Updated September 19, 2018: Today, Palestine Legal and over 100 other organizations issued an amended memo calling on federal lawmakers to oppose the unconstitutional Israel Anti-Boycott Act. The newly issued memo was in response to amendments to the bill that were adopted by the House of Representatives in June. See our original blogpost, below, for more info. Click here to read the memo, and click here to read previous versions of the memo.
Amended – but Still Unconstitutional – Israel Anti-Boycott Act Approved by House Committee
June 26, 2018: Yesterday, the House Foreign Affairs committee approved an amended version of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a widely-criticized bill that would prohibit – and in some cases criminalize – a variety of actions taken to “comply with, further, or support” boycotts for Palestinian rights called for by the United Nations or the European Union.
The amended bill calls on President Trump to issue regulations to prohibit U.S. persons from participating in such boycotts. The bill would also prohibit “furnishing information” about the boycotts.
The amended Israel Anti-Boycott Act does little to overcome the constitutional infirmities that plagued previous iterations of the bill. U.S. courts have long held that political boycotts, like boycotts for Palestinian rights, are protected by the First Amendment. Congress may not enact laws that prohibit or punish participation in First Amendment protected conduct.
If enacted, this bill will almost certainly be used as another tool to further President Trump’s anti-Palestinian agenda. Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists could face further government scrutiny, harassment, and investigations into their support for boycott activity.
"This is yet another attempt by U.S. politicians to shield Israel from accountability for its indefensible violations of Palestinian rights by trampling on our First Amendment right to support political boycotts – or even to furnish information about them," said Rahul Saksena, Palestine Legal staff attorney. "However lawmakers try to twist this bill, it will be unconstitutional. Our elected officials need to start listening and responding to the growing movement for Palestinian rights here in the U.S. instead of enacting laws aimed at silencing that movement and undermining our rights."
Call your member of Congress and tell them to oppose the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (H.R. 1697 in the House and S. 720 in the Senate).
See ACLU's letter to legislators on the latest version of the IABA here.