“The grassroots is working. it’s working brilliantly.” — New York Senator Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
I had never attended a town hall before, something I was a little ashamed to admit, as I consider myself an activist in deed and not just name. But, there’s a first time for everything, I suppose.
Participants who wished to ask questions were asked to drop in a fishbowl half of the blue tickets they were presented upon admission, which Ulster County Executive Mike Hein randomly fished out during the Q & A portion of the event.
Unfortunately, my number was never pulled, so I never asked the senator my question about how the Democratic Party is handling the issue of gerrymandering as we creep ever closer to 2018 mid-term elections.
Fortunately, someone asked a question that brought me back to a recently published Liberal America article titled, “‘Protest Israel, Go To Prison’–Says A Bill Introduced In The Senate.”
I was pleased not only because I was familiar with the bill in question but because others were familiar with it as well, and it opened up quite a lengthy line of discussion from New York’s junior senator.
Criminalizing Constitutional Rights
On March 23, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced legislation that, if passed, would essentially criminalize anti-Israeli rhetoric.
In other words, as the Liberal America article begins:
“Boycott Israel, go to prison.”
The piece goes on to state:
“This type of legislation is not surprising coming from Republicans. But the sponsor is Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and it has several Democratic cosponsors.”
Among those cosponsors was Senator Gillibrand.
When asked about it, Gillibrand stated unequivocally she removed her name from the co-sponsor list. (She did. I checked.)
S.720 – Israel Anti-Boycott Act, drafted with the help of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), states:
“This bill declares that Congress: (1) opposes the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution of March 24, 2016, which urges countries to pressure companies to divest from, or break contracts with, Israel; and (2) encourages full implementation of the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 through enhanced, governmentwide, coordinated U.S.-Israel scientific and technological cooperation in civilian areas.”
The most insidious and arguably unconstitutional part is embedded in section four:
“Violations Of Section 8(a).—Whoever knowingly violates or conspires to or attempts to violate any provision of section 8(a) or any regulation, order, or license issued thereunder shall be fined in accordance with section 206 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1705).”
Section 206 of the International Economic Powers Act states:
“A person who willfully commits, willfully attempts to commit, or willfully conspires to commit, or aids or abets in the commission of, an unlawful act described in subsection (a) shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $1,000,000, or if a natural person, may be imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both.”
Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a letter urging lawmakers to oppose the bill, arguing:
“[It] would punish individuals for no reason other than their political beliefs.”
And indeed, I can’t speak for senators of other states, but Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand got a lot of shit for supporting this from their democratic constituents, myself included.
So, the next time you hear someone claim there is no point to speaking out, that contacting our lawmakers makes no difference, cite this example among the myriad others we have seen over the past year and a half.
Activism works, but only if we exercise it. Spouting off to our Facebook friends doesn’t achieve anything. We want something done? Let our elected officials hear about it. If they don’t listen, vote the bums out!
Senator Gillibrand listened. She’s one of the good ones.
Thank you, Senator!
Featured Image Via Follownews.