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US Senators vote down anti-BDS, pro-Israeli bill

Jan. 10, 2019 12:23 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 11, 2019 2:53 P.M.)
WASHINGTON (Ma'an) -- The United States Senate voted down in a cloture vote, on Tuesday, a bill aimed at fighting boycott of Israel spearheaded by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

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."

The bill 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.

Rubio’s proposed legislation also included a number of bills regarding US security assistance to Israel and Jordan, as well as a set of new steps against the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad.

The bill was voted down 56-44, short of the 60-vote threshold in the US Senate, with all but four Democrats voting against.

Forty-three Senate Democrats, including many who have previously supported legislation against BDS and in favor of security assistance to Israel, voted against proceeding the debate on the bill.

According to a press statement by the Institute For Middle East Understanding (IMEU), 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.

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

Khalili stressed, “This bill, together with anti-boycott laws it seeks to encourage, is part of a much larger effort to undermine Palestine advocacy.”

Rebecca Vilkomerson, the 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.”

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