Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has spent his career as an elected official pushing an array of laws attacking the free speech of American citizens who exercise their constitutionally-protected right to boycott Israel. One anti-boycott bill DeSantis championed sought to send violators to prison for 10 years.
At the same time, the governor has sought to position himself as a champion of the First Amendment. During a 2022 press conference, he stood behind a podium emblazoned with the phrase, “Gov. DeSantis Defends Free Speech.” Flanked by medical professionals bearing signs that read “free speech, free state,” and “science not censorship,” DeSantis slammed the censorship regime erected to enforce public compliance to Covid-19 restrictions.
Yet, when it comes to silencing critics of his major financial benefactors, and limiting the First Amendment rights of American citizens to choose where and where not to spend their hard-earned dollars, DeSantis is more pro-mandate than pro-Madison.
The most recent of DeSantis’ many assaults on the right to boycott came this July 17, as he stood before a Christian Zionist group which supports Israel on the basis that it is the future landing pad for the Messiah.
Branding himself the “most pro-Israel governor in the United States,” the Florida Republican announced an official investigation into the financial ratings firm Morningstar over allegations related to Florida’s ban on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
“Today, I am happy to make — and this law just took effect at the beginning of July — I’m happy to announce for everybody, that Florida has formally instituted an investigation against Morningstar for violations of our anti-BDS law. We’re not letting them target Israel and get away with it, we’re using our tools to fight back,” DeSantis announced at a conference of Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Morningstar has been accused by the state of Florida of downgrading companies that are associated with Israel.
During the same event, DeSantis referred to the occupied Palestinian West Bank by its biblical name, “Judea and Samaria,” insisting it was “not occupied territory.”
The event highlighted the long and obsessive battle DeSantis has waged to crush the free speech and freedom of association rights of Americans who support the call from Palestinian civil society to boycott and divest from Israel.
Before he took up the mantle of “America First” as the governor of Florida and candidate for the Republican nomination for president, Ron DeSantis was one of the congressional point-men for a foreign apartheid state seeking to crush the First Amendment rights of American citizens.
And while positioning himself as an immigration hardliner obsessed with hardening America’s southern border with Mexico, DeSantis has continually insisted that Israel is entitled to remain a borderless, constantly expanding entity, usurping as much territory it seeks from a stateless Palestinian population.
If DeSantis has his way, Americans who disagree with Israel’s apartheid regime and actually seek to do something about it could face as much as ten years in prison.
The CUFI organization which hosted the announcement of DeSantis’ anti-BDS crackdown was founded by Pastor John Hagee, a pro-armageddon Texas-based faith healer who has argued that the Antichrist is gay, has “fierce features” and is “partially Jewish… as Adolph Hitler was.”
CUFI has been funded by Concert, a “public benefit company” used as a money laundering front for the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs to help pro-Israel advocacy groups in the United States circumvent Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) laws.
At the Christian Zionist group’s conference, DeSantis vowed there would be a “new sheriff in town” after he entered the Oval Office, and he would immediately move to sever funding from “United Nations entities that are targeting Israel.” The pledge echoed the anti-UN “Promoting Equality and Accountability at the United Nations Act of 2017” which DeSantis co-sponsored as a member of Congress.
While Florida had an anti-BDS law on the books when DeSantis took office, he expanded the law this May on the basis of cracking down on “woke” business practices.
This March, he took the trip to Jerusalem that has become a rite of passage for presidential contenders. There, he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who hailed him as a “friend of Israel,” and commented, “We talked about Iran. We talked about Israel-U.S. relations.” DeSantis reciprocated the Israeli Prime Ministers’ remarks, calling him a “great friend of Florida.”
After giving a keynote address at Jerusalem’s Museum of Tolerance, which is built on a historically significant Muslim graveyard, DeSantis signed a bill recategorizing a slew of acts as anti-Semitic hate crimes. At a glitzy dinner after the event, DeSantis kibbitzed with Miriam Adelson, the widow of deceased Likudnik mega-donor and CIA asset Sheldon Adelson.
Not surprisingly, DeSantis has relied heavily on Israel lobby donors like Adelson to advance his political career.
DeSantis introduced the Export Administration Anti-Discrimination Act in 2018 in a bid to fine and imprison American citizens for up to 10 years for engaging in boycotts of Israel, or for furnishing information used in a boycott. Soon after entering office as Florida’s governor, he attempted to sanction Airbnb over its refusal to list properties in the illegally occupied West Bank.
The Palestinian Accountability Act that DeSantis sponsored in 2013 denied the existence of Palestine altogether, prohibiting any “U.S. government document from referring to the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority” as Palestine until the Secretary of State certifies that the Palestinian Authority has “ceased to participate in any boycott of Israel,” among six other provisions.
In 2015, DeSantis co-sponsored the United States-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act which sought to declare that “principal U.S. trade negotiating objectives for trade agreements with foreign countries” include discouraging “politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel.” The bill also directed the president to issue annual reports to congress on BDS.
Later that year, DeSantis co-sponsored the Boycott Our Enemies not Israel Act, which sought to require potential U.S. government contractors to certify that they are not boycotting Israel or Israeli companies.
DeSantis is also listed as a co-sponsor of the 2017 Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which sought to amend the Export Administration Act of 1979 to “declare that it shall be U.S. policy to oppose” boycotts against Israel.
Later in 2017, DeSantis signed on to a bill to withhold funds from three United Nations bodies, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, until the State Department certifies they have renounced “anti-Israel” rhetoric.
Just months before resigning from Congress to focus on his gubernatorial campaign, DeSantis sponsored the Export Administration Anti-Discrimination Act prohibiting “boycotts of countries that are friendly to the United States” and imposing “a penalty for an intentional or knowing violation of such prohibition.” While the bill sought to ban boycotts against a broadly-defined set of countries, Israel was the only country named in it. The bill noted that more than $45 billion in goods and services are traded between the United States and Israel annually and that the United States funds Israel to the tune of $10 billion every year.
The Export Administration Anti-Discrimination Act and Palestinian Accountability Act are the only bills DeSantis sponsored while serving as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Several bills sponsored or co-sponsored by DeSantis propose penalties for Americans engaged in boycotts of Israel of up to 10 years in prison and as much as one million dollars in fines. Simply furnishing information which could be used to further a boycott qualifies as another act which could land Americans in jail under a DeSantis legal regime.
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