The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, today called on all Americans who value the Constitution to contact their elected representatives in Congress to urge them to oppose the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act.”
CAIR and other civil rights organizations say that proposed legislation would violate the constitutionally-guaranteed free speech rights of American business owners and individuals who participate in the international boycott of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine territories.
Boycotts such as the Montgomery Bus boycott against segregation or the boycott of companies enabling South African Apartheid have been employed successfully in support of civil and human rights and as an integral part of our political process.
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The Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720/H.R.1697) is a threat to the free speech of all Americans and is clearly unconstitutional. The act would charge those American business owners and individuals who participate in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement with criminal penalties resulting in up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
CAIR believes that American involvement in foreign boycotts started with throwing tea in Boston Harbor. It is un-American and illegal for the U.S. Government to deny U.S. businesses and persons the right to work to change the illegal and discriminatory actions of a foreign government.
Introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and in the U.S. House by Representatives Juan Vargas (D-CA), Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Brad Sherman (D-CA), the act has gained 45 co-sponsors in the Senate and 240 in the House.
BDS is a nonviolent movement initiated by Palestinian civil society and has earned backing from leaders of conscience like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner and chairman of the post-Apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. The Intercept reports that “some co-sponsors seemed not to have any idea what they co-sponsored” and have “no idea” that it contains criminal penalties.
The push to pass this legislation in Congress mirrors the larger nationwide state legislative effort to condemn business and academic boycotts of illegal occupation in Palestine.
Implementation of the bill would encourage U.S. government retaliation against the growing number of businesses, major church denominations, charitable foundations, university student governments, labor unions, and investors who have called to boycott or take other economic measures against companies and institutions complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.