Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The Palestine Exception:
War on BDS is now a War on American
By Ramzy Baroud
August 15, 2017
US Republicans and Democrats participate in the Israeli
persecution of the Palestinian people
There is something immoral in Washington D.C., and its
consequences can be dire for many people, particularly for the health of
The US government is declaring war on
the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment
and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The fight to defeat BDS
has been ongoing for several years, but most notably since 2014.
Since then, 11 US states have
passed and enacted legislation to criminalize the movement, backed by
civil society, which aims to put
pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestine.
Washington is now leading the fight, thus legitimizing the
anti-democratic behavior of individual states. If the efforts of the US
government are successful, an already struggling US democracy will take
yet another step back, and many good people could potentially be
punished for behaving in accordance with their political and moral
Senate Bill 720
(S.720), also known as the ‘Anti-Israel Boycott Act’, was largely
drafted by the notorious and powerful Israel lobby in Washington, the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
According to its own ‘2017
Lobbying Agenda’, AIPAC has made the passing of the bill its top
The US Congress is beholden by Israel's interests and
by the 'stranglehold'
of AIPAC over the elected representatives of the American people.
Thus, it was no surprise to see 43 senators and 234 House
the Bill, which was first introduced in March.
Congress has habitually backed Israel and condemned Palestinians - and
any politician or entity that dared recognize Palestinian rights - this
time, the Congress is going too far and is jeopardizing the very basic
rights of its own constituencies.
Amendment to the US Constitution has been the pillar in defense of
people's right to free speech, freedom of the press, “the right of the
people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a
redress of grievances.” This right, however, has often been
curtailed when it applies to Israel. The Center for Constitutional
Rights refers to this fact as "The
S.720, however, if it passes, will
cement the new US status, that of ‘flawed
democracy’ as opposed to a full democratic nation that legislates
and applies all laws fairly and equally to all of its citizens. The law
would make it a ‘felony’ for Americans to support the boycott of Israel.
Punishment of those who violate the proposed law ranges from
$250,000 to $1 million, and/or 20 years in prison.
The Bill has
already had chilling
effects on many groups in the country, especially among African
American activists, who are fighting institutionalized racism. If
the Bill becomes law, the precedent will become the norm, and dissidents
will find themselves standing trial for their mere opinions.
With regard to Israel, the US Congress is united. Both Republican and
Democratic lawmakers often act in ways contrary to the interests of
their own country, just to appease the Israeli government. This is no
However, the real danger is that such laws go beyond
the traditional blind allegiance to Israel - into a whole level of
acquiesce, where the government punishes people and organizations for
the choices they make, the values they hold dear or the mere inquiry of
information about an issue that they may find compelling.
July 17, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued
a letter calling on lawmakers who signed the Senate version of the
Bill to reconsider.
"The Bill would punish businesses and
individuals, based solely on their point of view. Such a penalty is in
direct violation of the First Amendment," ACLU stated.
person, thus far, has reportedly reconsidered her support, junior
Democratic Senator from New York, Kirsten
Gillibrand. She requested for her name to be removed from the list
AIPAC's reaction was immediate, calling on
its army of supporters to pressure the Senator to reinstate her name on
the list and to "reaffirm her commitment to fighting the international
de-legitimization of Israel."
Dire as it may seem, there is
something positive in this. For many years, it has been wrongly
perceived that Israel’s solicitation of American support against
Palestinians and Arabs is, by no means, a foreign country meddling or
interfering in the US political system or undermining US democracy.
The ‘Israel Anti-Boycott Act’, however, is the most egregious of such
interventions, for it strikes down the First Amendment, the very
foundation of American democracy, by using America’s own lawmakers to
carry out the terrible deed.
This Bill exposes
Israel, as well as its hordes
of supporters, in Congress. Moreover, it presents human rights
defenders with the opportunity to champion BDS, thus the rights of the
Palestinian people and also the rights of all Americans. It would be the
first time in many years that the battle for Palestinian rights can be
openly discussed and contextualized in a way that most Americans find
relevant to their everyday life.
Actually, this was one of the aims
of BDS, from the start. While the boycott and de-legitimization of
the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinians is at the core of
the civil society-backed movement, BDS also aims at generating an urgent
discussion on Israel and Palestine.
Although inadvertently, the
Congress is now making this very much possible.
The Bill, and
the larger legislative efforts across the US - and Europe – are also a
source of hope in the sense that it is recreating the very events that
preceded the demise of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
US and British governments, in particular, opposed the South African
liberation movement, condemned the boycott and backed the racist
authoritarian role of P. W. Botha to the very end. Former President,
Ronald Reagan, perceived Nelson Mandela to be a terrorist. Mandela was
not removed from the US terror list until 2008.
It is quite
telling that the US, UK and Israel were the most
ardent supporters of South Africa's Apartheid.
Now, it is as
if history is repeating itself. The Israeli version of Apartheid is
fighting for legitimacy and refuses to concede. It wants to colonize all
of Palestine, mistreat its people and violate international law without
a mere word of censure from an individual or an organization.
The US government has not changed much, either. It carries on supporting
the Israeli form of Apartheid, while shamelessly paying lip service to
the legacy of Mandela and his anti-Apartheid struggle.
the new chapter of the anti-Apartheid struggle is called 'Palestine',
the US and its western backers continue to repeat the same costly
policies they committed against the South African people.
true champions of human rights, regardless of their race, religion or
citizenship, this is their moment. No meaningful change ever occurs
without people being united in struggle and sacrifice.
In one of
his speeches, an American abolitionist and former slave, Frederick
Douglass said, "power concedes nothing without a demand. It never
did and it never will."
The US Congress, with the help of AIPAC,
is criminalizing this very demand of justice.
not stand for this, if not for the sake of Palestinians, then for their
- Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle
East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a
media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of
PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second
Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is
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