The Michigan Democrat, one of the two first Muslim women to serve in Congress, said Monday that she was referring to U.S. senators, not Jewish people, when she tweeted, “They forgot what country they represent.”
She was widely condemned for the language, which critics described as a common anti-Semitic trope, in her tweet against GOP-sponsored Middle East legislation that included protections for state and localities that sever ties with companies boycotting Israel.
“They forgot what country they represent,” tweeted Ms. Tlaib on Sunday. “This is the U.S. where boycotting is a right & part of our historical fight for freedom & equality. Maybe a refresher on our U.S. Constitution is in order, then get back to opening up our government instead of taking our rights away.”
Her comment met with a fierce backlash from Israel supporters, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, who accused her of perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes about the “dual loyalty” of the American Jewish community to the United States and Israel.
“This ‘dual loyalty’ canard is a typical anti-Semitic line,” said Mr. Rubio, the sponsor of the bill, which was blocked Tuesday by Senate Democrats.
“Sen. Rubio, it’s clear my earlier tweet was critical of U.S. Senators like yourself, who are seeking to strip Americans of their Constitutional right to free speech,” she tweeted Monday.
The hubbub came as a reminder of the Democratic Party’s growing divide on Israel as progressives increasingly side with the Palestinian cause.
At least 26 states have passed resolutions against doing business with pro-BDS institutions, while supporters of BDS have argued that such sanctions violate the First Amendment rights of government contractors.
Mr. Rubio argued that the bill “doesn’t punish any political activity. It protects the right of local and state governments that decide to no longer do business with those who boycott.”
The global BDS movement, founded in 2005 and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee, seeks to convince businesses, universities, labor unions and others to sever their economic ties to Israel over “Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid.”
Foes have accused the BDS movement of outright anti-Semitism, arguing that the campaign singles out Israel, a parliamentary democracy, while saying nothing about other Middle East nations with histories of human-rights abuses.
In a March speech, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer urged the crowd at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC] to “stand firm against the profoundly biased campaign to delegitimize the state of Israel through boycotts, divestment and sanctions.”
“When there is such a double standard, when the world treats everybody one way and the Jew or the Jewish state another way, there’s only one word for it: anti-Semitism,” Mr. Schumer said. “Let us call out the BDS movement for what it is.”
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