Presbyterian Church USA

Urge the U.S. Senate to reject initiatives to curb free speech and advocacy for Palestinian rights
As the horrific violence in Gaza continues with no signs of abating, students and faculty across the country have come out in large numbers to protest the ongoing U.S. military support for the war.  The protesters have called for a comprehensive ceasefire, divestment by their colleges and universities from corporations that profit from Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, and an end to U.S. military support for Israeli human rights violations.  As they rally for an end to the violence, many of the student protesters have been subjected to beating, expulsion, and arrest by campus security and local police for their generally non-violent protests.  

Congress's reaction to the university protests has been swift.    On April 15, the House passed HR 6408, which would enable a new category of legal targeting of non-governmental organizations, particularly those that engage with Palestinians or on Palestinian issues.  It would also enable attacks on non-profits working in any sector on any issue.  The bill gives the Department of Treasury the right to remove the tax-exempt status of organizations based solely on an accusation of wrong doing with virtually no accountability or recourse for those accused.  If it were to become law, any presidential administration could use it as a tool to stifle free speech, target political opponents, and punish disfavored groups or those seen as a political threat.

In addition, on May 1, the House passed HR 6090, which would effectively categorize criticism of Israeli policies as antisemitism.   A group of nearly 700 Jewish academics sent a letter to President Biden and Senate leaders urging them to oppose the legislation and "any effort to codify into federal law a definition of antisemitism that conflates antisemitism with criticism of the state of Israel."  The American Civil Liberties Union has also criticized the bill stating that, "Addressing rising antisemitism is critically important, but sacrificing American’s free speech rights is not the way to solve that problem. This bill would throw the full weight of the federal government behind an effort to stifle criticism of Israel... and could pressure colleges and universities to restrict student and faculty speech critical of the Israeli government and its military operations out of fear of the college losing federal funding."

Both bills have been forwarded to the U.S. Senate as S 4127 and S 4136, respectively.  Write to your Senators urging them to oppose these bills.

Israel has already targeted human rights organizations operating in Israel/Palestine, including shutting down six historic Palestinian human rights organizations.  Such denial of voice is part of the ongoing occupation and oppression that Palestinians have experienced for decades.  As Palestinians mark Nakba Day on May 15, Americans must retain their rights to speak out, dissent, and advocate for justice and peace in the Holy Land.

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