(July 18, 2019 / JNS) Pro-Israel groups denounced U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for comparing the anti-Israel BDS movement to previous boycotts of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
On Thursday, Omar announced a resolution supporting the right to boycott Israel. Her resolution seeks to push back against U.S. laws that ban the boycott of Israel, while affirming the right of Americans to organize boycotts of foreign countries.
“Americans of conscience have a proud history of participating in boycotts to advocate for human rights abroad including … boycotting Nazi Germany from March 1933 to October 1941 in response to the dehumanization of the Jewish people in the lead-up to the Holocaust,” said Omar in the pro-BDS resolution, co-sponsored by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and John Lewis (D-Ga.), introduced this week.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of the global social-action agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that her comparison is “proof that Omar is not an accidental or incidental anti-Semite. Serves the founders and goals of BDS by slandering Jewish Democratic state and Zionism. She should be condemned, not coddled, by her colleagues Democratic and Republican.”
As far as the Israeli-American Coalition for Action goes, executive director Joseph Sabag said “it’s unconscionable that a member of Congress would so casually make use of cheap lies and delegitimizing propaganda. In her words and actions, Congresswoman Omar has expressed the most vile anti-Semitism. Her use of this resolution to slander Israel and intentionally promote the misrepresentation of laws enacted across the country to prevent national-origin discrimination are entirely illegitimate.”
Endowment for Middle East Truth founder and president Sarah Stern told JNS that the freshman congresswoman’s words “are patently ludicrous.”
“First of all, the boycott of Nazi Germany came about as a response to the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses,” she said. “Nazi Germany was a hate-infested, authoritarian regime that sought to exterminate every last remaining Jew from the face of the earth, and the Soviet Union was a despotic, repressive regime that also contained a heavy dosage of anti-Semitism.”
“Ironically, the [BDS] movement is based upon this very same ancient hatred—the anti-Semitism that laid at the heart of the heinous ideologies of her analogy,” continued Stern. “If the BDS movement was really about trying to help the lives of Palestinians, they would not shut down operations such as SodaStream, which employed scores of Palestinians in the West Bank.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee declined to comment.
J Street did not respond to a request for comment.
“These comparisons tarnish the legacy of historical movements for justice by associating them with a campaign of hate. It is sad that someone who has been a target of bigotry herself is promoting a global boycott aimed at ending Israel’s existence,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein, a daughter of Holocaust survivors, told JNS. “That said, we are encouraged by reports that this resolution will fail, due to overwhelming bipartisan opposition.”
“The resolution that Rep. Ilhan Omar has introduced defies American values and seeks to degrade the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel,” Club Z founder and executive director Masha Merkulova told JNS. “The anti-Semitic BDS movement is rooted in bigotry and hatred of Jews. It seeks to delegitimize the only Jewish State. While Rep. Omar is attempting to equate her actions to justified boycotts of Nazi Germany, in reality this resolution is reminiscent of the hateful Nazi boycotts of Jewish communities.”
She continued, “There is no place for anti-Semitic hate in Congress. We call on all members of Congress to come together and send a clear message to our next generation, which is watching them closely, that there is no place for anti-Semitism and bigotry in Congress.”
‘BDS pulls them apart’
Mixed reactions came from Jewish Democratic groups.
Jewish Democratic Council of America executive director Halie Soifer, without calling out Omar by name, simply told JNS that her organization “opposes the global BDS movement and supports anti-BDS legislation, while also defending the right of every American to free speech.”
However, Democratic Majority for Israel president and CEO Mark Mellman called such a comparison “unfathomable.”
“Millions of Holocaust survivors and their descendants, as well refugees from Soviet oppression living in Israel, will find such comparisons unfathomable,” he said. “I find them odious. In an effort led by parties of the left, the German Parliament officially labeled BDS as ‘anti-Semitism’—and they were right.”
“Moreover,” continued Mellman, “at a time when we need to be bringing Israelis and Palestinians together, BDS pulls them apart.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition, along with condemning the pro-BDS resolution, stated that there’s an issue beyond the measure.
“As Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism,’ ” said RJC spokesperson Neil Strauss.
“To make her support of the anti-Semitic BDS movement even more reprehensible, Ilhan Omar is now comparing Israel to the pure evil, genocidal Nazi and Soviet regimes,” he continued. “This will only end when the Democrat Party stands up to Ilhan Omar and her friends’ hatred. Unfortunately, Rep. John Lewis has unbelievably chosen to join Omar, rather than stand for human dignity, a trait he has been known for his entire life. This does not bode well for the idea that the Democrats will find their moral bearings.”