WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after the Senate voted on S.1, a package of bills related to Mideast policy and Israel:
“I fully support providing security assistance to Israel and Jordan, which is why I voted for the Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act, the Jordan Defense Cooperation Extension Act, and the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act when they moved through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Israel is a critical partner and friend in the Middle East. From the historical bond between our two democracies, to regional security cooperation and intelligence sharing, it is essential that the United States continue to support Israel and its ability to defend itself in a volatile region.
“I voted against the package as a whole today, however, because I believe one of its provisions, regarding the BDS movement, violates the First Amendment.
“I unequivocally condemn any anti-Semitic language and sentiments that seek to delegitimize the right of Israel to exist. Such rhetoric is hateful and entirely unacceptable, and too often anti-Semitism has been engaged in the BDS movement. At the same time peaceful protest has long been recognized as a protected form of free speech under the First Amendment, and any laws that limit individuals’ or companies’ ability to participate in peaceful dissent represent a dangerous path. We don’t need to agree with the BDS movement or its goals to believe that the government shouldn’t be using its authority to squelch expression it disagrees with.
“The great strength of Israel in the region and the U.S. in the world isn’t grounded just in our military hardware, but in the example of our historic adherence to the rule of law and democratic values. It is critical that both of our countries resist the temptation of policies that are politically expedient in the short term but erode our greatest assets.”