BDS, short for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, is an economic form of protest wherein businesses and individuals refuse to do business with a certain country or sell products from said country until it makes changes to how it governs. Currently, it is used in reference to those who are boycotting Israel citing its settlements on Palestinian land. BDS programs have been used throughout history. For example, a BDS type program was also used against apartheid South Africa, and it played a major role in ending the regime.
Currently, in the United States Senate, there is a bill that would criminalize BDS called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. The summary of the bill (S.720 or its House counterpart H.R. 1697) states that "the bill prohibits any U.S. person engaged interstate or foreign commerce from supporting:
- any request by a foreign country to impose any boycott against a country that is friendly to the United States and that is not itself the object of any form of boycott pursuant to United States law or regulation, or
- any boycott fostered or imposed by any international governmental organization against Israel or any request by any international governmental organization to impose such a boycott." ( Congress.gov )
No matter what your feeling are towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this is a huge violation of freedom of speech. The ACLU has come out in full strength against the bill. Even Senator Gillibrand, who originally co-sponsored the bill wants it to contain greater protections for an individual's freedom of speech in the bill. Still, this bill is currently co-sponsored by 48 of the Senators (including Senator Schumer, meaning it only needs 3 more votes to be able to pass the Senate. Even in today's heavily divided political environment, this bill sees bipartisan support.There is a similar bill in the House. The House bill has 252 co-sponsors.
They claim that BDS undermines US support for Israel. Yes, that's kind of the point. People have the freedom of speech to not spend their money so that the United States changes their stance. Outlawing that is no different than saying it's illegal to boycott Trump products because it undermines the President. Preventing people from carrying out a boycott violates their right to protest what they see as wrong. Furthermore, BDS is not hate speech. Criticizing Israel is not hate speech. Sure, there are anti-Semites who do it, but many more are seeking freedom for the Palestinian people. When there are actual Neo-Nazis marching in the streets chanting "Jew will not replace us," there's your anti-Semitism. Don't waste time violating freedom of speech; spend time attacking those who would threaten our people.