Podcast: Eugene Kontorovich Explains Congress’s Effort to Counter BDS

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The Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 was the very first piece of Senate legislation introduced in the 116th Congress. Sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the bill tackles a wide range of foreign policy issues. But the parts of the bill that have generated the most heated controversy are the provisions that deal with the BDS movement, the campaign to boycott, divest, and sanction the Jewish State. The federal legislation affirms that the 26 state-level anti-BDS laws currently on the books are consistent with federal policy. These laws do not ban companies from boycotting Israel, but they do prevent the state from contracting with companies that discriminate against Israeli businesses.

Though the federal bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support, it has yet to pass the House of Representatives, and it continues to draw opposition from groups that claim anti-BDS laws violate free speech and are constitutionally suspect. In this week’s podcast, Kohelet Policy Forum Director and George Mason University Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the complex legal landscape of BDS legislation. Kontorovich, who played a role in drafting some state-level anti-BDS laws, guides us through the relevant laws at both the federal and state level and clarifies exactly how they work. Through thoughtful comparisons with past efforts to boycott apartheid South Africa as well as combat discrimination against the LGBT community, Kontorovich demonstrates that anti-BDS laws are not only technically legal, but also just.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

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