WASHINGTON, Wednesday, February 06, 2019 (WAFA) – Americans came out strong against the passing by the US Senate of a law that also includes an act to combat boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a threat to right to free speech and expression guaranteed in the US constitution.
The Combating BDS Act of 2019 is intended to provide cover for state laws that target individuals and companies who endorse BDS in support of Palestinian rights, according to the Washington-based Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU). Last year, judges in Kansas and Arizona ruled that the anti-BDS laws in those states are unconstitutional.
J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), said it is unfortunate that the Senate would pass a law that threatens the constitutionally-protected right of Americans to engage in boycotts in support of human rights causes.”
He said that the Senate has condoned attempts by politicians at the state level “to suppress our efforts to be true to our faith and avoid being complicit in the suffering of others.”
Zoha Khalili, staff attorney at Palestine Legal, said that the bill does nothing to address the problems underlying the anti-Palestinian anti-boycott laws that have been enacted in 26 states. “It would take much more than a congressional seal of approval to override the First Amendment, which protects our right to boycott," she said.
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director, Jewish Voice for Peace, also criticized the new law saying, "It‘s disappointing that the Senate has voted to undermine the free speech rights of advocates for Palestinian freedom.”
Hind Awwad, Steering Committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), said, “If this anti-democratic U.S. Senate bill becomes law, it will have a chilling effect on free speech, but it won’t hide Israel’s crimes against the indigenous Palestinian people, or slow down the growth of the BDS movement for freedom, justice and equality.”
Josh Ruebner, Policy Director, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, expressed hope that the Democratic Party-dominated House will kill the bill when it reaches it.
"Today‘s overwhelming vote by the Republican-controlled Senate to trample on the First Amendment by passing a bill that encourages states to punish people who boycott for Palestinian freedom, justice, and equality, is a travesty,” he said. “Hopefully, this bill will die in the Democratic-controlled House. Not only does the base of the Democratic Party support the constitutional right to boycott, but according to opinion polls, a majority of Democrats support sanctioning Israel to end its colonization of Palestinian land. A vote in the House to punish people for boycotting for Palestinian rights would be deeply problematic to the base of the Democratic Party."