Israel Boycott Exposes Serious Rifts in the Democratic Party

Source: The American Conservative

As lawmakers push to criminalize BDS, a pro-Palestinian, free speech Left is rising up.

By Kelley Beaucar VlahosMarch 5, 2019

Demonstrators in Washington D.C. By Ryan Rodrick Beiler/shutterstock and Freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar speaking at the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in January. By By Phil Pasquini /Shutterstock

The first Twitter war involving sitting lawmakers in the early days of the 116th Congress wasn’t over immigration, “the Wall,” or even Russiagate. It may come as a surprise that the opening rhetorical shot was over an international protest movement targeting Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, otherwise known as BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions).

On January 3, amid the seemingly intractable government shutdown, Senator Marco Rubio made it his first order of business to sponsor a bill that supports the punishment of any U.S. company or contractor who engages in BDS by refusing to work with Israel. When Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib chided Rubio in a tweet, saying, “they forgot what country they represent,” and that “maybe a refresher on our U.S. Constitution is in order,” Rubio promptly shot back.

“This ‘dual loyalty’ canard is a typical anti-Semitic line,” the Florida senator tweeted. “#BDS isn’t about freedom & equality, it’s about destroying #Israel.”

Tlaib, newly inaugurated as the country’s first Muslim female congresswoman (along with Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar) returned fire, underscoring that “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.”

[Editor’s Note: Since this article went to print, Omar has been asked by Democratic leaders to apologize twice for “anti-Semitic” comments she made regarding AIPAC’s influence on Congressional legislation and members’ support for Israel]

It was game on from there. The spat was a skirmish in a much larger war that is being waged by Israel and its supporters across the country against BDS, and may expose one of the biggest fault lines in the Democratic Party today—that of the traditionally pro-Israel Left squaring off against a growing number of progressives who not only sympathize with the Palestinian cause, but don’t truck with the idea of having their ability to engage in political boycotts denied by the government.

That latter group, which includes liberal heavyweights Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), is finding common cause with other civil libertarians across the political spectrum, including Republican Senator Rand Paul, who penned an op-ed for The American Conservative in January. In it, he said he did not personally support BDS, but recognized that the freedom to boycott is the bedrock of American civic life, from the Boston Tea Party to the Rosa Parks-inspired bus protests in Montgomery, Alabama, which took place over 381 days in 1955 and 1956. “By all means, opponents of boycotting Israel should be heard—but so should their opponents,” Paul wrote. “Legislation to end boycotts goes against the very principles America was founded upon.”

Please go to The American Conservative to read the entire article.

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