Unveil Bipartisan Measure Rebuking Boycott Movement against Israel
Bade and Mike DeBonis
March 21, 2019
House Democrats, eager to reassert party support for Israel following blowback
over alleged anti-Semitic comments from colleague Rep. Ilhan Omar, unveiled a
bipartisan resolution rebuking a global boycott movement against Israel.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and Rep. Bradley Schneider
(Ill.) joined with two Republicans to introduce the resolution Thursday. It
expresses opposition to any efforts to “delegitimize” Israel, including the
boycott, divestment and sanctions, or “BDS,” movement.
of that movement say they’re trying to pressure Israel to change its
policies toward Palestinians, but opponents argue the movement seeks “the
elimination of Israel,” as the two lawmakers wrote in a letter to colleagues.
Global BDS Movement, despite deceptively presenting itself as progressive and
pro-peace, in reality, advances neither of these principles,” the resolution
sponsors wrote. “The Global BDS Movement’s overly-simplistic and one-sided
approach do a disservice to the cause of peace and stability by unfairly placing
blame entirely on one side and by seeking to delegitimize one party on the world
stage. This does nothing to encourage either party to resume negotiations or
enhance a better understanding of each other or the complexity of the
resolution also reaffirms the need for a two-state solution to the decades-long
conflict in the Middle East. Many supporters of the BDS movement back a
one-state solution combining both Israel and Palestinian territories, which
opponents say would upend the existence of a Jewish state.
Democratic leadership has yet to schedule a vote on the legislation, but
the sponsors of the measure have talked to leadership amid a quiet push for
a vote. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who oversees the House
schedule, believes the BDS movement must be condemned, according to a Hoyer
a roll call could reignite a firestorm within the Democratic caucus, in which
newer liberal members have become more vocal in criticizing Israeli policies. In
addition to Omar’s criticisms of Israel, which many Jews have called grossly
anti-Semitic, freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a Palestinian American, has
expressed support for the BDS movement, for example.
a statement for this story Thursday night, Tlaib’s office said the
congresswoman “obviously opposes this resolution because it is aimed at
suppressing free speech and moves us no closer to peace and understanding.”
forms of speech, including economic boycotts, are constitutionally protected,”
her office said in the statement. “Where would civil rights in the United
States be without the heroic Montgomery bus boycotts? ... The economic boycott
of Israel or any other government based on violations of human rights is about
highlighting the injustices that need to stop.”
the resolution’s sponsors argue that most Democrats, even those who oppose
Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, want a two-state solution. They said
they expected widespread support for the resolution.
legislation comes just days before the annual American Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, a Washington event featuring speeches by
pro-Israel lawmakers in both parties. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
is set to attend and will meet with Trump at the White House early next week.
familiar with the drafting of the text, however, said the resolution has been in
the works since January, when the Senate overwhelmingly passed an anti-BDS bill.
Some Jewish House Democrats, including Nadler, a liberal himself, took issue
with the Senate version of the text and sought to write their own, concerned
about First Amendment rights.
supports the resolution, according to an official who spoke on the condition of
anonymity to freely discuss the group’s legislative priorities.
resolution’s introduction comes as Republicans have tried to accuse Democrats
of turning on the Jewish state. Trump recently called Democrats
“anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish,” and this week House Republicans’
campaign arm sent several emails accusing vulnerable Democratic lawmakers of
turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism.
attacks increased after Omar (Minn.) suggested that some lawmakers support
Israel simply because of campaign donations and because pro-Israel individuals
have an “allegiance to a foreign country.”
Jewish Democrats pushed their leaders to rebuke Omar by name and condemn
anti-Semitism. But many liberals — including some Democratic presidential
candidates — rallied around Omar and demanded House leaders expand
the resolution to condemn all hate.
the same time, other progressive groups have taken a more aggressive stand
toward Israel. MoveOn.org, for example, called on all Democrats seeking the
party’s presidential nomination to skip the AIPAC conference, arguing that the
group has worked to “defeat the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by”
President Barack Obama and “is headlined by Benjamin Netanyahu — under
whose leadership Israel may have committed war crimes.”
comments have given Republicans fodder as they seek to peel off long-held Jewish
support for Democrats. Trump on Thursday endorsed Israeli control of the
disputed Golan Heights, a move favored by Netanyahu.
Republicans in the House have sought to pressure their Democratic colleagues on
matters related to Israel, knowing full well the issue divides the party.
Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said, for example, that
Democrats “unfortunately, have departed from this American foreign policy
cornerstone” of supporting the Jewish state.
it’s enabling anti-Semitic remarks from one of their own or refusing to
condemn the BDS movement, a racist campaign aimed at delegitimizing the state of
Israel, their party is going down a dangerous road that threatens this critical
relationship,” she said.
accusations have infuriated not only Jewish Democrats but others in the party
who have long supported Israel. At the AIPAC event this weekend, Democrats are
hoping to reaffirm their commitment.
Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said the Democratic caucus should not be afraid to put an
anti-BDS resolution on the floor.
don’t think there’s any reason to tiptoe around opposition to a movement
that doesn’t advance peace, that hurts the very people that it claims that it
wants to help, and that discounts the many reasons that the United States and
Israel have been such staunch allies since the founding of Israel,” he said,
noting that the movement doesn’t support a two-state solution. “Having an
opportunity to make that clear is important.”