illegal protest Israel
illegal protest Israel

Democratic Senators Support a Law Making It Illegal to Protest Against Israel

Israel is known for accepting LGBTQ people more than its Middle Eastern neighbors, but it’s not perfect: It doesn’t offer legalized same-sex marriages, it has a homophobic adoption system and it has long been accused of using its LGBTQ rights record to “pinkwash” its human rights abuses against LGBTQ Palestinians. But queer activists who protest the country over its problematic LGBTQ rights record could soon find themselves in prison if legislators pass a proposed bipartisan bill to make boycotting Israel a felony.

According to The Intercept, a group of 43 senators — 14 Democrats and 29 Republicans — wants to pass Senate Bill 720 (aka. the Israel Anti-Boycott Act), a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support an international boycott against Israel. The bill would punish the offense with “a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.”

The background of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act

The bill is specifically meant to target the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, an ongoing international campaign that seeks to economically pressure Israel to end its establishment of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and grant Arab-Palestinian citizens full equality.

Some U.S. state legislators (and French President Emmanuel Macron) have accused the BDS movement of anti-semitism and have passed legislation that penalizes companies supporting it.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would expand ’70s-era laws that made it illegal to participate in boycotts of Israel sponsored by foreign governments by including boycotts sponsored by international organizations.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency says that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) helped draft the bill, and identified its passage as one of AIPAC’s top lobbying agenda items in 2017.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has called the law “antithetical to free speech” and “in direct violation of the First Amendment” in an open letter urging lawmakers to vote against it.