I attended Senator Ron Wyden’s town hall on August 9 in Tualatin, Oregon. I was concerned about his co-sponsorship of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, S.720 which, as the ACLU stated, could expose someone to criminal prosecution for speaking at a rally, or on twitter, in favor of a U.N. boycott proposal against Israel.


Wyden began the town hall by giving a flag to Les and Eva Aigner, two Holocaust survivors who reside in Oregon, whom Wyden lately honored in a speech in the Senate.


Everyone who wanted to ask a question was given a lottery ticket. Maria Barahona was called on and her question to Wyden was:

Senator Wyden, I want to thank you for your position on many issues of civil liberties and holding the constitution which has been badly trampled by the Trump administration. But i’m concerned about your co-sponsorship of the Israel anti-Boycott act.

I feel, Senator Wyden, that you are two different Senators. There is Senator Wyden who stands up for my civil liberties and defends my right to privacy, stands for healthcare and other issues. But there’s the other Senator Wyden who seems to to want to defend the human rights violations of a foreign country, Israel from opposition to its illegal policies. And you seem willing to do so by supporting a bill which would punish your own constituents who care about human rights.. and illustrate the all too familiar bi-partisan Palestine exception when it comes to free speech from pro-Palestine activists. I want my senator, at the very least, to withdraw his support from this awful bill, S. 720 and stand up for my right to free speech and the right to boycott.


At this point approximately 10 people held up “I agree” signs. No one, that I could see, held up “I disagree” signs.

Wyden responded:

Let’s talk about what this bill does and doesn’t do. And I imagine not everyone in the audience has been keeping track so let’s take a minute to give people a sense of what’s going on.

Here’s what the bill does. If an American business wants to get a contract with a foreign government, that foreign government or any international organization can’t require that the American company, for example, won’t sell corn, to Israel. So in effect, the foreign government is not allowed to strong arm the American company from doing business with an ally. Now I want to talk.. I want to clear the fog on what the bill doesn’t do because I can tell you, I’ve devoted my whole life to the first Amendment and civil liberties and I just want people to know what the bill does not do.

This sounds exactly like the anti-boycott provisions of Export Administration Regulations (EAR) act which, if Senator Wyden is characterizing the bill correctly, makes S. 720 redundant.



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