Cambridge pro-Palestine activist group rips Markey over Israel

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CAMBRIDGE — A Massachusetts-based pro-Palestinian group is looking to put pressure on U.S. Sen. Ed Markey over the lawmaker’s apparent support of Israel, according to a recent press release from the group, Massachusetts Peace Action.

The advocacy group in its letter rips Markey over the Malden Democrat’s decision to add his name to a list of lawmakers who support legislation aimed at fighting the ongoing boycott, divestment and sanction movement (BDS) against Israel.

MPA on Monday sent Markey a letter urging him to rethink his support for the proposed legislation.

“Your co-sponsorship of S. 2531, the “Combating BDS Act of 2016,” strikes us as unhelpful in bringing about a just peace to the Palestine-Israel conflict, while raising serious questions about free speech and the right to non-violent civic activism,” the group claims. “You may personally disagree with BDS as a way to pressure Israel, but targeting a peaceful expression of civic advocacy for punishment amounts to an attack on free speech rights under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.”

MPA did, however, take steps to praise Markey’s work on nuclear weapons, civil liberties and the environment.

The proposal opposed by MPA was introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) in February. According to Kirk, the “new bipartisan legislation would authorize state and local governments to divest from companies engaged in BDS activities targeting Israel.”

Kirk also pointed out that the measure would allow state and local governments to utilize the same First Amendment powers that the MPA advocates for — namely, “using the power of the purse to fight back against anti-Semitism throughout the world.”

Kirk also notes that his home state of Illinois has already passed legislation prohibiting the state’s pension fund from being invested in companies that promote the BDS movement against Israel.

“This bipartisan bill would authorize state and local governments in the United States to follow Illinois’s lead and divest from companies engaged in boycotts and other forms of economic warfare against Israel,” Kirk stated at the time. “With this bill, Congress underscores the critical role that state and local governments and their communities have to play in the ongoing struggle against anti-Semitism worldwide.”

Kirk’s legislation has netted support from 15 Senate Democrats, including Markey, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT). Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is absent from the list of Democratic support. 

MPA lists itself as an affiliate of Peace Action, “the nation’s largest grassroots peace and disarmament membership organization, with more than 100,000 members and 30 chapters across the country.”