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Congress wants to make criticizing Israel a thought crime

by Sam Rolley

Free speech, it turns out, has some stipulations. At least when it comes to Israel.

It’s the biggest assault on freedom you’ve never heard about: Top officials throughout the Western world are working to make  a criminal offense of not supporting the Israeli government’s agenda.

Right now in the United States a bipartisan group of at least 43 senators are working on legislation that would make it illegal for you, constitutionally-protected American, to refuse patronage to Israeli businesses.

It sounds crazy, but it couldn’t be more true.

As reported by Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept:

[A] group of 43 senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: Anyone guilty of violating the prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

The proposed measure, called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), was introduced by Cardin on March 23. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the bill “was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.” Indeed, AIPAC, in its 2017 lobbying agenda, identified passage of this bill as one of its top lobbying priorities for the year…

Effectively, the legislation would make it illegal for consumers and businesses to decide against doing business with Israeli companies due to political positions against the Israeli government’s policies.

It’s an outright attack on free speech and market freedom. But more concerning is that it creates thought crime by declaring that criticizing a government via economic action is unlawful– and it’s happening in the U.S., a country supposedly built on truth to power.

The Senate legislation declaring Israeli immunity to international criticism is being pushed by the usual offenders: Chuck Schumer,  Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden co-sponsored the legislation. But support for the bill also comes from a handful of self-proclaimed defenders of the Constitution and Tea Party leftovers like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse.

Separate but similar legislation introduced in the House back in March also has hefty support from a cadre of 63 Democratic lawmakers and 174 Republicans.

To date, no lawmaker in either chamber has spoken out against the assault on economic and thought freedom.

The most vocal opponent of the legislation is currently the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This bill would impose civil and criminal punishment on individuals solely because of their political beliefs about Israel and its policies,” the ACLU wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “[We] urge you to oppose the bill, whether in committee or on the floor, unless it has undergone significant revision to resolve its constitutional infirmities.”

But don’t expect the ACLU’s protestations to have much effect.

And if you are surprised that your elected officials would sell out American freedom of thought to Israel’s benefit, take a look at American foreign policy over the past half century.

Big money pouring into congressional coffers has long meant that U.S. deference to Israeli goals is the rule rather than, as it should be, the exception.

The pro-Israel lobby pours millions of dollars into campaign coffers on both sides of the aisle and controls most U.S. mainstream media as well as the think tanks that distribute foreign policy papers. The think tank propaganda is then blasted into American households via the media, cementing the support-Israel-at-all-costs mentality that is an unfortunate force in our society.

As infrastructure falls to ruin throughout the U.S. and the most vulnerable American citizens languish as we argue where taxpayer money is best spent, more than $3 billion flows directly from working Americans’ pockets to Israel every year. Few current lawmakers, with the exception of  Rand Paul, ever bring it up– and few Americans even realize it’s happening.

Meanwhile, Israel’s campaign of belligerence against its Palestinian neighbors grows costlier every year as “settlements” expand into regions they were never meant to appear. So, the U.S. must remain involved in the Middle East to keep Israel’s playground open for business. And our brother’s keeper policy is responsible for some of the U.S.’s costliest military follies in recent decades.

Back in 2004, Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (D-S.C.) wrote an essay for the Charleston Post and Courier titled “Bush’s Failed Mideast Policy is Creating More Terrorism.”

He wrote:

With Iraq no threat, why invade a sovereign country? The answer: President Bush’s policy to secure Israel. Led by [Paul] Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Charles Krauthammer, for years there had been a domino school of thought that the way to guarantee Israel’s security is to spread democracy in the area.

Hollings wrote the essay at the only time anyone hoping to survive in Washington could, as he was on his way out of office. He would retire the next year– but not before being smeared as an anti-Semite.

Amid the smears, though, he doubled-down.

He said on the floor of the Senate: “That is not a conspiracy. That is the policy. I didn’t like to keep it a secret, maybe; but I can tell you now, I will challenge any one of the other 99 Senators to tell us why we are in Iraq, other than what this policy is here. It is an adopted policy, a domino theory of The [Zionist] Project For The New American Century. Everybody knows it [is] because we want to secure our friend, Israel…”

Legislation which would make boycotting Israeli businesses a criminal offense is just the latest rendition of sacrificing American well-being for the benefit of “our friend, Israel.” But it’s not Israel we’re protecting, it’s the pocketbooks of its wealthiest and most powerful individual allies. It’s the highest levels of government both here and there. It’s the wealthiest business interests. It’s a cloaked class who abhor individual freedom because they believe they know better than any free man.

Israel, for historical and religious reasons is an easy place to start– but make no mistake that this is a test.

If the U.S. Congress can convince freedom loving Americans that they have no right to criticize the Israeli government via business choices, it will open the door to government-mandated worship of all manner of powerful organizations.


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