World, Americas

US: Pro-Israel senator opposes anti-BDS legislation

'America is distinguished by dissent and dissenters. It was founded amidst a boycott of English tea,’ says Rand Paul

Umar Farooq   | 11.01.2019
US: Pro-Israel senator opposes anti-BDS legislation File photo

Washington DC

By Umar Farooq


Prominent Republican Senator Rand Paul expressed his opposition Thursday to a legislation that would punish those who choose to support a campaign to boycott Israel in defense of Palestinian rights.

In an opinion piece for The American Conservative magazine, Paul criticized the Combating BDS Act, which has been brought up in the Senate.

"I am not in favor of boycotting Israel. Israel has been a good ally," Rand wrote in the article.

"At the same time, I am concerned about what the role of Congress can and should be in this situation. I strongly oppose any legislation that attempts to ban boycotts or ban people who support boycotts from participating in our government or working for our government.

"America is distinguished by dissent and dissenters. It was founded amidst a boycott of English tea. Abolitionists boycotted slave goods. Rosa Parks led the boycott against segregated busing," Paul added.

The Combating BDS Act, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio, urges state and local governments to deny business contracts to individuals and companies that boycott Israel in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The act is part of a wider Middle East policy bill, the first to be introduced by Senate Republicans in the new Congress which began on Jan. 3.

It has been blocked, however, due to a focus on ending a partial government shutdown over funding for U.S. President Donald Trump’s border wall.

Currently, 26 states across the U.S. have imposed similar anti-BDS measures.

The BDS movement was formed in 2005 by 170 Palestinian civil society and rights groups and calls for a boycott of Israeli companies involved in violating Palestinian human rights and for institutions to withdraw their investments in those companies as a form of non-violent pressure on Israel. It also calls for sanctions campaigns to pressure governments to fulfill their legal obligation to hold Israel to account.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the anti-BDS legislation by rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council of American Islamic Relations.

Paul argued in the opinion piece that the measure to curb any boycotts against the state of Israel violates Americans’ right to free speech, which is guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

"The First Amendment is about speech you like and speech you don’t like. If anything, it is more about protecting unpopular speech or the speech of minorities, whether they be a minority by the color of their skin or the shade of their ideology," he said.

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