mercredi 9 août 2017

‘Pummeled’ at town hall, Sen. Wyden says Israel Anti Boycott law is needed because ‘movement has grown’

«Pummeled» à la mairie, le sénateur Wyden dit que la loi anti-boycott d'"israël" est nécessaire parce que «le mouvement a augmenté»

Recent days have brought unmistakable signs that Israel is becoming a hot potato issue inside the Democratic base, and on Saturday Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon was repeatedly put on the defensive at a town hall at a Portland high school for his support of the Anti Israel Boycott Act, which would criminalize some forms of supporting boycott of Israel.

Wyden, who has a reputation for supporting civil rights, got flustered by hecklers and questioners. He said that he was “pummeled” by the matter and sought to assure the audience the law protects free speech and only applies to support for a foreign government’s boycott. “Say like the Arab League. If you’re working with foreign government, that’s essentially what we restricted in the past.”

A young person challenged the senator, to applause:

“What’s the impetus behind the bill? What are the behaviors that merited this bill’s existence?”

Wyden said:

I believe the concern is that the boycott movement has grown. I happen to believe that there is a line to be drawn between protecting the rights of the individuals, that’s why I described all the things that I’ve researched that a person can do that speak to your First Amendment rights. I think that’s different than being part of a boycott with the Arab League, that’s the distinction.

Later Wyden conceded that the bill could also apply to a boycott measure urged by the United Nations.

The Israeli government and pro-Israel lobby groups here have expressed fears about the growth of the boycott movement (BDS). Leaders of the boycott campaign say that it has gained traction because of Israel’s own conduct, including maintaining an occupation for 50 years and colonizing Palestinian areas with illegal settlements.

Wyden stressed that as a journalist’s son, he had made sure that 7 or 8 traditional forms of free expression are protected by the bill. The bill is based on a forty year history of anti-boycott legislation, for which “nobody has ever gone to jail.” Wyden was referring to laws against complying with the Arab League boycott of Israel passed by Congress in the ’70s.

The Israel angle dominated news coverage of Wyden’s town hall. “Wyden pressed on Israeli anti-boycott legislation, talks healthcare at Wilson High,” says the Oregonian. While the Portland Tribune headline says, “Wyden defends support of Israel boycott proposal: ‘no one has gone to jail’.” Jewish Insider and Haaretz have also grabbed the story.

The pushback against Wyden follows two Democratic senators going wobbly on Israel. Last week NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand took her name off the anti-boycott legislation. She was promptly targeted by the Israel lobby group AIPAC; but when a questioner mentioned her stance at the Wyden town hall, Gillibrand got applause.

Also last week NJ Senator Cory Booker voted against a pro-Israel bill to cut off money to the Palestinian Authority over its support for families of people who have violently resisted the occupation.

Even Israel advocates have said there is a political calculus in these moves. “Democrats Who Want to be President Back Away from Israel” was the headline at the National Review, by Jonathan Tobin. While Noah Pollak the writer formerly associated with the Emergency Committee for Israel said Booker was making “a political decision — a choice to associate himself with the Linda Sarsour wing of the party, which he believes is ascendant.”

The Linda Sarsour wing was ...

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