Tell Congress: Freedom of speech must remain guaranteed! 

Contact your legislators at the ELCA Action Center!

Congress is considering two dangerous bills that could undermine the work of advocates for a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act (H.R. 1697 and S. 720)

and the Combating BDS Act of 2017 (S. 170) are part of a larger effort at the federal and state levels to curb freedom of speech in relation to Israeli government policies with respect to the Occupied Territories.

In July the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote to members of the Senate to urge them to oppose and refrain from co-sponsoring the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. The ACLU writes that “the impacts of the legislation would be antithetical to free speech protections enshrined in the First Amendment.”

As explained by Lara Friedman in the “Legislative Round-Up,” the Israel Anti-Boycott Act would, among other things, “amend core U.S. law regarding foreign boycotts … to make it illegal for U.S. companies to boycott or otherwise discriminate against settlements based on calls by the UN or the EU.”  The Combating BDS Act is meant to support state-level anti-BDS legislation “by affirming the legal authority of state and local governments to take tangible actions to counter economic warfare against Israel,” as stated in the news release introducing the bill. The bills  imply that opposition to Israel’s practices in the Occupied Territories is the same as being anti-Israel. The ELCA envisions “Israelis and Palestinians co-existing in justice and peace, as citizens of viable and secure Israeli and Palestinian states” and, therefore, rejects any attempt to portray criticism of Israel’s practices in the Occupied Territories as opposition to Israel’s existence.  While the ELCA has a policy of not divesting in relation to Israel and Palestine, does not have a policy supporting boycotts of goods manufactured in the Occupied Territories or of Israeli goods and has not called for sanctions, freedom of speech is understood to be a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. 

Besides the serious problem of curtailing free expression, both bills also conflate Israel and the settlements, erasing the distinction between Israel and its illegal settlements in the West Bank, in contradiction of long-standing U.S. policy and international law.

These bills would put legal obstacles in the way of non-violent peaceful action meant to bring about social change and would legislate against the freedom to make choices in the stewardship of our financial resources.

Contact your members of Congress today. Let them know you oppose the Anti-Boycott Act and the Combating BDS Act that stifle free speech and stand in the way of exercising moral choices in using our financial resources.

Congress is currently on recess and so your members of Congress are more likely to be in their home state right now. We encourage you to reach out to them by email, phone, and/or in person.

For further information:

The Stealth Campaign to Support Settlements – In Congress

The Stealth Campaign to Support Settlements – In States

Israel Anti-Boycott Act Is Unconstitutional Infringement on Free Speech, Attempt to Legitimize Israeli Settlements

Justices Decide for N.A.A.C.P. in Boycott Case

Employing Economic Measures as Nonviolent Tools for Justice in the Israeli-Palestinian Context

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