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‘NYT’ calls out AIPAC and ADL for assault on free speech criticizing Israel

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As you have surely heard, Congressional leaders from both parties are preparing to slip the Israel Anti-Boycott Act into the spending bill aimed at averting a government shutdown later this week, in an effort to use the lame-duck Republican House to push through legislation that would impose criminal penalties on some criticisms of Israel.

Congress is acting in haste and secrecy because the next Congress won’t stomach the bill, especially with the addition of vocal supporters of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) who are joining the Democratic caucus.

The Israel issue is openly “roiling” Democrats, with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi keeping their heads down, and numerous human rights and civil liberties groups warning of the damage the bill will create to American traditions of open debate. Bernie Sanders and Dianne Feinstein have urged the Senate not to pass the bill as a “threat to free speech.” The brave Rep. Betty McCollum of St. Paul tweets:

Congressional leaders are working to slip language into a must-pass spending bill that criminalizes politically motivated boycotts against Israel. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act violates our right to free speech. is fighting to protect it.

Of course the action is being undertaken under the pressure of AIPAC, the leading Israel lobby group, and the ADL, whose own staff has warned that the anti-free-speech bill will end up hurting Jews.

While Manar Waheed of the ACLU warns The Hill of the totalitarian consequences: “This is a step on a road to the erosion of First Amendment rights in a way that will impact movements and viewpoints for the future.”

The attack on our civil rights by the Israel lobby is a theme of two developments today: First, a lawsuit in Texas against a similar law in which a reporter for an NPR station says he was forced to sign a clause in his contract stating that he would not endorse boycott of Israel — what Glenn Greenwald characterizes as a pro-Israel “loyalty oath.” Second, a landmark editorial in the New York Times warns that the federal Israel Anti-Boycott bill, pushed by AIPAC and the ADL, goes against “bedrock” American principles of political dissent as part of an aggressive Israeli push against BDS.

The ACLU of Texas filed a lawsuit against state officials and university systems saying that a law ordering all government contractors to state that they do not participate in boycott of Israel– one similar to laws passed in at least 16 other states– is a violation of their free speech.

The suit has four plaintiffs, including George Hale, a reporter for KETR, a member station of the NPR network, “who was forced to sign the certification against his conscience in order to keep his job,” the ACLU says.

The other plaintiffs are a freelance writer who lost contracts with the University of Texas, a Texas State student who was barred from judging high school debates, and a Rice University graduate student who had to give up a fee for debate-judging.

KETR calls itself “Public Radio for Northeast Texas” and says that Hale is

an independent journalist who has worked on a contract basis for KETR since 2016. KETR’s broadcast license is held by Texas A&M University-Commerce, a member institution of the Texas A&M University System, which abides by laws for state government entities. Hale, who signed the certification in order to renew his contractor status, remains under contract.

Texas’s governor is standing firm for a foreign country:

Today’s New York Times editorial deplores the state laws against BDS as part of an “ominous trend in which the political space for opposing Israel is shrinking.”

The Times says that the efforts to “cripple” BDS by attacking American free speech rights are “counterproductive,” and reflect the Israeli government’s own imperatives.

The aim is to cripple the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as B.D.S., which has gathered steam in recent years despite bitter opposition from the Israeli government and its supporters around the world…

After ignoring the B.D.S. movement, Israel is now aggressively pushing against it, including branding it anti-Semitic and adopting a law barring foreigners who support it from entering that country.

In yet another sign of Israel’s tanking brand, the Times says that the Israeli government is fueling BDS.

The hard-line policies of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, including expanding settlements and an obvious unwillingness to seriously pursue a peace solution that would allow Palestinians their own state, have provoked a backlash and are fueling the boycott movement.

The Times quotes an ACLU letter to lawmakers saying that “the bill’s intended purpose… is to suppress voluntary participation in disfavored political boycotts.”

Our friend Dan Walsh notes the many ways that the anti-BDS legislation could prove to be an own-goal for the Israel lobby. “If it passes, the bill will: open up an endless stream of embarrassing-bad-for-the-brand lawsuits; raise the visibility of BDS big time; demonstrate to new demographics that Zionism is willing to combat BDS to the very last Constitutional right of Americans; force Congresspeople to defend the indefensible; open the doors to vast public sympathy actions such as celebrities and others volunteering to be in violation and then challenging states/Feds to prosecute; create new opportunities for Palestinians/solidarity groups to show that they support/defend Free Speech; set up critics to openly question/challenge candidates for office in 2020 elections as to where they stand.”

Thanks to Allison Deger and Adam Horowitz and Donald Johnson.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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10 Responses

  1. niass2 on December 19, 2018, 8:28 pm

    There is to be a continuing resolution, based on what pelosi seems to be saying, instead of the actual appropriation bills being passed, so in this situation the Cardin rider thing can’t be added, so if what I am reading is right S 720 is dead until February. I’m no expert but this may be right. so they have to start again next year but they did raise a ruckus trying.

  2. US Citizen on December 20, 2018, 12:27 am

    OK, for once the NYT printed something worth reading so kudos for this one time. It is clearly illegal for government to force someone to waive a constitutional right. Boycotts are a form of speech, a classic tool of peaceful political expression. Participating in boycotts is absolutely protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and petition rights. Citing the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case that invoked free speech rights to protect members of the NAACP from punishment by the state of Mississippi for boycotting white-owned stores, the court in the Kansas case pointedly ruled that “the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott.

    If Israel is unwilling to differentiate itself from the settlements, the Occupation, their apartheid regime, stealing, murder etc. then boycotters shouldn’t either.

    It’s time for progressive politicians to put Palestinian rights on the agenda, stop being bullied by AIPAC, and get with the program, or else they are going to lose the support of the constituents they need to get elected- if not today, then tomorrow.

  3. US Citizen on December 20, 2018, 12:52 am

    And I read through all the comments for the article too and about 70% were pro/defending BDS which was encouraging. Bari Weiss and all those myopic zionists there must be having a fit.

  4. Citizen on December 20, 2018, 2:41 am

    All this ruckus and still the mainstream media ignores it–seems it doesn’t care about free speech–I sense a ton of irony here–then again, I’m old fashioned.

  5. niass2 on December 20, 2018, 7:05 am

    is my reading of this correct? Hello? Where did Jerry go? I am no expert but I think this is right,and in next years Congress these wankers will have a harder time.

  6. bcg on December 20, 2018, 9:58 am

    Just in – Dec 20 editorial in NYT:

    Curbing Speech in the Name of Helping Israel…A Senate bill aims to punish those who boycott Israel over its settlement policy. There are better solutions.

  7. bcg on December 20, 2018, 10:15 am

    More relevant news: yesterday the Washington Post ran “Bernie Sanders’s new plan to force a genuine debate in Congress on Israel”:

    Now two senators — Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — have a plan to try to do something about this. They are coming out against that measure, which could help realize the larger goal of forcing a genuine debate in Congress that does not place such criticism off limits

  8. CigarGod on December 20, 2018, 10:21 am

    Makes one wonder what special clause might be in their contracts…

  9. Misterioso on December 20, 2018, 10:44 am

    Not on topic, but important:

    “Airbnb’s Boycott of Israeli Squatter Settlements Is a Major Turning Point”

    Truthdig, Dec. 19/18, by Juan Cole:

    “The living space-sharing company Airbnb on Monday denied an allegation by the Israeli tourism minister that it had suspended its delisting of apartments in Israeli squatter settlements (which are Jewish-only) in the Palestinian West Bank.

    “Airbnb has to boycott the Israeli squatter settlements because they are illegal.

    “The European Union has for some time imposed some sorts of boycott on settlement institutions, and requires the labeling of settler goods, and a full economic boycott is under consideration in countries like Ireland.

    “The argument sometimes heard is that Airbnb is treating the squatters differently than it does other disputed territories. It is a stupid argument and quite dishonest. There aren’t any other countries that are keeping 5 million people stateless and without citizenship in a state, and gradually usurping all their rights and property. The situation in the Occupied West Bank is unique, and deserves a unique response. There are countries that have incorporated somewhat unwilling populations into themselves, giving them a citizenship that they perhaps do not want. But that is different from stripping people of citizenship rights. Citizenship, as a US Supreme Court justice once correctly wrote, is the right to have rights.”

    • amigo on December 20, 2018, 1:36 pm

      ““The argument sometimes heard is that Airbnb is treating the squatters differently than it does other disputed territories. ” JC

      If all nations applied this logic to ordinary police work , their prisons would be empty. Every criminal goes to jail , or no one goes.

      Must be the ziocaine.

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