The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning and opposing the movement that aims to boycott Israel on July 23, with the few voting against the resolution including radical Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), the fourth member of the so-called “Squad,” was among the 398 representatives voting to approve the resolution.
Only 17 lawmakers opposed it.
The bill stated, “The BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] Movement does not recognize, and many of its supporters explicitly deny, the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination.”
It also said, “The BDS Movement targets not only the Israeli government but also Israeli academic, cultural, and civil society institutions, as well as individual Israeli citizens of all political persuasions, religions, and ethnicities, and in some cases even Jews of other nationalities who support Israel.”
A number of Democrats said that the bill was important because of the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States. Others noted that the so-called BDS movement seems inherently anti-Semitic.
“There are a lot of people who support the BDS movement, but they may not necessarily understand the intent or the expression of … the BDS movement,” Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) told CNN. “The movement itself—its intent, its goals—are anti-Semitic.”
“Boycotts have been previously used as tools for social justice in this very country,” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) told The New York Times. “But BDS doesn’t seek social justice. It seeks a world in which the state of Israel doesn’t exist.”
Some congressmembers alluded to anti-Semitic statements that Omar had made in the past, including accusing politicians of having loyalty to Israel because of money and Israel “hypnotizing” the world with its “evil policies.” Omar apologized for some of the statements earlier this year.
“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 or other ancient tropes,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) said. “These are not legitimate opinions about our foreign policy. We have often seen such anti-Semitic tropes and rhetoric when it comes to the global BDS movement.”
Tlaib and Omar both spoke out against the resolution; Tlaib earlier in the day compared Israel to Nazi Germany while arguing that Americans should be able to protest against Israel’s “racist” policies against Palestinians.
“I stand before you as the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, parents who experienced being stripped of their human rights, the right to freedom of travel, equal treatment,” Tlaib said. “So I can’t stand by and watch this attack on our freedom of speech and the right to boycott the racist policies of the government and the state of Israel.”
Along with voting against the resolution, Omar and Tlaib introduced a resolution in support of Americans boycotting companies and countries, arguing boycotts are protected by the First Amendment.
The resolution doesn’t openly include BDS but Omar, who switched her stance on BDS after getting elected, admitted it was partly about the movement.
“We are introducing a resolution … to really speak about the American values that support and believe in our ability to exercise our First Amendment rights in regard to boycotting,” Omar told Al-Monitor. “And it is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”
At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last week, she added: “We should condemn in the strongest terms violence that perpetuates the occupation, whether it is perpetuated by Israel, Hamas, or individuals. But if we are going to condemn violent means of resisting the occupation, we cannot also condemn nonviolent means.”
Ocasio-Cortez told Buzzfeed about her vote against the resolution on Tuesday: “Ultimately it comes down to protecting free speech. And my concern with being overly punitive on nonviolent forms of protest is that it forces people into other channels and I would hate to be a part of, you know, paving that kind of path.”
Schneider disagreed, telling CNN: “It does not stop any speech about Israel or anything else. It recognizes the legitimate purpose and just ends of boycotts through our history. But not every boycott is legitimate or just.”