I know — LOTS of things do! Like the accrual of power and influence, the smell of money — big money, and of course the fear of not being re-elected. But this thing is unimaginably powerful. It’s strong enough to cause scores of U.S. senators and representatives — probably one or more of yours — to propose legislation that is clearly unconstitutional, seeking to impose severe criminal penalties for the free exercise of commerce and, by implication, for exercising the First Amendment right of free speech. What is this thing that makes our leaders go crazy?
It is their blind, unthinking “support” for the State of Israel — loud, celebratory support contrary to the demands of simple justice and clear international law, and indeed contrary to America’s broader global interests. Understand that behind this irrational stance lies the threatened label of “anti-Semite” for all who dare criticize or oppose that nation’s policies or actions, however distasteful they may be. The label can likewise be slapped on all who decline to “protect” Israel from its supposed “enemies”. This is dog-whistle manipulation at its worst, except that the whistle is often clearly audible — just listen.
So now, following the playbook of AIPAC (and thus of Netanyahu’s far-right nationalist/fascist coalition), both houses of the U.S. Congress have introduced bi-partisan legislation designed to turn Americans of conscience into criminals (which Israel is already doing to its own citizens). It’s all about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a push which, as it gains worldwide traction, is seemingly becoming a genuine thorn in Israel’s flesh. And it’s not even about money — the robust Israeli economy is under no genuine threat — but more about Israel’s image and its standing in the world community, with clear echoes of the anti-apartheid campaigns against South Africa (and we all know how that played out).
Simply put, the proposed law would criminally penalize any U.S. company which chooses to participate in, for example, EU- or UN-sponsored BDS campaigns. The penalties, which are embedded in existing supportive laws, potentially include up to a $1 million fine and 20 years in prison; sadly, even the bill’s prime sponsor seems clueless as to the specifics and implications of what he’s pushing forward. As for private citizens and activist groups, the proposed law’s impact would likely serve more as a scare tactic, to tamp down emerging BDS activity.
Let the Congress — if they can’t help themselves — shower Israel with a $4 billion annual military aid give-away. Let them — if they must — grant Israel’s prime minister 27 standing ovations when he stands before a joint session of Congress and cynically speaks against established U.S. foreign policy. But here — now — our elected leaders are entering territory where they simply have no business going…
The 18-min. segment of today’s “Democracy Now!” program tells the story: