In a 398-17 vote, the House of Representatives on Tuesday passed H. Res 246, a bill which expresses opposition to the BDS movement targeting Israel. The language of the bill presents BDS as contrary to US policy, and claims that BDS is harmful to the two-state solution that the US supports.
BDS, which stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, is a campaign founded to try to pressure Israel over the occupation of Palestine, The intention was to apply economic pressure on Israel for certain activities with respect to the occupation.
While boycotting countries over behavior isn’t that unusual, the US government’s pro-Israel bias meant that in 1977, the US started passing laws trying to prevent American citizens and companies from specifically participating in BDS against Israel, forming the Office of Antiboycott Compliance.
In the past couple of years, Israel has sought to attack BDS on a global scale by presenting it as de facto anti-Semitism. As usual, US officials were eager to get on the record with being very anti-BDS, even if these bills don’t formally outlaw participating in the BDS on an individual level.
This comes as Israel is increasingly a political issue in the US as well, with President Trump trying to present the Democrats as anti-Semites for not being as pro-Netanyahu as he personally is. While Democrats overwhelmingly backed the anti-BDS bill today, there remains a political split on the issue.
That’s because Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is offering a competing resolution which expresses support for Americans’ right to boycott other nations, including Israel. Democratic leadership were quick to condemn Omar’s proposal as “dead on arrival.”
Historically, of course, boycotting other nations has been considered an aspect of Americans’ right to free speech. Omar’s resolution, however, isn’t expected to even get a serious discussion in committee, let alone a proper vote on the floor of the House.