ACLU blasts anti-BDS bill

American Civil Liberties Union lobbies senators to vote bipartisan anti-BDS bill, claims it violates First Amendment.


BDS graffiti sign
BDS graffiti sign
Photo: Miriam Alster / Flash 90

JTA - The American Civil Liberties Union called on U.S. senators to oppose a measure targeting boycotts of Israel.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced in March by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, would expand 1970s-era laws that make illegal compliance with boycotts of Israel sponsored by governments — laws inspired at the time by the Arab League boycott of Israel — to include boycotts backed by international organizations. Those adhering to boycotts would be the subject of fines.

While the measure is aimed at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, it also targets efforts by the United Nations and the European Union to distinguish products manufactured in Judea and Samaria as opposed to pre-1967 Israel.

In a letter Monday, the ACLU urged senators not to co-sponsor the measure and to oppose its passage.

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

Shakir added that “the bill would punish businesses and individuals based solely on their point of view. Such a penalty is in direct violation of the First Amendment.”

The measure was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and has the support of Christians United for Israel. It has 42 co-sponsors from both parties. A similar bill has gained 230 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.