Home » commentary » Senators Respond to ACLU Letter, Deny Bill Will Criminalize Boycotting Israel

Senators Respond to ACLU Letter, Deny Bill Will Criminalize Boycotting Israel

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) deny the bill they are sponsoring in the Senate, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, will impose criminal penalties for participating in a boycott of Israel

Sen. Ben Cardin, who introduced the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, and Sen. Rob Portman, a co-sponsor of the bill, have responded to a letter published by the ACLU. Specifically the two lawmakers say they want to “correct some fundamental misunderstandings about the bill.”

As I reported two days ago, the ACLU published a letter warning that the legislative initiative would “punish people for no reason other than their political beliefs,” this by imposing fines or prison terms upon US persons who support a boycott of Israel.

The senators, however, deny the bill will do this.

“Nothing in the bill restricts constitutionally-protected free speech or limits criticism of Israel or its policies,” they insist. “Instead, it is narrowly targeted at commercial activity and is based on current law that has been constitutionally upheld.”

No one will be penalized under the bill, they say, neither a business nor an individual, simply for calling for a boycott of Israel. What the bill will do, they assert, is modify a US law already on the books, the Export Administration Act of 1977, in a certain manner. Here is how they word it (emphasis in original):

The bill makes one small but important change in the current law. The EAA currently prohibits U.S. persons from complying with unauthorized foreign boycotts imposed by foreign countries. The new legislation would extend this prohibition to unsanctioned foreign boycotts imposed by international governmental organizations such as United Nations Agencies or the European Union. For example, if the United Nations Human Rights Council requests information from an American company about its business dealings in Israel or Israeli-controlled territories as part of an effort to compile a blacklist of companies doing business with Israel, the bill would prohibit the company from responding.

The ACLU’s analysis of the bill, however, is dramatically different:

The bill seeks to expand the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export Import Bank Act of 1945 which, among other things, prohibit U.S. persons from complying with a foreign government’s request to boycott a country friendly to the U.S. The bill would amend those laws to bar U.S. persons from supporting boycotts against Israel, including its settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, conducted by international governmental organizations, such as the United Nations and the European Union. It would also broaden the law to include penalties for simply requesting information about such boycotts. Violations would be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison. 

The ACLU’s letter is here. The response by the senators is here.

A commentary on the bill has been posted by Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss, who discusses the bill as well as the ACLU letter but who makes no mention of the response by Cardin and Portman–perhaps because the senators’ letter had not as yet been released at the time he posted the article. In either event, Weiss calls the bill  “a crude example of overreach by the Israel lobby that it is sure to backfire on its supporters,” and he goes on to add:

Older Jews tend to be huge ideological supporters of Israel. Ben Cardin goes to synagogues and tells other older Jews that Palestinian statehood is “anti-American.” Schumer has called himself the “Schomer” or guardian of Israel and said that there is a Jewish interest in supporting Israel. A year ago Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List and JJ Goldberg of the Forward described the “gigantic” and “shocking” degree of the Democratic Party’s reliance on Jewish wealth for campaign contributions.

Ultimately, this is a story about the fight inside Jewish life over Zionism and support for Israel. I believe we will win this fight, and that this legislation will help us. The legislation will shock many civil-liberties-loving Jews. The Intercept story will force legislators to redraft the legislation.

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York is also a co-sponsor of the bill.

The story of Cardin’s bill was broken on July 19 in a report by Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim published at The Intercept, an article which also mentions that that the bill has been strongly pushed by AIPAC. As far as I can tell, the Intercept story has yet to be picked up by any US mainstream media outlet, though presumably that’s because they are all too busy telling us about threats to our democracy from Russia. Potentially-unconstitutional bills being pushed through Congress by the Israeli lobby are apparently not newsworthy.

9 thoughts on “Senators Respond to ACLU Letter, Deny Bill Will Criminalize Boycotting Israel

  1. Methinks Cardin and Portman have been furiously coordinating with and obtaining direction from AIPAC so as to provide “wordfare” to go along with their proposed “lawfare”…both tricks utilized by Zionists to further an agenda item of Zionism: protecting the criminality and illegality of their most-favored “shi*ty little entity in the Middle East.” Meanwhile, the Palestinians continue to suffer vast injustice, illegal occupation and vindictive oppression; Cardin, Portman and the entire US governmental machine engage endlessly in bi-partisan support of the Zioentity and Russophobia; and nothing is accomplished toward advancing the true interests, needs, and national-security imperatives of the U.S.

    • I think invariably people are going to wonder about the motives of the two senators and whether this might not be an attempt to provide false assurances, “Oh don’t worry, we’re not trying to take away your first amendment rights!” I guess for some it comes down to who you place more trust in–the ACLU or two pro-Israel senators. You can go here to read the text of the bill, but it doesn’t provide the text of the Export Administration Act, which it’s proposing to change, so it’s hard to judge.

  2. The senators do what they do and fight for Israel because of the following:
    Post July 23rd 2017
    1. Friday evening, when all Jews around the world meet at home for “Kabalat Shabat” (welcoming the Shabat) a Palestinian broke into a settlement in the West Bank and killed 3 unarmed people. He was shot, not killed, by Israeli soldier that was at home on Friday evening vacation. This event reflects the different between Israel and Palestine. The Palestinian terrorist came to kill. The Israeli soldier although he could kill, he never did it. Why? This is because of the difference in Education. The Quran instruct to kill every time everybody who is not Muslim. The Bible is human and he restrict/prohibits the killing. Even when a murderer, like in Friday, came to kill Jews the Jew didn’t kill him. This behavior of the Israeli soldier should be add to the Quran and in parallel the story of 72 virgins are waiting to the Killer in the sky must be deleted. This new/different/changed/updated Quran must be learned in all Arab/Muslim’s schools in order to take out the mood of killing/murdering. Taking it out will contribute to better world. Don’t you, Muslims, want such one?
    2. If the Quran’s instructions to kill every none Muslim in the world, the mother of the murderer came into the picture and, in a TV interview, she praised her son for doing it, meaning to kill the 3 Jews. If this is the face of a typical Muslim mother-what can be expected from the Muslims. If the hope education is such, and we know that children get their education at home not in schools, the situation is very bad.
    3. The situation is bad all over the world as they, the Muslim murderers, imitates each other. The fact that French people were killed encourages Israeli or any other state’s citizens, Muslims, to attack in other places as well. This is the Muslim’s live style that they were used to for many years. The results are that the habits became a norm. Norms are good as long as t6hey help the society. In this case it makes the opposite.
    4. The more funny/peculiar/strange thing is how the murderer purred himself before the murder. He must be pure for the sky after he murders Jews. So, he brought with him a bottle of water which he poured on his hands. Can you, clever people, how come a man is purifying himself after a murder. As from my point of view, there is no forgive nor such a crime, for a murder. If the Quran allows it, please think of the values of the Quran. I know where it stands.
    5. This event is a follow up of the last week’s events when 3 Israeli Muslims killed 2 Israeli Druze policemen. This was one of the acts that were instructed by the Turkish emperor, Mr. Erdugan. The story is very complicated, but, the matter the fact is that he wants to become the regional leader of the Muslim world. In order to implement it he must present some activities. His activity is by supporting te Muslims. His support is expressed by money and to be present in the places of conflicts. So, he is financing a vast system of people that their aim is to spread the Turkish influence in the world. The demonstrations in Mailazia, Jordan, Turkey, Yemen, Palestine and more are just a sample of the demonstrations worldwide. All these will burst, sooner or later. Then it will be very hard/impossible to extinguish the fire. The problem is that each country has its own problems/difficulties/hardship. None is examining the entire of the situation and nobody wants to solve it. The Iranian and N. Korea nuclear advance endanger the world. But nobody takes care of it.
    6. Coming back to Israel, on Friday the Palestinians announced of abeyance of the relations with Israel due to the installation of the magnetometers in all gates to the Al Aqsa. They didn’t mention the security measures. Same Jordan. Both of them, Abu Mazen and King Hussein, know that they will lose their positions without the assistance of Israel. Inh other words: The exist because of the interest that Israel has in their presence here.
    7. All Arab countries know that without Israel all Arab countries will burst in flames not due to Israel’s activity.
    8. The UN Security Council held discussions concerning the violation of Hezbollah of the UN resolution 1701. The Israeli ambassador to the UN listed 421 violations in May/June 2017. How can Israel trust the Arabs and the UN and rely on them if nobody takes care/fulfill their very clear resolutions. Israel is not going to hand its throat to this bunch of killers.
    9. PM Netanyahu is back in Israel from his visit to Europe. In his successful meeting he met also with the Hungarian PM who said the following: “The Hungarian and the Israeli states have very good politic ties. It consists on mutual understanding and trust. Israel is helping the world to stabilize the political situation in the Middle East and in Europe. If Israel will not fight the militant terror groups by cooperation’s with the moderate Arab states, a new wave of immigrants will flood Europe. Israel is a natural partner to achieve stability and order in the world. We, Hungary, understand your position and we will help you in your fight/efforts for security, having/opening export markets, and stand with you concerning every problem that you will face”. Let’s wish, all of us, that there will be many more people the Hungarian PM that will fight for balancing the world.
    10. I was asked why do you spend that much time to send your daily posts. The reason is that we, Israel, are in the headlines only when we have fights with our enemies and the world hear only the Arab side while the Israeli side is silent as because of 2 reasons: we are, naturally, silent and we are small state and the world like big ones as from them the vast money is coming, not from small ones.
    11. Here is the story of an Israeli product that lead the world. It is Avocado. But, to differ from the S. American one, the Israeli Avocado nutritional values are much beyond the ones that you buy from other sources. Because of it the people are ready to pay, for the Israeli product, much more than for any other. Israel is short of Avocado, for export, although its price jumped to E1.5/unit. Does anybody thinks that the markets can ask for this price if the quality does not justifies it? No, they will never ask/pay for lousy product that much money. The Israeli Avocado is considered today a super food due to its healthy non saturated oils The Israeli Avocado is almost organic. The reason is that the Israeli is not sprayed as much as in S. America. Israel is using the Israeli development of biological pest control. This includes birds, bees and other creatures. All of them are live and they “clean” the crops of pests. Last year the tiny Israel exported to Europe 65000 tons of Avocado, valued $160 million.
    12. So, this is what Israel export. But, there is no good without bad. The bad part is the stealing of the Avocado. Due to its sky high prices, too many people want to share the success. There are professional groups, I don’t want to say from which sector, but you can imagine, that are working during night. “Cleaning” the orchard of its fruits. In the morning yo9u come and it looks like after bombardment. Everything, trees, irrigation systems, agricultural machines etc, all of it completely ruined. One day, after I heard about it, I asked a friend of mine, to inform me when it happens. Sometime later, in the afternoon he called me told that the trees in his orchard was “cleaned” but they found the fruits hidden under a tree, covered with grass. I came there and put an ambush. Sometime late night/early morning a partially loaded truck, stopped nearby and the employees started to load “our” avocados. Just before the finished loading, my friend and myself called them to put their hands up. Some of the escaped in the darkness. But 5 were captured. They were from non Jewish nearby village. We called the police and this group, after paying their penalties, they stopped this work. But, there is no vacuum in this business. Another Arab groups replaced them. We caught them and another group, many times from the same family, as it is a profession, emerge on the stage.
    So, although of the popularity of the Israeli avocado keep buying other Israeli products.
    In friendship
    Amir

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