The Senate on Monday voted 74 to 19 to advance a bill recognizing the right of local and state governments to boycott companies that surrender to BDS demands against trading with Israel, and this bipartisan legislation is bound to expose a rift within the House Democratic majority over American support for Israel.
The bipartisan legislation originally dealt with aid to Israel and Jordan and additional sanctions on supporters of the Assad regime in Syria. But Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) added the anti-BDS item to the package.
The obvious House Members to oppose the legislation are expected to be Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Rashida Tlaib (Michigan), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York). These three women were elected for the same time last November, in predominantly Democratic districts that are not necessarily anti-Israeli, but based on their public statements, which have shifted from mostly pro-Israel before the vote and harshly anti-Israel afterwards, it is clear that there’s no need for an AIPAC representative to pay them a welcome-to-the-neighborhood visit with a tray of kosher muffins.
Former senator from Minnesota and national chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition Norm Coleman told the NY Times: “I don’t see much hope for changing where Tlaib and Omar are, but there is a battle in the Democratic Party.”
In keeping with the Republican strategy regarding the pro-BDS trio, Coleman pushed the argument that “it is a message to Jews who still care about Israel, to say, ‘You’ll be much more comfortable in the Republican Party.’”
House Democrats “will have to make choices about whether they’ll quiet those voices or whether they’ll remain quiet,” Coleman said.
J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said the Republican targeting of the anti-Israel Congresswomen “absolutely disgusting,” adding, “I don’t think this is a meaningful split. The consensus in the Democratic Party is pretty clear.”
A spokesperson for Eliot Engel (D-New York), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Congressman supports the anti-BDS measures, but would refuse to walk into this GOP’s trap. Earlier this month, Engel accused the Republicans of “playing politics with important foreign-policy matters.”
It is unlikely that House Democrats would touch the anti-BDS portion of the Senate legislative package, if only to avoid exposing the party’s rift over Israel. Some Democrats who are not in any way anti-Israel, refuse to support what they see as an attack on individuals and groups to express their political views through consumer boycotts – a political weapon the Democrats have used to advance their social agenda. Instead, the House Democratic leadership has already passed the anti-Syria and pro-Israel and Jordan pieces of the package, which will likely curb the scope of the integrated legislation.