(UPDATE: As of January 15, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has tried to advance S.1, the bill that includes the so-called "Combating BDS Act," three times. Each time, McConnell's motions have failed to clear the 60-vote hurdle to advance, thanks to the vast majority of the Democratic caucus voting against cloture. And each time, immediately after his cloture motions have failed, McConnell has filed for a subsequent vote, in the apparent belief that putting Democratic senators on record voting against advancing S.1 will enable Republicans to paint the Democratic party as insufficiently "pro-Israel."
The vote tallies are as follows. On January 8, S.1 failed to advance by a vote of 56-44. On January 10, the tally was 53-43. And on January 14, the vote was 50-43. During the first two votes, four Democrats joined with Republicans in voting to advance S.1: Senators Manchin, Menendez, Sinema, and Jones. In the third vote, Senator Menendez, dropped his support because “I don’t like the Majority Leader using the US-Israel relationship as a political pawn.” McConnell has entered a motion for a fourth vote to advance S.1, but as of this writing that vote has not yet been scheduled.)
Americans for Peace Now (APN) opposes any bill that encourages state and local governments to adopt legislation which penalizes citizens who boycott Israel and/or Israeli settlements.
The Senate’s first piece of legislation in the 116th session, dubbed S.1, does just that. Referred to as the “Middle East Security Bill” by its sponsor, Senator Marco Rubio, S.1 incorporates the Combating BDS Act of 2019 into a larger bill that would appropriate security funds for Israel and reauthorize defense cooperation between the US and Jordan.
The ACLU opposes the Combating BDS Act on the grounds that it “sends a message to Americans who engage on issues of global importance that if they dare to disagree with their government, they will be penalized and placed in a lesser class with fewer opportunities.” The ACLU has filed suits against state laws requiring contractors to certify they are not participating in boycotts of Israel or the settlements. Two federal district courts have issued injunctions, ruling that laws in Kansas and Arizona violate the constitutionally protected right to boycott.
Debra Shushan, APN’s Director of Policy and Government Relations said, “Our country is suffering the impact of a government shutdown with no end in sight. In this context, it is absurd that the first priority of the Senate would be advancing a bill that violates the First Amendment. This bill seeks to immunize against legal challenges states which force potential contractors to sign oaths promising not to boycott Israel or the settlements.
“This legislation is a political trap. By bundling security aid for Israel with controversial legislation that violates civil liberties, the bill sets up senators to be labeled as insufficiently ‘pro-Israel’ if they refuse to endorse the latter. In order to score political points, this bill will further erode the historic bipartisan consensus around a strong US-Israel relationship.”
APN rejects BDS against Israel. As a tactic to challenge Israeli policies that are inconsistent with Israeli-Palestinian peace, APN believes BDS is the wrong approach, viewing it as misguided, ineffective, and counterproductive. APN advocates boycotting settlement products and recognizes the legitimacy and potential value of other activism directly and narrowly targeted at settlements and the occupation. Read more about APN’s policy here.