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How did Michigan Senators vote on most recent version of anti-BDS legislation?

February 1, 2019

On Tuesday, the Senate voted on S.1  also known as the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019

Like a great deal of legislation, S. 1 contains several items in it, including Title IV – Combating BDS Act of 2019. The bill specifically  states: 

Nonpreemption of measures by State and local governments to divest from entities that engage in certain boycott, divestment, or sanctions activities targeting Israel or persons doing business in Israel or Israeli-controlled territories.

The bill was introduced by Senator Marco Rubio and it passed by a margin of 76 – 22. Michigan Senator Gary Peters voted against the bill, but Senator Debbie Stabenow voted for it.

The 76 Senators that voted for the bill, essentially bowed to pressure from AIPAC and Christians United For Israel (CUFI). 

The ACLU has taken a public position on this matter, not because it has anything to do with Israel, but because of the anti-free speech nature of the bill. The ACLU has stated

The bill at issue here, S. 1, would not criminalize boycotts of Israel on its own, although Congress has attempted to do that as well. Instead, it would encourage states to create laws that violate the First Amendment. These state laws would require government contractors — including teachers, lawyers, speech pathologists, newspapers and journalists, and even students who want to judge high school debate tournaments — to certify that they are not participating in such boycotts. In other words, they would make people choose between their livelihood and their First Amendment rights. In cases going back to the McCarthy era — when the government required employees to swear that they were not members of the Communist Party or engaged in “subversive” advocacy — the Supreme Court has made clear that the government cannot impose such a choice on its citizens.

The First Amendment dangers posed by these anti-boycott laws are even greater because their sponsors have made it crystal clear that they are designed to silence a particular viewpoint that is critical of Israeli and U.S. policy. As the name declares, the Combating BDS Act and the state anti-boycott laws it seeks to entrench are explicitly directed at a particular political viewpoint critical of Israeli government policies as well as U.S. support for those policies. This violates the core principle of the First Amendment — that the government cannot dictate to its citizens which causes they can and can’t support.

Beyond the defense of the First Amendment, what Senator Stabenow and the other 75 Senators who voted for S.1 essentially voted against the rights of Palestinians and their fight against Israeli Apartheid. For more information on the BDS campaign, check out the BDS Movement site here

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