We told you in a previous Countdown about the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a bill that seeks to punish Americans who participate in non-violent protests, including international boycotts of Israel (or settlements) with draconian fines, and even prison. The bill is such a blatant violation of our First Amendment right to free political expression that the ACLU didn’t hesitate to blast it and discourage U.S. legislators from supporting it. But Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) REALLY want the bill to pass, so they removed the prison punishment and threw in a line saying: “Nothing in this Act or an amendment made by this Act shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment.” Um, Senators, there is a small problem: Prohibiting free expression protected by the First Amendment then adding a line saying this doesn’t infringe upon free expression protected by the First Amendment just doesn’t make any sense. That’s why the ACLU continues to oppose the Act, explaining: “The critical failure in the bill lies in its overarching framework, which unconstitutionally seeks to suppress one side of the public debate over Israel and Palestine.”  The ACLU’s Brian Hauss added: “From the campaign to divest from apartheid South Africa to the recent boycott against the National Rifle Association, boycotts have always been a key feature of American politics. If state and federal governments could outlaw boycotts they don’t like, all sorts of social movements would suffer. Whatever their views are on Israel and Palestine, members of Congress should recognize that the Israel Anti-Boycott Act threatens fundamental First Amendment values.” So, what does Congress view as more important, the First Amendment, or pandering on Israel? We’ll find out.

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