifyit. Now we canaddSaeb Erekat to this list. Erekat haspublicly calledfor BDS policies to be adopted in Europe. But now he needs medical help in Israel, andhe doesnt hesitate to use it: Palestinian Authority chief negotiator and secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization Saeb Erekat has a serious lung disease and is currently on the waiting list for a transplant in Israel and the US, according to a report Tuesday on the Ynet news site. Erekat, 62, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis over a year ago and had been on medications that were effectively treating the disease. However, the drugs stopped working several months ago, and his condition has since deteriorated dramatically. The chief PA negotiator has been receiving additional treatment at a hospital in central Israel, but doctors have warned that his condition cannot improve without an immediate transplant, the report said. Suddenly, Israeli goods and services seem to be not so terrible! Erekat could go to Europe or an Arab country to get the transplant and treatment. Butyou guessed it he chooses Israel. The hypocrisy doesnt end there. The Palestinian Authority has recently slashed the number of medical permits for Gazans to get treated in Israel. YetErekat, of course,hasto get the best medical care possible.

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August 3, 2017   Posted in: Boycott Israel  Comments Closed

Palestinian boycott leader waits for lung transplant in Israel – WND.com

(BREITBART) Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians chief negotiator and a global leader in the effort to boycott Israel, is reported to be on a waiting list for a lung transplant in Israel. Israels Ynetnews reports that Erekat suffers from pulmonary fibrosis and is on the waiting list for a lung transplant in Israel or the United States. Erect, 62, has reportedly already begun medical treatment in Israel, but his condition is so bad that he will need a lung transplant to survive. The irony is rich. Erekat is one of the leading proponents of the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to isolate Israel internationally. BDS hopes that treating Israel like apartheid South Africa will force it to make concessions at the negotiating table or, like the former South African regime, to collapse. On campuses throughout the U.S., and in legislatures across Europe, BDS advocates inveigh against any connections with Israel.

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August 2, 2017   Posted in: Boycott Israel  Comments Closed

Legal Expert: ACLU Misrepresenting Senate Bill Against Israel Boycotts – TheTower.org

In its criticism ofSenate legislation against anti-Israel boycotts, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has falsely described the bill as an unconstitutional attack on free speech, a legal scholar arguedin The Washington Post on Thursday. The ACLUs claims that Israel Anti-Boycott Actinhibits the free expression of ideas areas weak as they are dramatic, argued Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at Northwestern University. The new legislation is actuallya minor updating of a venerable statute,namely the 1977 Export Administration Act, which prohibits U.S. entities from participating in or cooperating with international boycotts organized by foreign countries, Kontorovich explained. For example, telling a Saudi company, You know, we dont happen to do business with the Zionist entity would be prohibited. While the 1977 act used broad language, it wasexplicitly aimed at the Arab states boycott of Israel,Kontorovich noted. The law has beenupheld against First Amendment challenges in the yearsafter its passage and has not raised any constitutional concerns in nearly four decades since, he added. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is a necessary extension of the 1977 measures, Kontorovich wrote, because United Nations agencies have begun the process of organizing boycotts of Israel: Several United Nations agencies have initiated secondary boycotts of Israel that is, boycotting non-Israeli companies because of their connection to the Jewish state. In support of such secondary boycotts, the U.N. Human Rights Council is preparing a blacklist of Israeli-linked companies (using such a broad definition of supporting settlements that the blacklist could sweep in any Israeli-linked firm). The UNHRCs efforts to boycott Israel are unprecedented, given that the Human Rights Council clearly does not regard businesses supporting settlements to be a human rights issue except when Israel is involved. (Kontorovich argued this point before the UNHRC last month.) In particular, Kontorovich took issue with the ACLUs charge that the bill would penalize someone for expressing support of anti-Israel boycotts: There is nothing in the bill to sustain such a criticism. The old law already forbids support for foreign state boycotts of Israel, and the many regulations enacted pursuant to the law already define support to be limited to certain specified actions that go well beyond merely speech support. The new bill does not change or alter the meaning of support. It simply clarifies the list of foreign boycotts covered by the law. He pointed out that the current laws ban on support of the Arab League boycott has never been used to punish opponents of Israel simply for expression. The expansion of the list of covered boycotts in the new bill wouldnot make it any easier to go after boycott activists.’ In short, Kontorovich wrote, the proposed statute is a timely action to expand the list of prohibited foreign boycotts with which it is forbidden to comply. The legislation does nothing to restrict anti-Israel expressions or even local BDS activity. Anyone who wishes to express their opposition to Israel through boycotts isentirely free to do so. Sen. Ben Cardin (D Md.), the chief sponsor of the legislation, and Sen. Rob Portman (R Ohio) alsorejected the ACLUs criticism of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, writing earlier this month: Individuals who actively avoid purchasing goods and services because of their own political viewpoint would not be subject to the bill. Similarly, the bill does not regulate civil society organizations who are critical of Israeli policies or prevent them from speaking in favor of BDS. The legislation does not encourage or compel persons to do business with Israel, nor does it punish individuals or companies from refusing to do business with Israel based on their own political beliefs, for purely pragmatic reasons, or for no reason stated at all. Any suggestion that this bill creates potential criminal or civil liability for these actions is false. Josh Block, president and CEO of The Israel Project, noted this week in The Hill that the ACLUs opposition to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act comes asa senior member of the organization tweeted that Israeli leaders were exploiting anti-Semitism for political purposes and that anti-Zionism is not linked toanti-Semitisma position rejected by top Jewish leaders and diverse public figuresincluding former British Chief RabbiJonathan Sacks, Anti-Defamation League CEOJonathan Greenblatt,Pope Francis, Minority Leader Sen.Chuck Schumer, French PresidentEmmanuel Macron, and Secretary-General of the UNAntnio Guterres. It is appalling to see one of the longest-standing and most venerated civil rights organizations in our countrys history disseminating misinformation, fomenting anti-Semitism and lauding hatemongers,Blockobserved. The Israel Project publishes The Tower. [Photo:randomwithRon/ YouTube ]

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July 29, 2017   Posted in: Boycott Israel  Comments Closed

Bills in North Carolina, Congress Target Companies That Boycott Israel – The Independent Weekly

North Carolina senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis have cosponsored a bill that could impose stiff criminal and civil penalties for engaging in a boycott of Israel or its occupied territories. A similaralbeit less draconianstate bill, passed in the General Assembly in June, currently sits on Governor Coopers desk. These bills target the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, or BDS, which seeks to stop companies and individuals from supporting businesses that work in Israeli settlements. Modeled after the anti-apartheid movement, BDS began in 2005 to put pressure on Israel to end policies like its occupation of Palestinian territories, which is considered illegal under international law. Rahul Saksena, an attorney with the Chicago-based nonprofit Palestine Legal, says he first saw pro-Israel groups shifting their attention toward state legislatures two years ago, a move he thinks was prompted by more Americans supporting BDS. According to Beth Bruch, a member of Jewish Voices for Peaces Triangle chapter, efforts like these are clear attempts to silence constitutionally protected dissent against Israeli policies. I think this sort of bill is trying to just intimidate corporations and others from engaging actively in solidarity by making them think that there will be consequences, Bruch says. On July 17, the ACLU sent a letter to U.S. senators sharply criticizing the federal Israel Anti-Boycott Act, pointing out that the bill would threaten serious financial penalties or jail time simply for opposing Israeli policy. We take no position for or against the effort to boycott Israel or any foreign country, for that matter, the ACLU wrote. However, we do assert that the government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, punish U.S. persons based solely on their expressed political beliefs. According to the ACLU, the bill would expand the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, which prohibits engaging in a boycott of nations friendly to the U.S. and carries a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and twenty years in prison. (Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat and the lead author of the bill, told The Intercept that he and other supporters did not intend for the bill to carry criminal penalties and would be open to amending it.) Burr signed on to the bill in May, while Tillis became a cosponsor in late July. Neither senator responded to requests for comment. The General Assemblys anti-BDS bill, House Bill 161, would require the state to divest from any company the state treasurer determines is boycotting Israel. It also prohibits any state agency or municipality from contracting with companies that are boycotting Israel. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, if HB 161 becomes law, North Carolina would be the twenty-first state to enact anti-BDS legislation. Since the bill passed 9421 in the House and 45-3 in the Senate, legislators likely have the votes to override Coopers veto, should the governor decide not to sign it. Like with the national legislation, state ACLU policy director Sarah Gillooly says bills like HB 161 unconstitutionally limit First Amendment rights. Economic boycotts are a form of expression that the Supreme Court has ruled is protected by the First Amendment, Gillooly writes in an email. North Carolina cant blacklist companies or force them to give up their constitutional rights simply because lawmakers dont like their views.” Joseph Blocher, a Duke law professor, says the constitutional questions raised by anti-BDS laws are not entirely settled. While a boycott is a protected form of speech and denying government benefits for engaging in a boycott would almost always be a constitutional violation, the state can argue that choosing not to do business with these companies is exercising in its own speech. The government has the power to control its own message, for example, by deciding which programs it wants to subsidize in the first place. Blocher says. Thats whats called government speech, and one might argue that HB 161 is just a matter of North Carolina choosing not to support certain viewpoints with which it disagrees. State Representative Jon Hardister, a Republican sponsor, says that while its ultimately for the courts to decide if HB 161 is constitutional, he sees no issue with the state not doing business with those who want to economically damage an ally he believes is important for national security. When youre dealing with companies that are trying to hurt an ally, an international ally, thats when I think you have a problem, and its admissible for the state to take action, he says. Hardister adds that he doesnt believe many companies will be affected by the bill; he says its meant as more of a preventative measure. Karah Manning, a spokeswoman for the treasurers office, says its difficult to determine if any companies meet the criteria laid out in HB 161. But if the bill becomes law, the treasurer will make a list publicly available within 120 days. Brian Hauss, an ACLU attorney, says that even if a law is largely symbolic, it can still chill speech. If there is a lot out there that says or at least suggests that a certain kind of speech is being prohibited and it threatens really severe sanctions if you engage in it, then a lot of people are just not going to engage in it because thats the smarter thing to do, and that is a First Amendment harm.” Governor Cooper has not responded to multiple requests for comment. He has until July 30 to decide whether to sign HB 161.

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July 27, 2017   Posted in: Boycott Israel  Comments Closed

How the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Threatens First Amendment Rights – ACLU (blog)

Last week, the ACLU came out against a bill that would criminalize constitutionally protected boycotts and certain speech targeting Israel. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which was introduced in both the House and Senate earlier this year, would expand a 1970s-era export law and expose a range of activity to sweeping penalties, including criminal prosecution. Since we sent our letter to Congress setting out our opposition to the bill, weve received dozens of questions about what it actually does. We attempt to answer the most common ones below. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act principally seeks to amend the Export Administration Act of 1979. That law prohibits U.S. persons a term that refers to both individuals and companies from taking certain actions to comply with or support a boycott imposed by a foreign country against another country that is friendly to the United States. The 1979 law responded to the Arab Leagues boycott of Israel. At the time, countries in the Arab League would require U.S. businesses to boycott Israel and Israeli companies, and furnish information to verify the boycott, as a condition of doing business. To prevent foreign countries from dragooning U.S. businesses into these compulsory boycotts, the 1979 law prohibited U.S. companies from complying with foreign boycott requirements. Specifically, the 1979 law prohibits U.S. persons from boycotting a friendly country i.e., by refusing to do business with the boycotted country or with a company operating in that country pursuant to an agreement with, requirement of, or request from another country. It also prohibits the furnishing of information about U.S. persons business relationships in the boycotted country. For example, suppose a U.S. company had wanted to do business in Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Arabia would allow it to operate in its territory only if the company suspended business ties with Israel and reported its dealings to prove its compliance. The 1979 law would prohibit the U.S. company from complying with the Saudi governments boycott demand and from furnishing information about its business dealings with Israel. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act was drafted in response to the U.N. Human Rights Councils (UNHRC) March 2016 resolution calling for the creation of a database of companies operating in the occupied Palestinian territories. The bills statement of policy declares that Congress opposes the UNHRC resolution and views such policies as actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel. The bills operative provisions expand the 1979 law by prohibiting U.S. persons from boycotting Israel and Israeli businesses including businesses operating in the occupied Palestinian territories in adherence to boycotts called for by international governmental organizations, such as the United Nations and the European Union. The bill would also prohibit U.S. persons from not only furnishing, but even requesting information about any persons business relations with Israel, if done to support a foreign countrys or international governmental organizations call for boycott. The bill states that violators shall be fined in accordance with the penalties laid out in Section 206 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. That section provides that violations are punishable by a civil penalty that could reach $250,000 and that willful violations are subject to criminal prosecution, which could result in a fine of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison. The existing law would be amended as follows (with amendments in bold): For the purpose of implementing the policies set forth in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (5) of section 4602 of this title, the President shall issue regulations prohibiting any United States person, with respect to his activities in the interstate or foreign commerce of the United States, from taking or knowingly agreeing to take any of the following actions with intent to comply with, further, or support any boycott fostered or imposed by a foreign country, or request to impose any boycott by a foreign country, against a country which is friendly to the United States and which is not itself the object of any form of boycott pursuant to United States law or regulation, or support any boycott fostered or imposed by any international governmental organization against Israel or request to impose any boycott by any international governmental organization against Israel. As written, the bill would prohibit a U.S. person from: The bills amendments would significantly expand the 1979 laws prohibitions, untethering them from Congress original concern about foreign governments coercing U.S businesses into boycotting friendly countries in exchange for commercial relations. Instead, the bill risks penalizing U.S. individuals and companies that support a U.N.-led boycott movement by refusing to purchase goods made by certain companies. In other words, the original intent of the law was to protect U.S. companies from the coercion of foreign governments. While the law may have been overbroad, Congress new amendments make the problem worse. Now, it is the U.S. government prohibiting people from participating in certain boycotts that they wish to join. On its face, the bill appears to directly prohibit boycott activity that is protected under the First Amendment. Even if the bill could be interpreted more narrowly, as some of its supporters claim, its broad language could still chill protected expression by scaring people into self-censorship. Either way, the bill would impose serious First Amendment harms. Some people have argued that the bill effectively accomplishes nothing, because no international governmental organization is currently engaged in a boycott against Israel. But, as noted above, the bills statement of policy expressly opposes the UNHRCs March 2016 resolution calling for a database of companies operating in the occupied Palestinian territories, and it declares that Congress views such policies as actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel. Reading the bill in light of its own statement of policy, a reasonable person could plausibly infer that the UNHRCs March 2016 resolution amounts to a request for a boycott within the meaning of the bill. That would mean that anyone who attempts to support the resolution, as Congress has described it, by refusing to purchase goods made in Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories would be violating the law. Given the severe penalties at stake, many people would undoubtedly choose to refrain rather than risk prosecution. But even apart from limiting the right to boycott by refusing to purchase goods for political reasons, the bill infringes on pure speech. It prohibits even requests for information about whether a person is doing business in Israel in order to support a boycott of Israel, regardless of whether the requester is actually engaged in a boycott. This additional prohibition will chill people from seeking information about companies boycotting Israel or engaged in business dealings in Israel. For example, suppose a consumer wishes to make a decision about whether to purchase a product made by a certain company. She posts a request on Facebook seeking information about that companys environmental, labor rights, or human rights record. Her request is protected speech. But if the company she is asking about operates in the occupied Palestinian territories, and she is asking about that activity in order to support the U.N.s resolution and then publicly shares any information she receives, she would have reason to fear prosecution under the law. The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is a global campaign that seeks to apply economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with international law. Because the BDS movement is not itself an international governmental organization, support for BDS and its activities should not violate the bills provisions. However, BDSs members and supporters may refer to international governmental organizations boycott requests or policies to support their own advocacy. Thus, the bill threatens to sanction a BDS-supporting individual or company that declares an intention to boycott every business listed in the UNHRC database. The bill also threatens to sanction BDS supporters who identify companies dealing with businesses listed in the UNHRC database. Additionally, even though BDS participation does not by itself violate the bills provisions, BDS members and supporters may fear that they will be targeted for investigation based on their affiliation and expressive activities, and self-censor accordingly. The Office of Antiboycott Compliances website explicitly states: The term U.S. person includes all individuals, corporations and unincorporated associations resident in the United States, including the permanent domestic affiliates of foreign concerns. U.S. persons also include U.S. citizens abroad (except when they reside abroad and are employed by non-U.S. persons) and the controlled in fact affiliates of domestic concerns. Even if the government has in the past chosen to pursue penalties against corporations, not individuals, the bills language plainly applies to individuals. And even if the government promises not to prosecute individual consumers under the bill, such a promise can be changed at any time, at the whim of any presidential administration. Because the bill applies to individuals, flesh and blood people have reason to be concerned that their own protected boycott activity and speech could violate the law. The ACLU believes that the 1979 law is overbroad. However, courts upheld the law against First Amendment challenge, concluding that it was a sufficiently narrow attempt to prevent foreign countries from dragooning American businesses into boycotts against Israel, thereby raising delicate foreign policy questions. Whatever their merits, these rulings envisioned a narrow scope for the law and did not involve challenges by individuals engaged in political speech and advocacy. The bill goes beyond any such narrow scope. The UNHRC does not engage in trade with U.S. companies, and the law is not narrowly tailored to situations involving export relationships that trigger foreign policy concerns. The bill threatens to sanction businesses and individuals who seek to demonstrate their support for the UNHRCs March 2016 resolution and similar future policies by the EU or international governmental organizations through protected speech and boycott activity.

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July 27, 2017   Posted in: Boycott Israel  Comments Closed


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