House progressives have been pitted against moderate Democrats in a recent and controversial vote to condemn the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement of Israel.
On Tuesday the measure was passed in the House with a 398-17 vote, with five congressional members voting ‘present.’ According to the resolution to condemn it, the bill “promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment, and group isolation, which are destructive of prospects for progress towards peace.”
The BDS movement was designed to persuade Israel into leaving the West Bank, which would lead to the unification of the state with equal rights for all. As the country is now, there are two states in one.
However, the vast majority of those who opposed the law warned that such a ‘unification’ would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state and borderline anti-Semitic.
Representative Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida, says, “Boycotts have been previously used as tools for social justice in this very country, but B.D.S. doesn’t seek social justice. It seeks a world in which the state of Israel doesn’t exist.”
Republican Representative Steve Scalise from Louisiana says, “If a boycott is being used to advance freedom, that’s one we should support.” He added, “But if a boycott is being used to undermine the very freedoms that exist in the only real elective democracy in the Middle East, we all need to rise up against that.
The movement’s most prominent supporters were Representatives Rashida Tlaib from Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, both freshman Democrats, and the first Muslim congresswomen, in addition to socialist Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York.
While neither of them participated in the floor debate, both have spoken loudly about their support for BDS, comparing its condemnation to Nazi Germany. Both have also received much criticism over recent statements believed to be anti-Semitic tropes, including the insinuation that Jews are both loyal to the US and Israel.
Ms. Omar even had to apologize publicly after spouting off an ancient trope about money and Jews, saying that Israel’s support was “all about the Benjamins.”
For someone who has claimed so many times recently that they are the victims of racism and extreme prejudice, you’d think she would understand the seriousness of such claims.
Both women claim that by not allowing the boycott movement to go through, it threatens the right of free speech. They argue that boycotts are a legitimate form of economic protest.
Ms. Tlaib, who is a Palestinian-American, in her comments, mentioned past boycotts held in America such as ones that took place in the 60s for civil rights, the boycott of Nazi Germany during the WWII, and the boycott of South African goods in the 1980s.
Omar made similar points, comparing Israel and its government to Nazi Germany in her remarks on the resolution last week, as well. The far-stretched statement caused quite a few congress members’ eyebrows to raise.
Both women, as well as civil rights icon and Georgia Democrat Representative John Lewis have teamed up to show their disapproval and introduce a new and separate measure that would ensure “all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in the pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad,” as the first amendment states.
However, the caucus is hugely divided over the issue, and many believe, especially with such loud opposition from Omar and Tlaib, that it will soon spark an all-out explosion.
As several opponents to the measure state, the point is not that boycotts, in general, are wrong or that they shouldn’t be allowed. The point is that this one, in particular, goes against what America stands for, freedom.
Democrats showed their support for the bill’s condemnation as well, such as Representative Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey. He said on Tuesday, “There is of course nothing wrong about having a robust debate about our foreign policy, as I said, but that debate veers into something much darker when there is talk of dual loyalty and other ancient tropes.”
He went on to say, “These are not legitimate opinions about our foreign policy,” and that “We should look for any moment to stand up to anti-Semitism, and I think, to me, the sooner, the better.
And Representative Eliot L. Engel described the BDS movement as a “cancer.” He went on to say, “I think the BDS movement is harmful, and anyone that promotes it is making a big mistake.”