The House Foreign Affairs committee passed an anti-BDS resolution (H.R. 246) today unanimously. One of its co-sponsors, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) announced the passage via Twitter:
For the uninitiated, BDS is the anti-Israel movement that calls for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against the State of Israel, Israeli academics, businesses, and more. The movement has been a key catalyst in the meteoric rise in anti-Semitism around the world. Twenty-six states and dozens of cities have passed resolutions condemning the movement and prohibiting government entities from contracting with companies who engage in BDS. Now, the U.S House of Representatives is set to vote and pass a resolution opposing the movement, as well.
On any other week the Jewish community, and the pro-Israel community at large, would be celebrating the House’s condemnation of the BDS movement as bigoted and anti-Semitic. Why is this week different than all other weeks?
This week a U.S. congresswoman introduced a counter-resolution advocating for boycotts of Israel, and even likening the State of Israel to Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa. While the resolution itself only serves as a declaration to affirm Americans’ rights to commercial boycotts “in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad,” the resolution’s author, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), has made clear that the intent of her resolution is to support the BDS movement against Israel. She explained that her resolution is “an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.” Not surprisingly, the resolution has been celebrated by the National BDS National Committee’s Hind Awwad, who stated to Al Jazeera that this resolution is “ground-breaking” and serves to “inspire human rights defenders everywhere, including BDS activists for Palestinians rights.”
Omar’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic positions have been well documented. The anti-Israel position of her resolution co-sponsor, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), is also well known. However, the significance of this resolution cannot be understated. That the resolution will certainly fail is largely irrelevant. That the House is approaching an open debate about whether boycotts of Israel and Israeli-owned businesses are appropriate is telling. And, given the House’s inability to clearly and unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism after Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitic comments in March, the prospect of a House debate on the boycott of Israel is worrisome — to say the least.
What’s worse is that despite the political hysteria about Reps. Tlaib and Omar, who have expressed sharp anti-Israel and anti-Semitic beliefs, their positions had previously mostly lived on the sidelines. But, what Tlaib and Omar understand all too well is that while they may not be able to change the U.S.’s staunch support for Israel, they can certainly change the tenor of the national conversation surrounding Israel. And change the conversation they have. Fifty-five years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, we have members of the U.S. Congress advocating for discrimination based on religion or national origin. It seems that Tlaib and Omar do not believe that Israelis and Jews should be protected under the Civil Rights Act. And, their timing is impeccable. Just a few days after President Trump’s incendiary and offensive comments, when he told Reps. Tlaib, Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) that they should “go back” to the “places from which they came,” the national spotlight is on these young congresswomen to see how they respond. With the spotlight shining bright on their faces, and the anti-Trumpers always eager to support them, Reps. Omar and Tlaib are using this moment to advocate against the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
It is imperative for the Jewish community — whether Democrat or Republican — to strongly oppose Omar and Tlaib’s efforts to malign Israel and the Jewish people via this resolution. The Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential primary candidates are watching to see how the Jewish community, and the pro-Israel community at large, will respond to this effort. It is up to the people for them to understand that the U.S. needs to continue to stand steadfast with the one and only Jewish State. All Americans must understand that this resolution is an attack upon the Jewish people. And with anti-Semitism at unbearable levels in the U.S. and abroad alike, this resolution acts to add fuel to the fire, placing the Jewish community in a precarious position. Omar’s resolution must be soundly rejected by all.