Congress can send a powerful message by passing the Israel Anti-Boycott Act
By Joshua S. Block
July 25, 2017
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Is the ACLU actually attempting to sway congressional debate against Israel? The red flags are alarming, including this recent tweet by Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program: “Israeli leaders exploit horrible acts of anti-Semitism to encourage Jews to move to Israel. Judaism ≠ Zionism; Anti-Zionism ≠ Anti-Semitism.”
Mr. Dakwar is wrong, and his tweet is anti-Semitic. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said at a symposium held at the United Nations, “Racism in all forms is intolerable. Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Both are unacceptable.”
Greenblatt’s reaction was echoed by António Guterres, the sectary general of the United Nations, who told the Simon Wiesenthal Center that the “denial of Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism.”
Greenblatt and Guterres would agree with me that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism. To deny this connection is to deny reality. Greenblatt even confronted the ACLU directly in response to its top “Human Rights” official making such a despicable statement.
The recent uptick in troubling statements and tweets regarding Jews and Israel is obviously disturbing, but it should not come as a surprise. Seen in the context of “intersectionality” and the rise of the Alt-left, an upward trend in the use of this kind of language is to be expected. However, it is appalling to see one of the longest-standing and most venerated civil rights organizations in our country’s history disseminating misinformation, fomenting anti-Semitism and lauding hatemongers.
Even more worrisome, the ACLU now apparently is looking to influence Congress to the detriment of Israel.
Currently, the U.S. Congress is considering important legislation to counter the economic warfare waged by those who seek to destroy the world’s only Jewish state. S. 720, also known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, would expand existing U.S. anti-boycott laws, which currently prohibit participation by Americans in discriminatory foreign government-led boycotts against Israel. The new legislation would include similar efforts by international governmental organizations like the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU).
The specific focus of the proposed legislation on international bodies is necessitated by the new and dramatic growth of international anti-Israel movements that are attempting to use the UN and EU as vehicles to promote economic boycotts against Israel.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), has already garnered an impressive 45 bipartisan co-sponsors.
In response, the ACLU, a civil liberties organization, has paradoxically come out strongly against this anti-discrimination bill, arguing in a letter they sent to senators that the Israel Anti-Boycott Act would violate the right to free speech.
This legislation does not in any way regulate civil society organizations which are critical of Israeli policies or prevent them from speaking out in favor of boycotts. Any suggestion that this bill creates potential criminal or civil liability for non-profit organizations is simply an effort to create confusion as to the bill’s impact. Commercial conduct is not speech.
From the floor of the U.S. Senate, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “Anti-Semitism is a word that has been used throughout history when Jewish people are judged and measured by one standard and the rest by another. So it is with anti-Zionism; the idea that all other peoples can seek and defend their right to self-determination, but Jews cannot.”
The complete and utter failure of the ACLU to recognize anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism is unacceptable. That failure loans credence to those who say the ACLU has become a political tool of the Alt-Left. Given the storied history of this organization, that’s a genuine tragedy.
I hope the ACLU will take some time to better understand that individuals like Mr. Dakwar, far from being paragons of virtue and defenders of civil rights, are nothing more than the latest in a long line of hateful individuals, who twist facts and figures to hide their thinly veiled anti-Semitism. The only thing noteworthy about them is their attempt to cloak their true intentions in the language of “civil rights,” “liberation,” and “intersectionality.”
Once again, the haters are on the wrong side of history. Legislation protecting Israel from boycotts has already passed in over 20 U.S. states. Additional legislation is pending in several others.
The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is not an effort to suppress free speech, but an important weapon in the fight against hate and intolerance. Passing federal legislation now would send a powerful message: anti-Semitism is not welcome in America and Israel is our great friend and ally.
Joshua S. Block is CEO and President of The Israel Project