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US senators amend anti-BDS bill after outcry

FILE - In this Monday, April 20, 2015 file photo, an Egyptian wears a T-shirt with a logo of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions), a campaign started by Palestinian activists to boycott Israel and Israeli-made goods, during the launch of its campaign a
AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File
In July, the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the mooted anti-boycott law

A US senator on Saturday announces changes to a proposed bipartisan bill that seeks to ban US businesses from boycotting Israel, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The current wording of the proposed legislation -- which boasts 51 co-sponsors -- would lever steep penalties on US entities who participate in boycotting Israel, and seeks to deny Export-Import Bank credit to companies who do so.

It was drafted in opposition to a UN Human Rights Council resolution urging member states to boycott Israel over its 50-years-long military control of the West Bank, as well as the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

In July, the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the mooted law for being unnecessarily harsh.

"This bill would impose civil and criminal punishment on individuals solely because of their political beliefs about Israel and its policies," the civil rights watchdog warned.

On Saturday the Baltimore Sun reported that Democratic Senator Ben Cardin had released a fresh version of the bill with the aim of allaying the ACLU's fears.


According to the paper, the new draft enshrines First Amendment business rights, adds a statement allowing US citizens to participate in "personal" boycotts and kept punishments to financial sanctions rather than criminal penalties.

“We have welcomed the public discussions that have been essential in focusing this bipartisan legislation in such a way that definitively upholds the rights of individual Americans while clarifying decades-old legislation,” Cardin was quoted as saying.

Other top sponsors of the bill reportedly support the changes.

In 1977 Congress passed legislation that fines US companies who agree to engage in the official Arab League boycott of Israel.

Typically, a handful of businesses every year are found to have violated the law and are hit with modest fines by the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security.

Several US states have already legislated anti-BDS laws.

In the wake of the devastating Hurricane Harvey in October last year, some victims in Texas were reportedly made to sign a document saying they did not support a boycott of Israel before they could receive aid, alarming some who broadly support the laws.



Far more toxic than believes! Their goal is the elimination of IL.

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