Congress to Criminalize Speech Not Supporting Israeli Aggression

 

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.

Trump Ambassador Warns U.N.To Stop Condemning Israeli Human Rights Abuses

Anyone who has been paying attention over the past year-and-a-half understands that the current administration is both no friend of international organizations and cooperation, or human rights. Still, it was a stunning revelation to learn that the Trump administration’s chief diplomat to the United Nations issued a not-so-veiled threat to extract its support and withdraw from the world organization’s Human Rights Council (H.R.C.) unless it meets Trump’s demands.

The big deal now is that with a Netanyahu-friendly imbecile in the White House, the official White House position is that America is damn sick and tired of the Human Rights Council condemning Israel for its never-ending human rights violations against the Palestinian people. It is also highly likely that the Trump administration is making a provocative threat against the H.R.C. because the Obama Administration refused to support Israel’s continued land seizure and encroachment into Palestine just six months ago.

Most people know that a U.N. Human Rights, or a Security Council, condemnation doesn’t carry any punitive consequences; if it did there would be a lot less human rights abuses. However, it does alert the offending nation that the world condemns a country that abuses human rights, usually of its own citizens.

However, in Israel’s case every criticism from the Human rights watchdog has concerned Israel’s abuse of the Palestinian people. The last U.N. condemnation was no different except that America abstained from protecting Israel’s encroachment into Palestine and did nothing to stop the Council from officially condemning the Jewish State. It was the first time in history that America did not condone Israel’s aggression by blocking the Security Council’s statement that Israel’s aggression into Palestine is illegal. Still, illegal or not, nothing came from the condemnation but it was enough irritation that the Trump White House is issuing yet another threat to exit an important world organization if it fails to meet Trump’s demands.

The news of the warning came in the form of an opinion piece in the Washington Post by U.N. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. The United States, under the Trump administration, warned that if the U.N. H.R.C. does not cease its “anti-Israel bias,” America will withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Ms. Haley will push for Trump-demanded reforms that include condemning nations that Trump decides are “bad actors” and removal of any criticism of Israel for its actions against Palestinians. Haley said Trump will decide whether to withdraw from the H.R.C after its three-week session in Geneva ends at the end of this month.

The crux of Haley’s piece is that it just isn’t fair to call out Israel’s human rights violations when there are two or three countries on the Council that are guilty of human rights violations. It is noteworthy that on several occasions the H.R.C. has condemned the United States for abusing its own citizens’ basic human rights due to Republican legislation; the last condemnation in March was over several Republican state legislatures attempting to criminalize peaceful protests. It is not beyond the realm of believability to think Trump wants out of the H.R.C. due to criticism of his policy that peaceful protests against his regime are criminal acts.

Haley complained that there wasn’t enough criticism of Iran, Venezuela and Cuba, and that there is far too much focus by the entire organization’s members on the way Israel abuses the Palestinians. Her solution is for the H.R.C. to implement the “reforms” demanded by the Trump administration forthwith or America will decide to withdraw from the Human Rights Council. Maybe Haley is unaware of how often the H.R.C. has condemned America’s human rights violations while it is a member in good standing on the Council, because she complained that:

The presence of multiple human rights-violating countries on the Human Rights Council has damaged both the reputation of the council and the cause of human rights. When the world’s preeminent human rights body is turned into a haven for dictators, the idea of international cooperation in support of human dignity is discredited.”

If, as Haley demands, countries with “multiple human rights violations” damage the Council’s reputation and warrant being kicked out of the Council according to Trump’s demands, America will not have to “withdraw;” it will be evicted according to the Trump’s contention that no human rights violators be allowed to remain on the Council. And, it is noteworthy that according to Trump’s standards, Israel has every right to abuse Palestinians because they are Muslims and he is Netanyahu’s friend; a friendship founded on mutual adoration for bullies.

There is a reason, and a damned good one, the H.R.C. condemns Israel’s abuse of the Palestinian people; they have put the Palestinians on a fenced-in reservation with no hope of ever getting out. And, Israel is systematically taking Palestinian land not unlike Russia’s annexation of Crimea; an act Haley complained didn’t get a harsh enough H.R.C. condemnation.

Haley ended her mini-screed, and warning, with another veiled threat that the organization cannot exist unless it adopts the Trump administration’s reforms. She said,

“I believe the vision of the Human Rights Council is still achievable, but not without change. It is the responsibility of the United Nations to reclaim this vision and to restore the legitimacy of universal human rights.”  (author bold)

What Haley didn’t write, but clearly implied in her rant, was that the H.R.C. can only achieve its vision if it stops criticizing Israel’s human rights violations, and only if America is the only the only human rights violator allowed to stay on the Council. It is unclear how much of Haley’s warning was her idea, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it came straight from the Trump.