Versions of this letter were recently given to Rep. Adam Smith and the office of Sen. Maria Cantwell:
As veterans and as members of Veterans For Peace, we renounce wars of aggression, colonization and the oppression of vulnerable peoples. In an attack on the First Amendment’s fundamental right of free speech the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.720 and H.R.1697) would impose denial of loans, fines and even potentially jail time – on companies complying with “international governmental organization” (1) calls to boycott Israeli settlement products. Penalties include a $250,000 civil penalty and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years imprisonment, under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Thus, it seeks to drive a wedge between the Palestinians and those who would sympathize with their cause.
For almost 70 years, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination through colonization, racial discrimination, and military occupation. For 50 years, official US policy has recognized “that Israel’s settlements are violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and illegal under international law. The bill seeks to undermine this determination by penalizing companies refusing to do business with Israeli settlements and conversely attempts to legitimize their status.”(2)
As Palestine Legal has noted, “The Supreme Court has held that ‘speech on public issues occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to special protection.’”... The Court has specifically held that political boycotts, like boycotts for Palestinian rights, are unquestionably protected under the First Amendment.[Id.]The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, by seeking to penalize corporations which exercise that right, is an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of speech.”(3) This bill is an attempt to stifle our own efforts as part of the broader Palestine solidarity movement to pressure corporations to cut ties to Israel (for its violent denial of Palestinian rights) or even with blatantly illegal Israeli settlements.
We strongly urge that you not cosponsor or vote for the Israel Anti-Boycott Act because the bill is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech and an attempt to legitimize illegal Israeli settlements constructed on stolen land in occupied territory in violation of international law.
All veterans took an oath to defend the Constitution and to stand for the right of free speech. The right to express solidarity (and join) with the BDS movement is a fundamental right; it is also a clear expression of the First Amendment. Many of our soldiers sacrificed their lives defending our Constitution and the right of free speech. Let it not be in vain.
1 Includes the United Nations and the European Union
4 “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity..” -- https://bdsmovement.net/what-is-bds