Corporate Free Speech and the Israel Lobby

As you may have read, the latest ploy by the Netanyahu government and its allies in the U.S. Senate is a provision that would apply criminal penalties against U.S. corporations that boycott companies that operate in the occupied West Bank. This is opposed by the liberal pro-Israel organization, J Street, and the ACLU.

The measure, in the form of a Senate rider to the emergency bill to keep the government open, is one of those ideas that gives bipartisanship a bad name. Its lead cosponsors are Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, and Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio.

The rider is especially sneaky in that it makes no distinction between the occupied West Bank, where the boycotts have broad support, and the attempt by some in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to impose boycotts on Israel itself, which liberals tend to reject for good reason.

This measure is unwise—and maybe it’s also unconstitutional. Prior to the far-right hijacking of the Supreme Court, this argument would have been far-fetched. If Congress wants to regulate corporate behavior, fine. But the Roberts Court has been highly inventive in redefining corporations as citizens—for purposes of making campaign donations, undermining reproductive rights, discriminating against gays and lesbians—all in the name of corporate free speech.

So, hey, if our corporate brethren want to boycott some sweatshop in the occupied West Bank, that’s their right as citizens, isn’t it? Maybe we’ll get one decent, accidental byproduct of the wretched Roberts doctrine on corporate citizenship.

As my grandfather used to say, “Shouldn’t be a total loss.”

By |2018-12-19T18:04:09+00:00December 19th, 2018|Kuttner on TAP|0 Comments

About the Author:

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect as well as a Demos Distinguished Senior Fellow. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week, and continues to write columns in the Boston Globe. He co-founded the Economic Policy Institute in Washington and serves on its executive committee.

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