Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

"Were this legislation to pass, federal officials would have a new weapon at their disposal to chill and suppress speech that they found objectionable or politically unpopular," warned Kate Ruane, an attorney with the ACLU. "If the First Amendment means anything, it's that the government cannot suppress political expression it doesn't like."(Photo: Corey Oakley/flickr/cc)

'A Cowardly Act': Democrat Leads Bipartisan Push to Sneak Criminalization of Pro-Palestinian BDS Campaign Into Must-Pass Spending Bill

"No Democrat who considers themselves to be a progressive—and no member of Congress who claims to defend free speech—should be co-sponsoring any anti-BDS legislation."

Jake Johnson

In what civil libertarians and progressive advocacy groups are denouncing as a "cowardly" sneak-attack on free expression, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) is reportedly leading a behind-the-scenes bipartisan effort to cram legislation that would criminalize boycotts of Israel into a must-pass omnibus spending package now moving through Congress.

"Hiding anti-BDS legislation in end-of-the-year packages is a cowardly act and one that is being considered only because members of Congress know that this legislation would not pass muster if debated publicly and openly."
—Iram Ali, MoveOn.org

"This is a full-scale attack on Americans' First Amendment freedoms," argued Kate Ruane, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, which has circulated a petition urging Congress to block the measure. "Political boycotts, including boycotts of foreign countries, have played a pivotal role in this nation’s history—from the boycotts of British goods during the American Revolution to the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the campaign to divest from apartheid South Africa."

Titled the "Israel Anti-Boycott Act," the legislation has stalled in the face of fierce opposition from free speech advocates and Palestinian rights groups, but Cardin is reportedly working with leaders of both parties to exploit the final days of the lame-duck session and ram the measure through with little or public scrutiny.

If passed, the measure would strike a significant blow against the growing Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) movement, which has been endorsed by two newly-elected Democratic members of Congress—Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

"Regardless of how anyone may personally feel about BDS, Congress' attempts to attach criminal penalties to freedom of expression against the Israeli occupation must not stand," Iram Ali, campaign director at MoveOn.org, said in a statement on Monday. "Hiding anti-BDS legislation in end-of-the-year packages is a cowardly act and one that is being considered only because members of Congress know that this legislation would not pass muster if debated publicly and openly."

When Cardin's bill was introduced in the Senate last year, it was co-sponsored by 42 Republicans, Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine), and 15 Democrats—including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

"No Democrat who considers themselves to be a progressive—and no member of Congress who claims to defend free speech—should be co-sponsoring any anti-BDS legislation," Ali concluded.

As the ACLU's Ruane noted in a summary of the measure's far-reaching implications for free speech, "knowingly violating the bill could result in criminal financial penalties of up to $1 million."

"Were this legislation to pass, federal officials would have a new weapon at their disposal to chill and suppress speech that they found objectionable or politically unpopular," Ruane concluded. "If the First Amendment means anything, it's that the government cannot suppress political expression it doesn't like."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Watch: Bernie Sanders Argues 'We Must End the Greed of Big Pharma'

The live address comes as the Senate Budget Committee chair continues to push for including Medicare expansion and drug pricing reforms in the Build Back Better package.

Common Dreams staff ·


Reconciliation Framework 'Not Enough' to Push Through Infrastructure Bill, Progressives Warn

"We need to have a vote ready for the Build Back Better plan, not a framework," insisted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "We want to have both of these votes together."

Brett Wilkins ·


McDonald's Workers Join 'Striketober' and Walk Out Over Sexual Harassment

One striker participated because "McDonald's still refuses to take responsibility for the countless women and teenagers who face harassment on the job at its stores across the globe."

Jessica Corbett ·


Breaking: FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine for Kids 5 to 11

With just one abstention, the advisory panel voted 17-0 to approve the vaccine for younger children which scientific review has deemed both safe and effective against the deadly virus.

Common Dreams staff ·


Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo