The House overwhelmingly voted to denounce the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on Tuesday, taking a bipartisan stand in support for the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The resolution, which condemns the BDS movement for promoting “principles of collective guilt, mass punishment, and group isolation,” passed on a 398-17 vote, with 5 members marking themselves “present.”
Democrat and Republican lawmakers alike took to the House floor on Tuesday to praise the bipartisan resolution and warn about the threat BDS poses to Israel and Jewish Americans that support the state.
Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel, a Jewish-American lawmaker, blamed the media and said the bipartisan support for Israel was becoming a political issue “in a way that I find ugly and harmful” to our historic alliance.
Democrats struggled earlier this year as Republicans attempted to label them the party of anti-Semitism after Rep. Ilhan Omar made a number of controversial comments that many members of her own party considered anti-semitic, including an incident where she accused one Democratic lawmaker of having “dual-loyalty” toward the U.S. and Israel.
Ms. Omar and fellow “squad” member Rep. Rashida Tlaib — vocal supporters of the BDS and critics of the Israeli government — pushed back against the resolution, arguing it violated free speech. Ms. Tlaib even tweeted it was “unconstitutional.”
Members on both sides of aisle rejected those arguments, saying the resolution notes the importance of free speech and the right to protest for freedoms, but that the BDS movement crosses a line.
“It is an American value to express legitimate reasonable criticism of any government in the world, including our own,” Rep. Lee Zeldin said. “The BDS movement is different. And we must reject the blatant anti-Semitism injected in BDS and the delegitimizing of Israel.”
Last week, Ms. Omar introduced her own resolution that would affirm that “Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad.”
Rep. Brad Sherman, one of the more senior Jewish lawmakers in the chamber, brushed off her resolution, saying it was “dead on arrival.”
While supporting the resolution, Republicans called on Democrats to take stronger action.
“Words are hollow if we don’t follow it up with action,” Minority Whip Steve Scalise said.
Specifically, GOP lawmakers want a vote on a bill that would allow local governments to stop doing business with any participants in the BDS movement.
That legislation passed on a strong bipartisan basis in the Senate, and a Republican motion is just 22 signatures shy of forcing a full House vote.
Sen. Marco Rubio, the bill’s Senate sponsor, called on the House to take action, arguing it was being held hostage by a handful of members.
“Out of fear of retaliation from the far left wing of her conference, it’s clear that Speaker Pelosi has allowed the radical, anti-Semitic minority in the Democratic Party to dictate the House floor agenda,” he said.
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