In the southern West Bank city of Dura, shopkeeper Murad Amro says he is trying to comply with the Palestinian Authority's call for a boycott, but his customers love Israeli coffee and milk. The Palestinian Authority declared a boycott of six major Israeli food companies in February to protest Israel's freezing of $125 million in tax tranfers. (Daniella Cheslow/McClatchy DC/TNS)

Guest Opinion: Congress’ Israel Anti-Boycott bill is Anti-Free Speech

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Congress’ proposal of the Israel Anti-Boycott bill undermines the first amendment.

There is a bill in Congress — both the House and the Senate — called the anti-boycott bill. To me, that sounds almost un-American. After all, boycotts are a time-honored tradition in this US of A. They were used in the American South to protest Jim Crow laws. Rosa Parks and the bus boycott are etched in our collective memory. I even called for one myself when my younger son was a newborn and a local restaurant wanted me to nurse him in the toilet. It caused quite a stir. We used boycotts to protest apartheid in South Africa. And apartheid fell. Now Congress wants to outlaw boycotts? The Supreme Court has called boycott a form of speech. Therefore, if this bill became law, it would be a violation of freedom of speech, the First Amendment to the Constitution. So why is Congress even considering it? Because, the first part of the bill’s name is Israel. That’s right. It is the Israel Anti-Boycott bill.

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Phyllis Bennis will speak at the Iowa City Public Library Meeting Room A on Sept. 29 at 6:30 p.m. Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at IPS, working as a writer, activist, and analyst on Middle East and U.N. issues. She is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam and has appeared on many media shows, including MSNBC. She will speak on the topic of “Current Middle Eastern Affairs.” Sponsors include United Methodists for Kairos Response, Iowans for Palestine, the UI Center for Human Rights, and Veterans for Peace. Bennis will address the issue of the anti-Israel boycott bills and many other current issues in the Middle East.  Join us for her view.

 – Pat Minor

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