The US Senate voted down, in a cloture vote on Tuesday, a bill aimed at impeding the international boycott of Israel spearheaded by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, according to a press statement by the Institute For Middle East Understanding (IMEU).

Republican Senators Marco Rubio, James Risch, Cory Gardner, and Mitch McConnell proposed the Senate’s first 2019 bill, S.B.1, “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019”, which shields Israel for its ongoing human rights violations against the Palestinian people and calls to punish those that engage in boycotting Israel for violating international law and human rights.

The bill would have also codified into law $38 billion in defense assistance for Israel over 10 years and would protect states and local governments that pass laws punishing individuals and companies who endorse the boycott, divestment and sanction of Israel in support of Palestinian human rights, said IMEU, according to WAFA.

“Our elected officials’ desire to shield Israel from scrutiny for its systematic violations of Palestinian rights cannot justify undermining our constitutional rights,” said Zoha Khalili, staff attorney with Palestine Legal.

“This bill, together with anti-boycott laws it seeks to encourage, is part of a much larger effort to undermine Palestine advocacy. These laws have already been enacted in 26 states. We have seen not only their chilling impact on boycotts for Palestinian rights, but real material consequences for everyday Americans, like a speech pathologist in Texas who lost her job and a lawyer in Arizona who can no longer provide services to people in jail in his county. This kind of repression of growing social justice movements has happened before, and we must make sure our lawmakers know we will not stand for it again.”

Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said, “The continuing efforts to subvert Constitutional rights through anti-BDS bills in Congress are alarming. That elected officials in both houses are standing up for free speech and the right to speak out against injustice by opposing these bills is an encouraging sign that speaking out for Palestinian rights is increasingly recognized as an integral part of the progressive agenda.”

Josh Ruebner, Policy Director, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, added: “Today’s vote by Senate Democrats to prevent consideration of S.1—a bill that would encourage states to punish people who boycott for Palestinian rights and authorize $38 billion of weapons to Israel—is an important step in the right direction in changing US policy to support freedom, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people. This vote more accurately aligns Democratic Senators with the base of its party, which increasingly supports Palestinian rights and objects to Israel’s separate-and-unequal apartheid policies toward Palestinians. It also hints at the exciting possibilities presented by a new Congress with so many members who understand that Palestinian rights are part of a true progressive politic.”

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