Congress is trying to pass laws making it illegal to boycott Israel in U.S. schools, colleges and even businesses. But civil society groups say this violates free speech rights. pic.twitter.com/yzM54fwnqR
— AJ+ (@ajplus) January 16, 2019
USCPR Executive Director Yousef Munnayer was interviewed for this AJ+ video about congressional efforts to pass legislation that violates the First Amendment right to free speech:
I’m not aware of instances in history where there’s been an effort through federal legislation to attempt to criminalize political boycotts, which are, of course, constitutionally protected activity.
The basic point of this act – and the supporters of the legislation are on record saying this – is to combat the Palestinian rights movement here in the United States, which has adopted boycott, divestment, and sanctions tactics.
On the context behind false claims of antisemitism about those who support using boycott, divestment, and sanctions tactics against Israel:
Because the state of Israel has also gone to great lengths to conflate Judaism and Zionism, there is an understanding in our discourse that somehow these things are more tied than they are in reality.
On the criminal penalties that would be imposed on Palestinian rights activists by this legislation:
The point here is to intimidate rights activists for engaging in constitutionally protected activity by threatening them with the specter of criminalization and steep fines.
On the similarly targeted Anti-Semitism Awareness Act:
This is legislation that would actually call on the Department of Education to adopt a particular definition of antisemitism, or a particular understanding of antisemitism, which it should take into consideration as it looks at civil rights discrimination complaints.
On the turning tide of progressives who support Palestinian rights:
When you look at public opinion, [it’s] seeing a shift on this issue as well. Primarily the Republican base of white evangelicals [are] being hyper-supportive of Israel, and the base of the Democratic party, in particular millennial and people of color, [are] being much, much more critical of Israeli policy and supportive of the rights of Palestinians.
On his concerns over the passing of anti-free speech legislation:
For vulnerable communities, including people who are working on Palestinian rights work, they have even more reason to be concerned about the way in which this would be enforced very much for the purpose of intimidating them and marginalizing them.