Cory Booker to support Israel Anti-Boycott Act

JI EXCLUSIVE — Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) tells Jewish Insider that he now supports The Israel Anti-Boycott Act: “We’ve seen the alarming rise in anti-Semitism in the United States and across the world in recent years manifest itself in many deeply concerning ways, including in the actions of foreign governments targeting Israel and the Israeli people.”

“I have long and staunchly opposed the BDS movement, and support this bill which will prevent international entities from imposing their will on US businesses with regards to their decisions, consistent with US law, to conduct commerce with our close ally Israel and its citizens. Initial concerns that this bill unintentionally infringed on individuals’ First Amendment rights have now been addressed by changes agreed upon earlier this year, and I feel confident that those modifications safeguard Americans’ constitutional right to free speech. I’ll be adding myself as a cosponsor, and will be urging my colleagues to support this important legislation in its modified form.”

BACKGROUND: The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, first proposed in the Senate in March of 2017, was originally a response to a UN Human Rights Council resolution urging boycotts of companies doing business in Israeli settlements. Its goal is two-fold: to protect American companies and institutions from being forced to participate in international anti-Israel boycotts, and to prohibit U.S. businesses from engaging in boycotts. If passed, the bill would echo on the federal level anti-BDS legislation already passed by a number of individual states.

The first draft of the Act was met with opposition some over concerns that the bill infringed on First Amendment rights. The ACLU condemned it as unconstitutional, arguing that the bill would punish individuals for their political beliefs by making them subject to serious financial penalties or jail time.

WHAT’S CHANGED: Co-sponsors Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) worked with legal experts and lawmakers to amend the bill, introducing an updated version this past March. The revised Act acknowledges the rights of individuals to engage in personal boycotts, makes clear that Americans cannot be imprisoned for boycotting Israel, and states that speech critical of Israel cannot be used as evidence proving a legal violation. However, the ACLU still opposes the updated text.

WHY IT MATTERS: At present, while 44 Senate Republicans support the measure, a mere 14 Democrats have backed the bill. Among those Democratic Senators rumored to be considering a 2020 presidential run — including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris — Booker is so far the only one to support the updated Act.

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