As some Americans may be aware, the nation of Israel has proceeded with an expanding occupation of Palestinian territories that America tacitly supports while the rest of the civilized world is appalled at the inhumane actions. And, in this particular crusade, inhumane is a gross understatement.
Since America under Trump refuses to pressure Israel into joining the civilized world and stop its encroachment and terrorizing of the Palestinian people, the rest of the world is engaged in a campaign known as BDS to encourage Israel through economic sanctions to change its aggressive and inhumane ways. Remember, it was just recently that America warned the United Nations Human Rights Commission that if it did not stop, immediately, criticizing Israel for terrorizing the Palestinians, Trump’s America would leave the organization. Trump’s America loves aggression towards innocent and defenseless Muslim populations.
Now, members of Congress are working for Israel to eliminate the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech provisions for any American who dares support the world’s attempt to bring Israel into compliance with civilized society. The bill currently before Congress is an Israeli-inspired response to any American who supports, calls for, or requests information about the BDS campaign to put economic pressure on Israel “to withdraw from lands it occupied in 1967, end its [illegal] occupation of Palestinian territories, dismantle its illegal settlements in the West Bank, and allow Palestinians in exile to return to their homeland.”
BDS stands for “boycott, divest, and sanction” Israel for its unrelenting militaristic expansion into Palestine. Instead of using their “freedom of speech” to convince other Americans why Republicans think economic sanctions against Israel’s occupation and encroachment is wrong, and why Israel’s takeover of Palestinian land is godly and right, members of Congress supporting the bill want to criminalize opposing views – by abolishing any speech not supporting Israel’s illegal expansion into Palestine.
The so-called “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” is legislation that:
“Prohibits Americans from requesting the imposition of any boycott by a foreign country against a country which is friendly to the United States and from supporting any boycott fostered or imposed by an international organization [United Nations], or requesting imposition of any such boycott, against Israel.”
That patently unconstitutional bill prompted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to send a letter to Congress demanding a halt to legislation “denying freedom of speech” to any American advocating for, or simply “requesting information about,” any kind of boycott of Israel.
If any American does exercise their right to free speech, the bill calls for penalties including up to “20 years in prison and fines between $250,000 and $1 million;” simply for advocating for, or even requesting information about, a boycott of the state of Israel.
Some Americans might recall that Republicans went ballistic over an attempt to overturn Citizens United they claimed was a dirty filthy un-American attack on the First Amendment’s free speech provision. In Republicans’ minds, free speech is sacrosanct and cannot be challenged if the speech is in the form of tens-of-millions of corporate dollars for Republican candidates, but it is punishable by serious terms in federal prison and ungodly fines if the speech entails calling for sanctions against Israel.
The bill’s sponsors epitomize hypocrisy on free speech. For example, in 2014 Ted Cruz (R-TX) railed against attempts to overturn Citizens United saying:
“Typically, when Americans hear that members of the Senate are proposing repealing the free speech protections of the First Amendment, the usual reaction is a gasp of disbelief. Could we really have entered a world so extreme that our common ground no longer even includes the First Amendment of the Constitution?”
And in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Cruz wrote:
“Speech is more than just standing on a soap box yelling on a street corner. For centuries the Supreme Court has rightly concluded that free speech includes writing and distributing pamphlets, putting up billboards, displaying yard signs, launching a website, and running radio and television ads.”
One of Cruz’s Texas cohorts, Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn, said:
“I guarantee that none of my constituents suggested we need to repeal the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” And then he claimed the overturn Citizens United amendment was:
“A vote to silence them. Tell them to sit down, be quiet, we are in charge and in control.”
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is also a co-sponsor of the bill to muzzle citizens’ voices and in 2015 joined Cruz and Hatch in railing against overturning Citizens United on Free Speech grounds. He said:
“Supporters of this radical proposal apparently believe that freedom itself is the problem. That view is contrary to the most fundamental principles of this republic, and incompatible with a free society. Freedom is not the problem, it is the solution.”
Republican Senator Pat Roberts (KS) concurred with Cruz, Hatch, and Cornyn that overturning Citizens United was an attack on free speech and added that it was an assault on democracy. He said:
“In our system of government, all voices have the right to be heard. The First Amendment gives them that right. … We have a system that allows all voices to be heard, even those that oppose the majority. That is not the antithetical to democracy; it is the essence of democracy. So it is time, it seems to me, to stop pretending that allowing more voices to be heard somehow poses a danger just because we don’t like what they are saying.”
Another Republican attacking the attempt to overturn Citizens United, Senator Deb Fischer (NE) actually told her Senate colleagues that:
“Over the preceding five weeks visiting constituents, not a single Nebraskan told me to go back to Washington and vote to limit free speech.” She said overturning Citizens United was “gutting the First Amendment and the principles of free speech that have endured since the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791.” And that “it would actually diminish democratic participation and decrease freedom.”
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) complained that overturning Citizens United was tantamount to:
“Amending the Bill of Rights. It would amend one of the most important of those rights — the right of free speech. The First Amendment provides that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech.”
Of course Grassley is right; the First Amendment does indeed provide that “Congress shall make no law abridging free speech.” And yet that is precisely what he and the other four co-sponsors of the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” are calling for because their loyalty to Israel’s inhumanity supersedes their phony respect for the First Amendment.
There are really two lessons for Americans here. First, Republicans only care about the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights, when it serves their purposes. And second, that they have no qualms severely punishing Americans who exercise their First Amendment freedom of speech by daring to oppose Israeli aggression against Palestinians.