(February 5, 2019 / JNS) The Israeli election, which is heating up, must not distract us from a disturbing development that is gaining traction in the U.S. election: the battle by the radical left-wing of the Democratic Party to legitimize the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
After 26 U.S. states have passed legislation punishing businesses that boycott Israel, four Republican senators submitted an anti-BDS bill on the federal level. Although the bill had widespread support, among Democratic legislators, too, the issue has sparked a vicious debate in the Democratic Party, which controls the House of Representatives. The radical leftists in Congress—mainly Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Somalia-born Ilhan Omar of Minnesota—are busy trying to tank the anti-BDS legislation, arguing that it violates freedom of speech. Those who oppose the bill, who have also managed to get their radical anti-Israel agenda into Congress, believe that supporting the boycott of Israel is an expression of legitimate political opinion.
Tlaib tweeted that opponents of BDS have “forgotten” what country they represent and argued that boycott was a right in the United States. The hint at a lack of loyalty to America—or dual loyalty to the United States. and Israel—echoes traditional anti-Semitic accusations. Even if that isn’t what Tlaib meant, accusations like that, when uttered in the context of a struggle against Israel by an Arab-American who danced with a Palestinian flag after she was elected to Congress, can be characterized at best as hypocrisy and at worst as anti-Semitism.
The protection of BDS as part of Americans’ constitutional rights has set off a stormy debate within the ranks of the Democratic Party. Some see the Republican bill as an attempt to drive a wedge between the progressive and centrist wings of the Democrats. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a Jew who ran for president and has joined the opposition to the bill, explained that even if he personally did not support BDS, it was necessary to protect the “constitutional right” of every American to participate in political activity. Sanders said it was clear to him that the bill violated the First Amendment.
The First Amendment prohibits Congress from passing any law that limits freedom of religion, speech, the press, peaceable assembly or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It also gives racist and anti-Semitic organizations like the Ku Klux Klan great latitude for incitement. Less than 100 years ago, in 1924, delegates to the Democratic National Convention proposed condemning the racist movement and its violent activity. The proposal was voted down for reasons that included the First Amendment.
No matter what happens with the anti-BDS bill in Congress, the American people must be made aware of the similarities between it and the Ku Klux Klan. The slogan should be: BDS=KKK. They are both anti-Semitic, racist movements and even if a decision is made not to outlaw BDS, despite its anti-Semitic platform and its links to terrorism, it should be marginalized alongside other racist hate groups and not have a place in the mainstream, and certainly not in the Democratic Party.
We need to make it clear: BDS is not a boycott organization; it’s a movement that wants to deny Jews their right to national self-determination and wipe out the State of Israel. It is a direct continuation of the Arab-Muslim battle against the founding of a Jewish state in the land of Israel. It is not a fight to end the “occupation” or opposing the settlements; it wants the liberate “Palestine” from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The fact that Jews and Israeli citizens belong to the BDS movement does not mean that it is not anti-Semitic. Throughout history, there have always been self-hating Jews.
Eldad Beck is an Israeli journalist and author.