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Democrats split as US Senate advances anti-BDS law

January 29, 2019 at 11:38 am

Demonstrators hold a placard urging the international community to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign [Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images]

The United States Senate voted yesterday to advance legislation that would crackdown on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, although Democrats were split.

The Israeli government and pro-Israel advocacy groups in the US have been pushing for federal legislation to help suppress the growing civil society boycott of Israel.

According to Politico, “Democrats, however, remain divided over the legislation, with some claiming it would impede free speech”, echoing the concerns of civil liberties groups, as well as Palestinian-Americans and their allies.

The Senate vote was carried 74-19; “although most Republicans voted for the bill to move forward, Democrats were split 24-19”.

READ: Israel accuses EU of funding NGOs that support BDS

The latest developments came after Democrats blocked votes on any legislation for weeks, in protest over the government shutdown. Politico noted that “Monday was the fourth time Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brought the bill for a cloture vote”.

“Though Senate Democrats were filibustering this pro-Israel legislation with the thin excuse that they didn’t want to take up any other business, it turns out it was just the pro-Israel legislation that was off-limits,” McConnell said in his floor remarks yesterday.

“I oppose it because it limits the right of individuals to express themselves,” Senator Dick Durbin said prior to the vote, referring to the BDS provision. “I don’t think it’s anti-Semitic [to vote no]. It’s because of the Bill of Rights”.

READ: How AIPAC-Israel agenda became US priority

Politico noted that “of the 2020 candidates or possible candidates, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) voted on the motion to proceed while Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against it.”

Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker did not vote.

“The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of the bill in the coming days,” the report added.