January 20, 2019

Bernie Sanders Wants a Real Debate on Israel Policy

“Earlier this week I wrote about the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a piece of legislation that some Democrats and Republicans are hoping to quietly attach to a budget bill so it can be passed into law. The bill would bar American companies and individuals from participating in certain boycotts of Israel, and, though even its supporters say it would have minimal practical impact, it represents a serious attack on fundamental principles of free speech.

The bill is also part of a broad nationwide movement playing out at both the federal and state level to quash criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud government and its policies toward Palestinians, an effort that Democrats unfortunately have participated in far too often.

Now two senators — Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — have a plan to try to do something about this. They are coming out against that measure, which could help realize the larger goal of forcing a genuine debate in Congress that does not place such criticism off limits.

It is a lack of debate about Israel — not just about the Netanyahu government’s policies but also about how we in America should react to them — that allows provisions such as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act to flourish. But that also means that if you draw enough attention to them, things can change. We may be at a point where politicians who would previously have gone along precisely because it seemed like the easiest thing to do given that few people were watching are now having second thoughts. And that’s what makes this an important lesson in how politics works.”

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