While the ACLU has based its opposition on the concern that the legislation violates the free speech rights of American citizens, MoveOn has taken a more expansive approach addressing both the concern with free speech and the fact that S.720 “erases the distinction in U.S. law between Israel and Israeli settlements.”
Given the capacity of both organizations to influence and organize liberal opinion, some Democratic senators have felt compelled to either justify their support for the bill or to distance themselves from it. In too many instances, these efforts have been awkward.
Two sponsors, Sens. Cardin and Ron Wyden (D-OR), have gone to great, but unconvincing, lengths to explain that S.720 does not violate an individual’s right to free speech. They argue that the bill is only directed at businesses or individuals who boycott Israel in response to international entities (like the U.N. or the European Union). But what they cannot explain is how punishing an American citizen who advocates for a U.N. boycott would not violate that citizen’s right to free speech.
Cardin, Wyden and other Democrats who support S.720 also go to great lengths to pledge their support for a “two-state solution.” But their pledges are hollow, since they fail to acknowledge that the provision of S.720 that protects Israel’s settlement enterprise (“entities organized under the laws of Israel”) makes realization of a “two-state solution” impossible—given the location, size and continued expansion of these illegal settlements.
Even those who have come out against S.720 have had some difficulty explaining themselves. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), for example, was one of the bill’s early endorsers. She courageously removed her name as a sponsor after learning of the free speech concerns of constitutional lawyers, saying
“I cannot support the bill in its current form if it can be interpreted as stifling or chilling free speech… So I took my name off the bill.”