Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and hold a news conference to announce proposed gun control legislation at the U.S. Capitol October 4, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and hold a news conference to announce proposed gun control legislation at the U.S. Capitol October 4, 2017 in Washington, D.C.  (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sanders, Feinstein Demand Congress Ditch Effort to Criminalize Pro-Palestinian BDS Campaign

Israel Anti-Boycott Act would extend "U.S. legal protection to the very settlements the U.S. has opposed as illegitimate and harmful to the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace for more than 50 years," the senators write

Andrea Germanos

U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Wednesday urged congressional leaderships not to include in a must-pass spending bill a measure that would suppress free speech rights by criminalizing boycotts of Israel.

"While we do not support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, we remain resolved to our constitutional oath to defend the right of every American to express their views peacefully without fear of or actual punishment by the government," the senators wrote (pdf) to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

The measure is the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), a revised version of which is being pushed  by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

Kate Ruane, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, wrote last week that while the new iteration leaves out possible jail time as punishment "for American companies to participate in political boycotts aimed at Israel and its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories when those boycotts were called for by international governmental organizations like the United Nations," the legislation still represents "a full-scale attack on Americans' First Amendment freedoms," as violators could still face criminal financial penalties of up to $1 million.

"Even as amended," adds Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, "the bill would impose fines on American companies, nonprofits, and their representatives for refusing on human rights grounds to do business in settlements." He continues:

Yet firms operating in Israeli settlements both benefit from and contribute to serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, and the bill would mean those acting to end complicity in serious abuses—the only way they can meet their responsibilities under the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights—could find themselves guilty of a crime.

In their letter to Senate leadership, Sanders and Feinstein note that the measure would extend "U.S. legal protection to the very settlements the United States has opposed as illegitimate and harmful to the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace for more than 50 years."

"At a time when the [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu government is pursuing policies clearly aimed at foreclosing the two-state solution, it is deeply disappointing that Congress would consider choosing to penalize criticism of those policies," they continue.

Responding to reporting about the new letter on Twitter, U.S.-based anti-occupation group IfNotNow urged Schumer to see the call to reject "this horrific bill" as "what leadership looks like."

"Will u advocate for free speech or bend to the will of Jewish establishments?" the group asked.


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

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

In Viral Parody Ad, Chevron Admits It Is 'Actively Murdering You'

Produced by the director of "Don't Look Up," the ad assures viewers Chevron has "billions and billions of dollars to pay for this commercial time, this cheesy footage, and this bullshit music."

Julia Conley ·


Host 'Censored and Fired' by The Hill Over Segment on Tlaib Naming Israeli Apartheid

"Sadly, Israel is an apartheid state and we have to push back," said progressive commentator Katie Halper. "And when we encounter censorship, we can't just run away with our tails between our legs."

Jake Johnson ·


'Dangerous Escalation': Putin Condemned Over Illegal Annexation of Ukraine Territories

"Now more than ever," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, "we must work together to end this devastating and senseless war."

Kenny Stancil ·


'When We Fight, We Win!' San Francisco Airport Workers End Strike After Pay Victory

"This strike was so worth it to give my family a better life," said one union member.

Jake Johnson ·


US Gas Flaring Releases Five Times More Methane Than Previously Thought

"This study adds to the growing body of research that tells us that the oil and gas industry has a flaring problem," said Jon Goldstein of EDF, which conducted related research on the practice.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo