(BDS & Lawmakers’ Criticism of Israel Excepted)
President Donald Trump has announced at this week’s CPAC conference that he will soon issue a Presidential Executive Order requiring universities across the US to uphold free speech on their campuses or be prepared to lose federal funding.
“Today I am proud to announce that I will be very soon signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars,” Trump said.
“I will be signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars” @realDonaldTrump #CPAC2019 #WhatMakesAmericaGreat pic.twitter.com/hyeNZ3jI6F
— CPAC 2019 (@CPAC) March 2, 2019
Yet in early February the Republican-controlled US Senate passed legislation allowing state governments to refuse to do business with companies that boycott Israel. The bill passed, 77-23, with 22 Democrats and Republican Rand Paul dissenting; Paul rightly argued that the legislation threatens free-speech rights.
As MintPress News observes,
The most controversial part of the bill by far is the “Combating BDS Act of 2019,” which would authorize state and local governments to retaliate commercially against entities that support BDS, such as by halting business with or refusing to contract or hire companies or individual citizens who either actively participate in or support the movement. A previous version of the bill included possible jail time as punishment for supporting a boycott of Israel or Israeli settlements, their violation of international law notwithstanding.
The legislation, which attests to the power of Israeli’s lobbying prowess, has yet to be voted on by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
Along these lines, in 2011 former Georgia Representative Cynthia McKinney explained that US lawmakers must swear allegiance to Israel or face inevitable expulsion from public office.
Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar incurred the wrath of the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee in February when she similarly suggested how the US Congress is beholden to the Israeli lobby. AIPAC used the incident to embark on a mini-fundraising venture.
— Mairav Zonszein מרב זונשיין (@MairavZ) February 13, 2019
Since 2004 the US Department of State includes a “Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.” If taken literally, the State Department’s definition of anti-semitism effectively bars any public criticism of Israeli foreign policy toward the Muslim world and occupied territories. This definition is applicable to the speech and activities of the BDS movement on US college campuses.
Boycotts of certain businesses and even countries is part of a long tradition of nonviolent political protest in the United States, contributing to, for example, the demise of South African apartheid in the 1980s.