After Rep. Omar introduces a resolution affirming right to boycott, the House advances a measure against boycotts for Palestinian rights
On Tuesday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) introduced a resolution affirming that "all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution."
Initially co-sponsored by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the resolution emphasizes the long history of the use boycotts by Americans to address injustices--including against apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany and in support of the civil rights movement and the farmworkers' movement. The resolution calls on Congress, states, and civil rights leaders "to preserve the freedom of advocacy for all by opposing antiboycott resolutions and legislation.” Four additional lawmakers have since joined as cosponsors.
As Omar explained ahead of introducing the measure, the resolution is meant to give voice to “the American values that support and believe in our ability to exercise our first amendment rights in regard to boycotting.” The new resolution is the first measure of its kind recognizing the historical importance of boycotts in advancing human and civil rights and the constitutional protections they enjoy.
"We thank these members of Congress for standing up for human rights and free speech," said Palestine Legal senior staff attorney Meera Shah. "Congress must unabashedly defend the right to boycott for justice, including the right to boycott for Palestinian rights."
Committee moves anti-boycott resolution forward
Congress has in recent years considered numerous measures meant to track, restrict, and even criminalize one particular category of political boycotts: boycotts in support of Palestinian rights. A day after Omar introduced the resolution, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to advance H. Res. 246, a resolution condemning boycotts for Palestinian rights. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to bring the resolution to the floor for a vote of the full House next week.
As the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights noted, the committee’s action on the resolution came “[l]ess than 48 hours after President Trump's vitriolic, racist attacks” on a group of progressive lawmakers “partially for their principled support of Palestinian rights.” The president has since doubled down on his attacks.
The resolution’s broad condemnation of individuals who boycott for Palestinian human rights would chill activism and reinforce and legitimize other legislative attacks on protected speech, including anti-boycott laws. A companion resolution was also introduced in the Senate in March.
Tell Congress to protect the right to boycott for all
Contact your representative and ask them to co-sponsor H. Res. 496 today (action alert via Arab American Institute).
And tell them not to condemn those calling for freedom and equality for Palestinians
Contact Speaker Pelosi and tell her not to bring H. Res. 246 up for a vote (action alert via US Campaign for Palestinian Rights).
Read more about legislative efforts at RightoBoycott.org.