US Senate advances anti-BDS legislation

The diverse bill also includes aid to Israel, Jordan, and civilians in war-torn Syria.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

The U.S. Senate advanced legislation Monday against the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.  Movement on the bill had been delayed by the U.S. government shutdown, which was lifted at least temporarily over the weekend.

The legislation, spearheaded by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, also faced opposition from those who argued that the right to boycott is protected by the U.S. First Amendment, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The bill, labeled as the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, advanced by a vote of 74-19.

The legislative package includes a separate measure to enshrine into U.S. law an agreement on providing Israel with $38 billion in security assistance over the course of a decade. It had been previously been part only of a memorandum of understanding reached during the Obama administration.

The diverse legislative act also includes aid to the Jordanian government and Syrian civilians.

All Republican senators voted for the package but Democrats were divided.

Among the Democrats who gave their backing was Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer. Among those who objected was Senator Bernie Sanders, who tweeted: “While I do not support the BDS movement, we must defend every American’s constitutional right to peacefully engage in political activity. It is clear to me that” the legislation “would violate Americans’ First Amendment rights” for free speech.

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Rubio had been pushing hard to make this the first Senate bill introduced in the new Congress, which took office at the beginning of the month. The Florida senator had also fought the BDS movement in the past.

Democrats had refused to consider legislation not aimed at ending the shutdown.