The AIPAC Policy Conference is in full swing, and a major policy priority will be infringing on your right to free speech by lobbying Congress to pass the Israel Anti-Boycott Act.
The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would make it illegal to support a UN-endorsed boycott of Israel or Israeli settlements. And since the UN announced a list of companies profiting from settlements, proponents of this law may argue that boycott of those companies falls under that definition. This would further weaken an essential tool for creating free and democratic societies— both here in the U.S. and in Israel/Palestine. It’s a gag bill, opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, and in violation of our constitutional rights.
As a nation, we’re not always good at learning the lessons of our history. It was only a couple of generations ago that widespread fear of communism led to the rise of the House Un-American Activities Committee and Joseph McCarthy. We cannot let Congress make this same mistake again.
AIPAC has always been adept at disguising ultra-conservative politics as bipartisan and mainstream. Their rhetoric has persuaded a lot of otherwise progressive American Jews to throw their support behind Israel’s policies of inequality. Just like the NRA and other special interest lobbies, they have perfected the art of using a corrupt and unjust system to pass dangerous and counterproductive legislation. If we’re going to win, we need to break AIPAC’s hold on Congress— and on the American Jewish community.
This isn’t just about free speech. It’s about Palestinian human rights. The deeper purpose of stifling dissent and boycott of injustice in the U.S. is to support the illegal and immoral expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This upends decades of U.S. foreign policy and puts true peace further out of reach. Instead of passing this unconstitutional bill that violates the rights of Americans, Congress should stand up for Palestinian human rights and work for equality, safety, and freedom for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Thankfully, the tide is turning. We’ve come out in force at town halls and gotten the word out in the media. Many Members of Congress now realize that AIPAC’s agenda is not in line with democratic values and goes against the will of their constituents. As a result, they are changing their political calculus and refraining from cosponsoring the legislation. AIPAC doesn’t look as invincible as they once did. And polls show that American support for Palestinian rights has gone up over the past several years. But we’ve still got a ways to go.
Congress needs to get the message loudly, clearly, and repeatedly: suppressing democracy and dissent doesn’t lead to peace. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is unconstitutional, anti-democratic, and wrong.