By Jackson Richman, Jewish News Syndicate
The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Tuesday evening condemning the anti-Israel BDS movement.
The final tally was 398 in favor, 17 against and 5 present.
It was introduced by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.). It had 349 co-sponsors: 175 Republicans and 174 Democrats.
Among those who voted against it, 16 of them were Democrats while the lone Republican was Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie.
The Democrats were Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Andre Carson (Ind.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Chuy Garcia (Ill.) Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Betty McCollum (Minn.), Gwen Moore (Wis.), Chellie Pingree (Maine), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Bobby Rush (Ill.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.).
Some of those progressives on Capitol Hill called on House Democratic leadership not to bring up the resolution for a vote.
“I think the timing would not be very wise to take up additional measures around the Middle East,” Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Politico last week.
“I stand before you the daughter of Palestinian immigrants,” said Tlaib on the House floor the morning of the tally. “Parents who experienced being stripped of their human rights, the right to freedom of travel, equal treatment. 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. I love our country’s freedom of speech, Madam Speaker. Dissent is how we nurture democracy.”
Omar and Tlaib introduced a pro-BDS resolution last week.
Although the resolution does not explicitly name Israel or BDS, Omar told Al-Monitor, “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. And it is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”
In a speech before the vote, McCollum said that the anti-BDS resolution “ignore[s] reality and effectively supports military occupation, violations of international humanitarian law, and the subjugation of the Palestinian population, does not strengthen Israel, but it does damage the standing of the U.S. House in the eyes of the world.”
Ocasio-Cortez told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that BDS is “a tough issue, especially for constituencies back home … 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.”
None of the other congressional offices of the aforementioned immediately responded to a request for comment.
‘Contrary to the interests of the United States’
Regardless, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Republican Jewish Coalition, Pro-Israel America, Democratic Majority for Israel, the Jewish Democratic Council of America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations applauded the resolution’s passage.
“The BDS movement is anti-Semitism by another name because it denies the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their homeland,” said the RJC in a statement. “Today, the American people’s voices have been heard as our elected leaders in Congress asserted that the BDS movement has no place in these United States.”
“Shamefully, 16 Democrats and one Republican, Thomas Massie, voted against H.Res. 246, embracing the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic elements of the Democratic Party’s left-wing base,” they continued. “Make no mistake, anti-Zionism, especially in the Democratic Party, goes beyond four freshman members; today, an additional 13 anti-Zionists were exposed.”
Pro-Israel America co-founder Jeff Mendelsohn said, “We believe the BDS movement is anti-peace, promotes anti-Semitism and is contrary to the interests of the United States, and we are glad to see bipartisan leadership in Congress to take a stand against it.”
“While a small number in Congress voiced support for BDS and its anti-Israel goals,” he continued, “passage of this resolution with broad support on both sides of the aisle reaffirms that the U.S.-Israel relationship has strong, bipartisan support from members of Congress and the American people.”
“The House voted 398-17 in favor of an anti-BDS resolution written by Democratic Congressman Brad Schneider. That’s a stunning show of bipartisan opposition to BDS and support for Israel,” Democratic Majority for Israel CEO Mark Mellman told JNS. “Even among the handful of resolution opponents, a number felt compelled to state their personal opposition to BDS. We congratulate Congressman Schneider, Chairman [Eliot] Engel and House Democratic Leaders for guiding this resolution to passage.”
Without addressing the Democrats who voted against the resolution, JDCA executive director Halie Soifer said, “Both parties came together to support these measures, demonstrating overwhelming bipartisan support for Israel. This is a rejection of President Trump’s approach, which cynically aims to politicize U.S. support of Israel. Jewish Americans do not want to see the U.S.-Israel relationship politicized, and strongly reject the president’s use of Israel—and anti-Semitism—as a political wedge issue.”
Jeff Mendelsohn issued the following statement on behalf of Pro-Israel America: “We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for its overwhelming, bipartisan passage of H. Res. 246. to combat the BDS movement—a discriminatory effort that seeks to undermine and destroy Israel. We believe the BDS movement is anti-peace, promotes anti-Semitism and is contrary to the interests of the United States, and we are glad to see bipartisan leadership in Congress to take a stand against it.
“While a small number in Congress voiced support for BDS and its anti-Israel goals,” he said, “passage of this resolution with broad support on both sides of the aisle reaffirms that the U.S.-Israel relationship has strong, bipartisan support from members of Congress and the American people.”
“At its core, the BDS movement does not aim to effect political change, but to undermine and deny Israel’s right to exist,” said Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations chairman Arthur Stark, and executive vice chairman and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein. “Its leaders have called for the end of the Jewish state in any borders, and its demands, if accepted, would ultimately end the State of Israel. The pernicious campaign also diminishes the possibility of a lasting peace negotiated directly between the parties, placing the entire onus on Israel, while exempting Palestinian leadership from making any tough choices, including internal reform, ending corruption, stopping support of terrorism, etc.”
“Congress has taken a strong stand in support of Israel’s right to exist in safety and the Jewish people’s right to self-determination,” they continued. “The BDS and alleged efforts, often tied directly and indirectly to terrorist entities, has targeted Jewish and non-Jewish student supporters of Israel, often with violence and physical harassment. Congress’ strong message today will encourage them and support all who are advancing true peace in the region and understanding at home.”