How the American Studies Association shot itself and the BDS movement in the foot
The US House and Senate passed and sent to President Obama on Wednesday Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) which constitute by far the most effective way of combating BDS: They bar trade agreements with countries that boycott Israel. That's you, Europe!
Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL), who has been instrumental in anti-BDS legislation, issued the following statement today:
Today, Congressman Peter Roskam (IL-06), co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, released the following statement after House and Senate passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which includes bipartisan language Roskam authored to combat the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. These provisions, which were originally introduced as Roskam’s H.R. 825, the U.S.-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act, were unanimously adopted into the House and Senate versions of TPA in April.
“Today, for the first time in nearly four decades, Congress sent legislation to the President’s desk to combat efforts to isolate and delegitimize the State of Israel. The recent wave of boycotts originating in Europe, including French telecom company Orange’s decision this month to sever ties with Israel, demands a robust response from the United States. This is that response. The bipartisan TPA provisions I authored are simple: if you want free trade with the United States, you can’t boycott Israel. After today, discouraging economic warfare against Israel will be central to our free trade negotiations with the European Union. Congress will not be complicit in the marginalization of our ally Israel by watching these attacks from the sidelines. Instead, we have decided to fight back against the BDS movement and ensure the continued strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”Those trade provisions, however, did not just happen.
The Jerusalem Post accurately traces the passage today of trade legislation with strong anti-boycott language directly to the ASA boycott (emphasis added):
“Four decades have passed since Congress last agreed on a law pushing back against boycotts of Israel worldwide. That streak was broken by the Senate Wednesday, at a moment perhaps prescient, as European capitals consider new measures to highlight and punish Israel’s continued “occupation” of the West Bank….
TPA, which passed through the Senate and landed on the president’s desk, includes roughly 150 trade negotiating objectives – requirements of the president, as mandated by Congress, to raise specific US priorities in its negotiations.
One of those objectives is to push back against efforts within the EU to sponsor the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel….
The process began with a December 2013 op-ed in Politico Magazine written by Michael Oren, then Israel’s ambassador to the United States, which challenged Congress to respond to the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israel – by no means the first protest of its kind, but an early sign of what was to come from similar organizations based in Europe.
A letter of support circulated around Capitol Hill, signatures were collected, and a bill was ultimately passed reinforcing Congress’s commitment to academic freedom. But the concern lay in the tactic.
For more on the ASA's pivotal role in this legislation, read the whole thing.What if measures taken by ASA were used by other organizations against Israel as a form of economic warfare? Several congressmen, including Roskam, made note that the first free trade agreement signed by the US was with Israel. They sought a legislative solution with teeth: a bill that would establish any future trade pact with foreign nations boycotting Israel as being in direct contravention of the existing US-Israel Free Trade Agreement.That’s right folks, the ASA boycott may not have hurt Israel much, but it led directly to the trade legislation which has dealt a damaging blow to the BDS movement.