New Jersey Senator Cory Booker says that the Pittsburgh massacre has led him to support the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. He becomes the first politician to use the killings of 11 Jews to take a racist position against Palestinian rights. His move should be described exactly that way, as a cynical use of real antisemitism as an excuse to dismiss Palestinian rights so as to further his political career.
Booker, who is thought to have presidential ambitions, had opposed the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, but last week told Jewish Insider:
“We’ve seen the alarming rise in anti-Semitism in the United States and across the world in recent years manifest itself in many deeply concerning ways, including in the actions of foreign governments targeting Israel and the Israeli people.”
“I have long and staunchly opposed the BDS movement, and support this bill which will prevent international entities from imposing their will on US businesses with regards to their decisions, consistent with US law, to conduct commerce with our close ally Israel and its citizens. Initial concerns that this bill unintentionally infringed on individuals’ First Amendment rights have now been addressed by changes agreed upon earlier this year, and I feel confident that those modifications safeguard Americans’ constitutional right to free speech. I’ll be adding myself as a cosponsor, and will be urging my colleagues to support this important legislation in its modified form.”
The bill seeks to thwart the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, by criminalizing U.S. participation in the boycott, much as participation in the Arab boycott of Israel decades ago was criminalized. The ACLU rejects the modifications in the bill, saying it would “allow people who boycott to be slapped with criminal financial penalties. It suffers from the same fundamental flaw as the original draft by criminalizing participation in constitutionally protected boycotts.”
The bill has 57 co-sponsors, though New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand pulled her name off it, under pressure from the Democratic base. Many Democratic senators who are up for reelection are not co-sponsors, among them Tammy Baldwin, Tim Kaine, Dianne Feinstein, Mazie Hirono, Tom Carper, Chris Murphy, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Debby Stabenow, and Tina Smith. Though more conservative Dems, Ben Cardin, Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill, and Joe Manchin, are co-sponsors.
The BDS campaign originated in a 2005 call by Palestinian civil society leaders, supported by a great number of Palestinian organizations, for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel till it meets three demands, ending the occupation, ending discrimination against Palestinians in Israel, and honoring the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
Over the summer Booker posed with BDS activists from the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights at Netroots Nation. His spokesperson said he had taken the placard in a “rush,” and thinking it was about Mexico, not Israel.
IfNotNow on Booker:
Stuff like this happens because our communal leaders have made crushing nonviolent advocates for BDS the litmus test for opposing antisemitism, while plugging their ears to the rising din of fascism in this country.
Meantime, the UK has opened a hate-crime investigation into anti-Semitic comments posted by Labour Party members. The New York Times lays out the rules:
Tensions over anti-Semitism within the party were stoked this summer when Labour’s executive committee voted not to adopt the full text of the working definition of anti-Semitism as set out the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
In particular, the committee declined to endorse several examples of what the alliance defined as anti-Semitism, including describing Israel’s existence as a racist project and accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country.
The committee tried to calm a growing furor in early September by reversing itself and adopting the full text. It also tried to make clear that this should not prevent criticism of Israeli government policies, particularly toward Palestinians.
Racism against Palestinians still doesn’t count. You can criticize Israel, but you can’t call them racist. Why bother? Remember that the country lately adopted a law deeming Israel “the nation state of the Jewish people,” where Jews have the exclusive right of self-determination between the river and the sea, where Jewish settlement has a higher value than any other group’s land claims, and where Arabic has been stripped of its status as an official language.