Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel has long been targeted by Zionists inside and outside America. The latest attempt to quash the movement’s growing grassroots support in the United States, however, failed last week.
The Combating BDS Act, which was part of a bill introduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, would have protected anti-BDS laws in effect in various individual states. While the bill did not receive majority support, its rejection was not grounded in concern for First Amendment free speech rights or the human rights of Palestinians. Rather, the bill failed to pass because several Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer – a particularly aggressive Zionist himself – refused to consider it until the ongoing U.S. government shutdown is resolved.
The fact that the first bill of the new Congressional term was aimed at supporting Israeli human rights violations while simultaneously limiting freedom of speech speaks volumes. According to American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Senior Legislative Counsel, Kathleen Ruane, “[t]he legislation, like the unconstitutional state anti-boycott laws it condones, sends a message to Americans that they will be penalized if they dare to disagree with their government.”
The bill is only the latest attempt in an ongoing campaign to criminalize BDS, with the majority of U.S. states having enacted anti-BDS legislation over the last few years. Only eleven states have not introduced any anti-BDS measures yet. In addition to infringing civil and human rights, these laws have far-reaching socio-economic consequences for Americans, as reflected in the case of Bahia Amawi. Under Texas’s anti-BDS law, the elementary school speech pathologist was required to sign an oath affirming she would not boycott Israel and its illegal settlements. She refused to sign the oath and is, thus, unable to continue working.
As has traditionally been the case, people of color in the United States also continue to be disproportionately targeted for supporting BDS and, in particular, for linking the oppression of Black people to Palestinian suffering. This was recently exemplified by public attacks against scholars Marc Lamont Hill and Angela Davis.
Anti-BDS legislation is intended to shield Israel’s political and economic status quo, while guarding the Israeli regime from accountability for its relentless violations of human rights and international law. For politicians from both major U.S. parties, these measures seem more important than civil and human rights. They also exhibit little concern with Zionism’s strong relationship to white supremacy. Given Israel’s growing collaboration with other fascist movements and governments, Zionism’s white supremacist core is becoming increasingly visible. Various white supremacists themselves have even described Zionism as inspiration for their own ideology.
Despite its recent failure in the Senate, then, it is likely only a matter of time until further anti-BDS legislation will be up for Congressional vote.