Can the ‘Israel Anti-Boycott’ Bills Be ‘Fixed’?

By Edith Garwood, Country Specialist for Israel/OPT/Palestine, Amnesty International USA

Can the ‘Israel Anti-Boycott’ bills that are being introduced in the Senate (S. 720) and in the House of Representatives (HR1697), somehow be ‘fixed’?

The answer is “No”.

In addition to the infringement on a person’s rights to freedom of expression and association, including the right to protest using non-violent action that others have mentioned as concerns, both pieces of legislation go directly against the U.S. government’s obligation under international law to not recognize or assist an illegal situation.

Amnesty International has sent a letter to the two main sponsors of the bill, Senator Benjamin Cardin (D, MD) and Representative Peter Roskam (R, IL), outlining our many concerns. The letters state,

“The U.S. cannot, without acting in violation of its legal obligations, support a law that encourages maintaining and enhancing relations with illegal entities like the Israeli settlements built in occupied territory.”

Both S720 and HR1697 encourage economic and technological partnerships and investment with not only entities in the State of Israel proper, but also with Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

This would not only recognize and normalize an illegal situation, but also directly assist in the financing and sustaining of an illegal situation — the Israeli settlement enterprise.

The U.S. ratified the 1946 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (‘Convention’) over 60 years ago. All parties must “ensure respect” for the Convention, and it is the Geneva Convention that defines Israel’s settlement enterprise as unlawful. Not only are settlements unlawful, Israel’s settlements constitute war crimes.

This fact is widely accepted by the international community. The International Court of Justice, UN human rights treaty bodies, and the International Committee of the Red Cross — the ‘guardian’ of international humanitarian law — have repeatedly re-affirmed that Israel’s settlement building in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is unlawful.

While Israel and supporters of settlement expansion dispute this fact, their legal arguments are a minority opinion and considered fringe.

Not only are settlements unlawful and a war crime in themselves, they are one of the main driving forces behind a large number of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Amnesty International has documented these violations for decades.

According to customary international humanitarian law, the U.S. must not encourage violations of international humanitarian law, but is actually under an obligation to exert influence to stop such violations. These bills encourage

“…enhanced, governmentwide (sic), coordinated United States-Israel scientific and technological cooperation in civilian areas …”, including those ‘areas’ beyond the 1949 Armistice Line. In other words, with the illegal, Israeli settlements built in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

No matter how much manipulation of language takes place to try ‘to fix’ these pieces of legislation to not infringe upon a person’s right to express their conscientiously held belief using non-violent actions, the bill would still codify the intentional violation of the government’s obligation to not recognize or assist an illegal situation.

The bills are ill conceived and the sponsors should reconsider their efforts to pass the bills. If the bills advance, members of the House and Senate must vote to reject them completely.

We've been fighting the bad guys since 1961 - you can join us! Official Amnesty International USA profile.

We've been fighting the bad guys since 1961 - you can join us! Official Amnesty International USA profile.