The Senate Finance Committee has adopted new amendments to the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) aimed at countering the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The amendments would require U.S. trade negotiators to make rejection of BDS a principal trade objective in Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations with the European Union. They were authored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and approved by the Finance Committee with a 20-6 vote.
Cardin welcomed the adoption of the amendment, saying in a statement on Thursday, “Israel is one of America’s closest allies and the only stable democracy in the Middle East. We may not agree with every Israeli policy, but we cannot allow our potential trading partners in the EU to fall prey to efforts that threaten Israel’s existence.”
“Economic tools and trade agreements have been used throughout world history to move governments and change policy, but when these actions seek to de-legitimize a country’s right to exist, we need to draw a line,” he added.
Portman welcomed the move as well, saying the amendment “sends a clear message that if you want to be an economic partner with the United States, you cannot support politically motivated boycotts of Israel.”
“We must make it clear that the United States will not stand with those who attempt to weaken Israel, and I’m pleased that has been adopted in the House and Senate,” he added.
BDS has been an issue not just in Europe but also in the United States, particularly on campuses where student unions have passed motions supporting a boycott of Israel.
Another worrying trend has become the singling out of students for being Jewish. In February, the student board at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) interrogated a Jewish student running for the campus judicial committee, asking if her identity would influence her decision-making.
Last week, a student coalition at Stanford University in California allegedly asked a Jewish candidate in the student government election whether her Jewish identity would impact her vote on divesting from Israel.