US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib took a swipe at American lawmakers who are seeking to criminalise the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, in a tweet denouncing the move as "unconstitutional".
Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent, made the trenchant remarks on Twitter while sharing an article concerning an Israeli park in the Galilee that has introduced measures which critics and human rights group say is reminiscent of apartheid South Africa. A non-Jewish lawyer and her infant were barred from entering the public park last week triggering a legal battle over whether local authorities in Israel can segregate citizens on the basis of race.
The incident, which had many similarities with a public swimming pool in southern Israel that introduced "separate hours" for Jewish and Palestinian citizens, sparked a strong reaction. Human rights groups warned that the ban marked a growing trend in discriminatory policies within Israel and a clear attempt by the Jewish majority to explicitly separate public space on racial basis.
Bringing the Galilee incident to the attention of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is pushing through the anti-BDS bill, Tlaib said: "@HouseForeign wants to move forward w/ #HR246 #AntiBDS bill to silence opposition of Israel's blatantly racist policies ⬇️ that demonize both Palestinians & Ethiopians".
Our 1st Amd. right to free speech allows boycott of inhumane policies. This bill is unconstitutional. https://t.co/6VJUtBbogy
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) July 10, 2019
Tlaib criticised the bill brought forward by Republican representatives saying: "Our 1st Amd. right to free speech allows boycott of inhumane policies. This bill is unconstitutional."
The Combating BDS Act, as it is known, encourages states and local governments to pass laws prohibiting government contacts with anyone who does not sign what critics say is a McCarthyite loyalty oath pledging not to boycott for Palestinian rights. The bill has the strong backing of the most powerful anti-Palestinian lobby group in the US, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
While uncontroversial parts of Bill HR246 passed uncontested, the anti-BDS section has faced stiff challenges. Judges in Texas, Arizona and Kansas have ruled these laws to be violations of the First Amendment and the American Civil Liberties Union called the bill "unconstitutional".
Given the strong support Israel enjoys in Washington it's possible that the anti-BDS bill will eventually pass despite claims that it is unconstitutional. Israel, with the backing of anti-Palestinian lawmakers in the US, has been running a long battle to extinguish any movement resembling the anti-apartheid campaign that brought down the reign of white South Africa.