This week, from his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., took aim at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act” on a 77 to 23 vote. The legislation included some of Rubio’s proposals including the “United States-Israel Security Authorization Assistance Act” that he introduced with U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and the “Combating BDS Act” that the Florida Republican brought out with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV.
Rubio welcomed the support of Senate Republicans and Democrats in passing the bill.
“Despite the growing influence of pro-BDS voices on the Left, a bipartisan supermajority in the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the pro-Israel Combating BDS Act and other bipartisan measures included in the Strengthening America’ Security in the Middle East Act,” Rubio said. “This bill’s security cooperation provisions will boost America’s important alliances with Israel and Jordan amid the Middle East’s growing dangers from the Iranian regime and the many terrorists groups who operate in the region. This bill will also hold the Syria’s Assad regime and its supporters accountable for their egregious human rights and crimes against humanity. I urge Speaker Pelosi to quickly take up and pass this important bill in the House of Representatives so that the president can sign it into law.”
Rubio also pushed back at the BDS movement in an essay published by the New York Times on Tuesday.
“A bipartisan supermajority in the Senate is poised to pass the Combating B.D.S. Act today. Yet a few of my colleagues — some on the Senate floor and one in an Iowa airport — recently echoed false claims made by anti-Israel activists and others that the bill violates Americans’ First Amendment rights,” Rubio wrote. “That line of argument is not only wrong but also provides cover for supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, who embrace an international campaign of discriminatory economic warfare against Israel, a fellow democracy and America’s strongest ally in the Middle East.
“Some proponents of B.D.S. claim — and perhaps even believe — that it is a movement meant to put pressure on Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank. But a cursory look at the public statements of B.D.S. leaders and key advocates show that this is nonsense. The goal of the movement is to eliminate any Jewish state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea,” Rubio added. “In a high-profile case in 2014, the B.D.S. movement drove the Israeli company SodaStream from the West Bank, despite SodaStream’s outstanding treatment of some 500 Palestinian employees who were left jobless by the move. When SodaStream then set up shop in the Israeli Negev Desert, B.D.S. proponents urged boycotting the company because they see nowhere within modern Israel that was not once Arab land.
“SodaStream is just one of many examples,” Rubio continued. “At a time when anti-Israel boycotts are popping up around the country and internationally, allies of Israel need to find new ways to defend against the evolving threat of economic warfare. That’s why, since 2015, more than 25 states, including Florida, have adopted laws or issued executive orders to divest from or prohibit contracts with companies that wage discriminatory economic warfare against Israel.
“B.D.S. supporters are challenging these state laws in federal court, arguing essentially that private companies have a fundamental right under the First Amendment to government contracts or to investment by public-sector pensions in their company stock,” Rubio wrote. “The problem is that there are no such rights. While the First Amendment protects the right of individuals to free speech, it does not protect the right of entities to engage in discriminatory conduct. Moreover, state governments have the right to set contracting and investment policies, including policies that exclude companies engaged in discriminatory commercial- or investment-related conduct targeting Israel.
“Enter the Combating B.D.S. Act, a bill that Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and I introduced to protect the right of states to do just that,” Rubio insisted.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.