U.S. Senate Defends Israeli Government From Boycotts

First and Bipartisan Bill in the Midst of the Shutdown


Chuck Schumer speaking at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., on March 5, 2018. (Sipa USA via AP)

Ryan Grim and Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, January 5 2019

When each new Congress is gaveled into session, the chambers attach symbolic importance to the first piece of legislation to be considered. For that reason, it bears the lofty designation of H.R.1 in the House and S.1 in the Senate.

In the newly controlled Democratic House, H.R.1 — meant to signal the new majority’s priorities — is an anti-corruption bill that combines election and campaign finance reform, strengthening of voting rights, and matching public funds for small-dollar candidates. In the 2017 Senate, the GOP-controlled S.1 was a bill, called the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” that, among other provisions, cut various forms of corporate taxes.

But in the 2019 GOP-controlled Senate, the first bill to be considered — S.1 — is not designed to protect American workers, bolster U.S. companies, or address the various debates over border security and immigration. It’s not a bill to open the government. Instead, according to multiple sources involved in the legislative process, S.1 will be a compendium containing a handful of foreign policy-related measures, the main one of which is a provision — with Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio as a lead sponsor — to defend the Israeli government. The bill is a top legislative priority for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

In the previous Congress, that measure was known as S.170, and it gives state and local governments explicit legal authority to boycott any U.S. companies which themselves are participating in a boycott against Israel. As The Intercept reported last month, 26 states now have enacted some version of a law to punish or otherwise sanction entities that participate in or support the boycott of Israel, while similar laws are pending in at least 13 additional states. Rubio’s bill is designed to strengthen the legal basis to defend those Israel-protecting laws from constitutional challenge.

Punishment aimed at companies that choose to boycott Israel can also sweep up individual American citizens in its punitive net because individual contractors often work for state or local governments under the auspices of a sole proprietorship or some other business entity. That was the case with Texas elementary school speech pathologist Bahia Amawi, who lost her job working with autistic and speech-impaired children in Austin because she refused to promise not to boycott goods produced in Israel and/or illegal Israeli settlements.

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January 12, 2019
#CastLeadPlus10 Facebook Live

Just World Educational, January 6, 2019

A “FaceBook Live” session on Operation Cast Lead and its legacies, featuring the talented Gaza-Palestinian activist Yousef Al-Jamal, will be held Saturday, January 12, at 11 am Central Time (7 pm Palestine.)

Yousef was in Gaza during Cast Lead. He was a contributor to the Gaza Writes Back short-story collection; editor of The Prisoners’ Diaries; a participant in the 3-week speaking tour three young Gaza writers made of the United States back in 2014; and a key resource in the #GazaChat on Twitter organized in the summer of 2017.

Please be sure to put this January 12 FB-Live appearance on your calendar so you can watch it in real time and take part in the discussion there!

Equally important, if you have questions that you want him to address, send them to us in advance or tweet them to @JustWorldEd using the #CastLeadPlus10 hashtag.

These are the materials that we’ve developed especially for the #CastLeadPlus10 campaign.

Our podcast miniseries:

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CODEPINK: Bank of NY Mellon — Divest from Elbit Systems

CODEPINK, December 31, 2018

Huge News! Last week HSBC Bank in the UK announced it will be divesting from Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest weapons company, citing international law and human rights concerns.

The exciting news comes on the heels of several victories for Palestinian rights in just the past couple of month — NYU ending its relationship with Tel Aviv university, Airbnb withdrawing from illegal Israeli settlements, and newly elected Congress members announcing support for BDS and that they will skip the trip to Israel with AIPAC.

Inspired by the UK’s victory and ready for lots more wins in 2019, we are calling on Wall Street-based Bank of NY Mellon to follow HSBC’s lead and divest from Elbit.

Bank of NY Mellon claims to be committed to socially responsible investment and the UN Sustainable Development goals, but holds over $6 million worth of shares in Elbit Systems. Elbit manufactures drones and surveillance technology, cannons for internationally banned cluster munitions, and white phosphorus, used on the people of Gaza in 2008-2009. Elbit also contracts with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for surveillance along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Last month we visited BNY Mellon’s headquarters in lower Manhattan to hand deliver our letter to Chair of Corporate Social Responsibility Heidi DuBois outlining the many ways that Elbit is responsible for death, repression, and war crimes. Her response was that they take the issues we raise “very seriously” but that investments reflect fiduciary responsibilities to clients.

Help us tell BNY Mellon there is nothing sustainable about war crimes, surveillance, and occupation. Divest from Elbit Systems!

Last week’s victory by UK campaigners shows that persistent organizing works. Let’s put the pressure on BNY Mellon to live up to the corporate social responsibility values they claim to hold. Join us in telling them to divest from Elbit.

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