House Republicans are reintroducing a bill that would criminalize boycotts of Israel

Injunctions against US anti-boycott measures are increasing, as more judges acknowledge the impact on free speech rights (Pacific Press)

Michael Arria

Mondoweiss  /  March 3, 2022

Lee Zeldin and House Republicans are resurrecting a bill that aims to outlaw boycotts of Israel.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) has reintroduced legislation targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). The effort already has 46 Republican cosponsors. Zeldin introduced the same bill in 2020, ultimately gaining 63 GOP cosponsors and one Democrat.

“Too many, even in the halls of Congress, have emboldened antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric by accepting the BDS movement whose founder, in referring to Zionism, said ‘I, for one, support euthanasia’,” said Zeldin a press release. “This legislation not only reinforces congressional opposition to the BDS movement, but protects American companies from being forced to provide information to international organizations that peddle this hate-filled movement, and holds those who attempt to violate that protection accountable.”

The new bill was praised by Zionist Organization of America President Morton A. Klein in a statement. “I am personally pleased to see my dear friend Rep. Lee Zeldin, one of Israel’s greatest friends, continuing his outstanding leadership by introducing the Israel Anti-Boycott Act,” it reads. “The Arab/Islamic war against Israel suffered a major setback by Israeli peace treaties with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates and closer relations with Morocco and the Sudan. Nevertheless, organized boycotts of the Jewish State continue to be a reality that seek to threaten Israel’s economic well-being and its deserved reputation as a human rights loving State.”

“The BDS movement is an antisemitic ploy rooted in hate and violence,” declared Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ), one of the cosponsors on Twitter. “This bill will help ensure continued U.S. support towards Israel and prohibit discriminatory economic warfare towards our ally. It is up to Congress to fully condemn both the BDS movement and the scourge of anti-semitism.”

In addition to prohibiting participation in Israel boycotts, the bill amends the Export Administration Act of 1979 to block United States citizens and companies from assisting foreign governments and international organizations that engage in such boycotts. The text makes it clear that this includes the United Nations’ list of companies doing business on illegally occupied Palestinian land.

The liberal Zionist group Americans for Peace Now (APN) has put out a statement criticizing the bill. “Boycotting, divestment, and sanctions are legitimate nonviolent political tactics,” said the organization’s President and CEO Hadar Susskind. “The fact is that Representative Zeldin and friends want to turn them into some sort of boogeyman and use the so-called ‘threat of BDS’ to erase the Green Line and further their greater Israel agenda. But those of us who support a two-state solution know that there is no peace, and there is no better future for Israelis and Palestinians, down this path.”

On Twitter some contrasted Zeldin’s effort with the recent calls to boycott Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. “Not from the Onion: as world embraces/celebrates BDS against Russia to protest its assault on Ukraine and its people, GOP House members are re-intro-ing bill to CRIMINALIZE boycotting Israel/settlements in protest of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians,” tweeted Foundation for Middle East Peace president Lara Friedman.

“The double standard of outrage at the invasion occupation, killing and destruction by #Russia in #Ukraine on one hand and the shameless support for #Israel invading, occupying for over 50 years, killing and destroying in #WestBank and #Gaza couldn’t be clearer,” tweeted author and ReThinking Foreign Policy president Mitchell Plitnick.

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss