The U.S. Senate passed a bill this week that allows state and local governments to stop doing business with companies that support boycotts, sanctions and divestments (BDS) against Israel.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s bill passed by a 77-23 vote on Tuesday.
“The goal of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is to eliminate any Jewish state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea,” he wrote in a New York Times piece before the measure passed.
Before the vote, Rubio had said the bill would allow for the U.S. to stand “strong with our allies.”
“At its core, the linchpin of it is helping Israel defend itself,” he said.
Some Democrats, however, say the bill is a violation of the First Amendment.
“This is a bad faith and disingenuous effort by Republicans to turn boycotts into a wedge issue, and to threaten Americans’ right to free speech,” said
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress. “Economic boycotts have defined historic social justice and human rights movements in the United States and beyond.”
Said Sen. Dick Durbin: “I oppose it because it limits the right of individuals to express themselves.”
But Rubio said the bill does not infringe on First Amendment rights.
“By design, it focuses on business entities — not individuals — and, consistent with the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (2006), it focuses on conduct, not speech,” he wrote in The Times. “Indeed, it does not restrict citizens or associations of citizens from engaging in political speech, including against Israel.”
The bill also reaffirms cooperation with Jordan on defense operations and says it will provide humanitarian assistance to allies in the Middle East struggling because of the Syrian civil war. The legislation is part of a Middle East policy bill that asks President Donald Trump not to remove troops from Syria.
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