3rd Thursday Action Alert: Tell Congress to Oppose Anti-Boycott Legislation

3rd_Thursday_logo.jpgDangerous bills that could undermine the work of advocates for a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis continue to make their way through Congress. These include The Israel Anti-Boycott Act (H.R. 1697 and S. 720) and the Combating BDS Act of 2017 (H.R. 2856 and S. 170) which are part of a larger effort at the federal and state levels to outlaw or penalize the use of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions aimed at Israeli government policies.

It is urgent that members of Congress hear from constituents who oppose these and similar bills.

The UN Human Rights Office recently released a report outlining progress in developing a database of businesses engaged in certain activities related to Israeli settlements, as mandated earlier by the UN Human Rights Council. A new House resolution critical of the UN Human Rights Council includes a call to support the Israel Anti-Boycott Act.

As explained by Lara Friedman in the “Legislative Round-Up,” the Israel Anti-Boycott Act would, among other things, “amend core U.S. law regarding foreign boycotts… to make it illegal for U.S. companies to boycott or otherwise discriminate against settlements based on calls by the UN or the EU.”  The Combating BDS Act is meant to support state-level anti-BDS legislation “by affirming the legal authority of state and local governments to take tangible actions to counter economic warfare against Israel,” as stated in the press release introducing the bill.

Besides the serious problem of curtailing free expression, both bills also conflate Israel and the settlements, erasing the distinction between Israel and its illegal settlements in the West Bank.

These bills infringe on the right to boycott which the Supreme Court has affirmed.  Furthermore, they would put legal obstacles in the way of non-violent peaceful action meant to bring about social change and would legislate against the freedom to make choices in the stewardship of our financial resources.

In addition to legislation before Congress, numerous states have adopted laws or executive orders aimed at boycotts of Israel and/or Israeli settlements located in occupied Palestinian territory. In January a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on one such law in Kansas, stating “the Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.”

In a letter to all members of Congress calling on them to oppose the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, leaders representing an array of Christian organizations said:

As churches and church-related organizations, we all share a hope and desire for an end to occupation, an end to violence and terrorism, and for equal rights for all people. If our respective denominations and organizations, through debate and reflection, adopt policies that employ economic leverage to advance these policy objectives, as we do with many other policy objectives, we believe it is our right to do so. It is an assertion of our right as stewards of our financial resources to spend and invest according to our theological and moral conviction, expressed in our respective denominational or organizational policies.

In this case, our assertion of this right is an effort to change unjust Israeli policy toward Palestinians, not to delegitimize the State of Israel, nor to marginalize or isolate our Jewish neighbors, or their enterprises. Our choices to purchase and invest responsibly, and to advocate with corporations or governments, are motivated by our firm commitments to justice and peace for all people, without discrimination or exclusion.

Urging opposition to the bill, the letter states, “As churches and church-related organizations, we reject any efforts by the state to curtail these rights. We urge you to oppose the proposed legislation, and thus support the rights of individuals and institutions to spend and invest in accordance with their faith, values, and policies.”

Contact your Senators and Representative to let them know you support the message of the letter from Christian leaders. Urge them to oppose the Israel Anti-Boycott Act and the Combating BDS Act of 2017.

For further information:

UCC Collegium statement on the right to use economic measures (June 2016)
Ecumenical statement on the right to use economic measures (August 2016)

2005 UCC General Synod Resolution: "Concerning the Use of Economic Leverage in Promoting Peace in the Middle East"
2015 UCC General Synod Resolution: "A Call for the United Church of Christ to Take Actions toward a Just Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict"

The Stealth Campaign to Support Settlements – In Congress
The Stealth Campaign to Support Settlements – In States
How the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Threatens First Amendment Rights
, ACLU, July 26, 2017
Constitutionality Issues & BDS Legislation: Expert Views, FMEP, October 24, 2017
The Israel Anti-Boycott Act Is an Act of Political Persecution, By Lara Friedman, August 17, 2017

 

Sample Letters:

Note—If your denomination or organization has taken positions regarding boycott, divestment, or sanctions in the Israeli-Palestinian context, consider adding mention of these to your letter. The United Church of Christ has called for use of economic measures to promote peace (in 2005) and to take actions toward a just peace (in 2015).  The Disciples and UCC have supported the right to use economic measures as non-violent tools to promoting justice in Israel/Palestine (Letter to Congress from Christian leaders, August 2016.)

Dear Senator,

I am writing to urge you not to co-sponsor or vote for two bills:  The Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720) and the Combating BDS Act of 2017 (S. 170).

Besides the serious problem of curtailing free expression, both bills also conflate Israel and the settlements, erasing the distinction between Israel and its illegal settlements in the West Bank.

These bills infringe on the right to boycott which the Supreme Court has affirmed. It is notable that a federal judge recently issued a preliminary injunction on a Kansas law addressing Israel boycotts citing the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the right to boycott.

The legislation before Congress would put legal obstacles in the way of nonviolent peaceful action meant to bring about social change and would legislate against the freedom to make choices in the stewardship of our financial resources.

As a person of faith, it is vitally important to me to retain the freedom to make economic choices that are in line with my values and to advocate for others to do the same.  I believe that nonviolent economic tools can and should be used to change unjust policies and to serve the interest of a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

I urge you to protect the right to use these tools by refraining from supporting the Israel Anti-Boycott Act and the Combating BDS Act of 2017.

Thank you for considering my concerns,

*********

Dear Representative,

I am writing to urge you not to co-sponsor or vote for two pieces of legislation: The Israel Anti-Boycott Act (H.R. 1697) and the Combating BDS Act of 2017 (H.R. 2856).

Besides the serious problem of curtailing free expression, these acts also conflate Israel and the settlements, erasing the distinction between Israel and its illegal settlements in the West Bank.

These acts infringe on the right to boycott which the Supreme Court has affirmed. It is notable that a federal judge recently issued a preliminary injunction on a Kansas law addressing Israel boycotts citing the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the right to boycott.

The legislation before Congress would put legal obstacles in the way of nonviolent peaceful action meant to bring about social change and would legislate against the freedom to make choices in the stewardship of our financial resources.

As a person of faith, it is vitally important to me to retain the freedom to make economic choices that are in line with my values and to advocate for others to do the same.  I believe that nonviolent economic tools can and should be used to change unjust policies and to serve the interest of a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

I urge you to protect the right to use these tools by refraining from supporting the Israel Anti-Boycott Act and the Combating BDS Act of 2017.

Thank you for considering my concerns,


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