Chris Murphy’s vote on the so-call BDS bill was misguided
It’s disappointing that Chris Murphy was among the minority of senators who voted against the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019,” on the unconvincing grounds that he believes its anti-discrimination provisions, incorporated from the proposed Combating BDS Act, “endorse unconstitutional restrictions on speech.”
The proposed legislation does no such thing. Obviously, the legislation would not supersede the Constitution, and any state legislation that restricted speech in conflict with the Constitution would be struck down by the courts. The law would merely prevent BDSers from getting anti-discrimination laws struck down based on allegations that they conflict with other, sub-constitutional Federal laws. A Bloomberg opinion piece opposing the legislation concedes as much, even in its title, “Is the Anti-BDS Bill Constitutional? Yes, But … .”
So much for the Constitutional argument.
Consider the following tale of two rentals in Judea.
An Arab family lives in a home that was actually owned and occupied by a Jewish family until 1948, when Jordan conquered the area, kicked out all the Jews and renamed it the “West Bank.” The family decides to list the home for rental with AirBNB. No problem.
Nearby, in Gush Etzion, a Jewish family tries to do the same thing. They had also lived in the home prior to 1948, when they were kicked out by Jordan, but was able to return home when the area was recaptured by Israel during the 1967 war. But it has a big problem. AirBNB won’t list its rental, because the family is Jewish.
The proposed legislation would make clear that ordinary Federal laws and regulations wouldn’t prevent a state government from refusing to do business with AirBNB – which perhaps should change its name to AirBDS – because of such blatant discrimination against Jews. It has nothing to do with free speech and it’s hard to conceive anyone would object, on free speech grounds, to similar legislation dealing with boycotts targeting Blacks or Syrian immigrants.
Senator Blumenthal was right to support the legislation; Senator Murphy was misguided to oppose it.
The House of Representatives should join the Senate in overwhelmingly approving this moral and constitutional law and the Connecticut legislature should also quickly join the majority of states which have approved anti-BDS legislation.
Netanya, Israel and Natick, Massachusetts
The writer was a longtime resident of Connecticut.