Israel boycott supporters face up to 20 years in jail under new US proposals

US senators lobby to criminalise support for an anti-Israel boycott campaign

The bill would criminalise action against the country

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A group of senators in the United States are lobbying to ensure it is illegal to express support for boycotts against Israel.

A total of 43 people - 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats - are moving to criminalise support for an international boycott or actions taken against the country. 

A number of organisations and individuals, including film director Ken Loach and Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters, have backed an ongoing boycott campaign organised by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which was founded 12 years ago.

However, if the bill goes through, expressing support for BDS or any other pro-boycott movement would become illegal. Those found guilty would reportedly face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison

The two primary sponsors of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act are Ben Cardin of Maryland, who is a Democrat, and Ohio senator Rob Portman, who is Republican.  

Already, opposition to this legislation is building in the Senate. The American Civil Liberties Union has urged senators to oppose it because of the threat it poses to freedom of speech.