US Congresswomen openly stand behind BDS

The first two Muslim Congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, have openly supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Ilhan Omar, Democrat-Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib, Democrat-Michigan

By Sohaila Barghash

On Saturday, the Michigan congresswoman Tlaib said that she wanted to stress on “issues such as racism and Israel’s violations of the Palestinians’ human rights”.

At the same time, Omar, the Minnesota congresswoman said she is working towards the establishment of some kind of balance to the US position, which prioritises Israel greatly.

Ilhan Omar added: “When I see Israel institute laws that recognize it as a Jewish state and do not recognize the other religions living in the country, and we still hold it up as a democracy in the Middle East, I almost chuckle.”

She also criticised the US position saying: “I know that if we saw that in another society we would criticize it – we do that to Iran and any other place that upholds its religion.”

In response however, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin slammed Tlaib and Omar’s apparent support for the BDS movement, urging Congress to reject what he described as “the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred that we are starting to see infiltrating American politics and even the halls of Congress”.

Furthermore, the Republicans accused the Democratic Party leadership of encouraging “hate speech and intolerance towards Israel”, regardless of the position many Democrats took towards supporting Israel.

Alvin Rosenfeld, director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism at Indiana University, said that “there is obviously a serious fight going on within the Democratic Party with respect to how to deal with BDS and some within their party who advocate for it”.

Adding: “Should the party swing to the far left and appear to be way out of line with America’s traditional ties to one of its strongest allies, Israel, the party will surely suffer at the polls”.

Yet such responses did not prevent Ilhan Omar from expressing her opinion on the injustice facing Palestinians, rather, she claimed it is “exciting” that her views on Israel are sparking debate.

Saying: “I think it is actually exciting because we are finally able to have conversations that we weren’t really willing to before.”

The two Muslim Congresswomen are advocates for Palestinian Rights, and have expressed their support more prominently as pro-Israeli groups filed a lawsuit against the American Studies Association’s (ASA) resolution to endorse the call to boycott Israeli academic institutions as part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

On Monday a district court in Washington dismissed the lawsuit against ASA, which is the oldest scholarly organisation devoted to the interdisciplinary study of US culture and history.

The federal judge ruled that the anti-BDS plaintiffs failed to explain the form of harm imposed upon them by the boycott, which was a requirement for the lawsuit to go forward.

The ruling comes as an iconic victory for human rights campaigners as well as people who lost their jobs over supporting the movement, and a defeat for Israel lobby groups who try to use courts to harass, intimidate and silence supporters of Palestinian rights in US universities.

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