House

Omar introduces resolution affirming ‘right to participate in boycotts’ ahead of possible vote on anti-BDS bill

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) introduced a House resolution Tuesday that would reaffirm Americans’ rights to boycott “in pursuit of civil and human rights.”

The resolution, co-sponsored by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), comes ahead of a potentially ugly intraparty fight over another resolution to condemn the global boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

{mosads}The resolution seeks to affirm that “all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution” and “opposes unconstitutional legislative efforts to limit the use of boycotts to further civil rights at home and abroad.”

Leaders in the BDS movement praised the resolution Wednesday, declaring it a win for activists.

“It reassures us that progressives, including in Congress, are defending freedom of expression and the right of oppressed communities, including Palestinians, to peacefully fight for their rights,” Hind Awwad, a spokesperson for the Palestinian-led BDS Movement, said in a statement.

The resolution was introduced the week before a planned vote on the anti-BDS resolution, H.Res. 246, which has broad bipartisan support and 341 co-sponsors.

Tlaib took aim at the bill last week, calling it “unconstitutional.”

The measure, she said, aims “to silence opposition of Israel’s blatantly racist policies that demonize both Palestinians & Ethiopians.” Tlaib, who is Palestinian and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, added in a tweet, “Our 1st Amd. right to free speech allows boycott of inhumane policies.” 

The resolution also comes amid a cooling of tensions within the party following President Trump’s tweet aimed at Omar, Tlaib and two other congresswomen of color, telling them to go back to the “places from which they came.”

Moderate Democrats have touted the bipartisan anti-BDS bill as necessary for Congress to declare its support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“It’s important for us to have this come to the floor so this Congress can very clearly state its position,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), co-chair of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition that has endorsed the resolution, told Politico. “BDS is not helpful in us reaching a two-state solution in the Middle East.”

The politics surrounding Israel have roiled the House Democratic conference this congressional term. Many Democrats were swift to condemn President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But the party saw sharp divides when several members rebuked Omar in March over remarks about pro-Israel lobbying groups that some said were anti-Semitic. 

Progressives rushed to Omar’s defense, saying she was underlining the sway of the advocacy groups, while critics said comments about “loyalty” to Israel played on historically anti-Semitic tropes.

Tags BDS movement Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Donald Trump Ilhan Omar Israel John Lewis Mark Pocan Rashida Tlaib Stephanie Murphy

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