News ID: 238696
Published: 0726 GMT February 10, 2019

US Muslim lawmakers irk pro-Israel lobby by backing BDS movement

US Muslim lawmakers irk pro-Israel lobby by backing BDS movement

The first two Muslim women in the US Congress have angered the pro-Israel lobby by openly supporting the internationally-recognized Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who became the first Muslim members of the House of Representatives in January, have been outspoken about their criticism of Israel’s crimes against the people of Palestine.

Omar has accused the Tel Aviv regime of discrimination against Palestinians similar to apartheid, Presstv Reported.

In January, she enraged the large pro-Israel contingent in Congress, particularly the largely Democratic US Jewish community, by mocking America’s branding of Israel as a democracy.

“When I see Israeli institute laws that recognize it as a Jewish state and does not recognize the other religions that are living in it, and we still hold it as a democracy in the Middle East, I almost chuckle,” Omar told Yahoo News.

“Because I know that if we see that in another society we would criticize it — we do that to Iran, any other place that sort of upholds its religion,” she added.

The 37-year-old lawmaker was born to a family of Somali refugees and represents Minneapolis, Minnesota, a district with a large Somali population.

She appeared unapologetic about her position during a CNN interview on Tuesday, saying the outcry was "exciting."

"It's not surprising. I think it is actually exciting because we are finally able to have conversations that we weren't really willing to," Omar said. "It is really important for us to get a different lens about what peace in that region could look like and the kind of difficult conversations we need to have about allies."

Tlaib, on the other hand, has argued that the BDS movement can draw attention to “issues like the racism and the international human rights violations by Israel right now.”

The 42-year-old lawmaker has Palestinian roots and represents a district of suburban Detroit, Michigan, which is home to a large number of Muslims.

Israel and its allies in Washington have long railed against the BDS, which was launched over a decade ago and calls for people and groups across the world to cut economic, cultural and academic ties to Tel Aviv.

Modeled on the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa in 1960s, the international effort also calls for sanctions against Israel.

Threats of punishment

Omar and Tlaib’s support for BDS comes at a time when President Donald Trump has stepped up ties with Israel and stopped Palestinian aide.

House Minority Kevin McCarthy said Saturday that he would take action against the two lawmakers if Democrats fail to do so.

“If they do not take action I think you’ll see action from myself,” said the California lawmaker. “This cannot sustain itself. It’s unacceptable in this country.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to address thje pro-BDS of Tlaib and Omar.

This is while a number of other Democratic leaders, including Representative Ted Deutch, the chairman of the House Middle East subcommittee, and Representative Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, have condemned the remarks.

First anti-BDS legislation

While a number of US states have already passed legislation and policies that would punish supporters of the pro-Palestinian movement, the first proposed federal law to fight to that end was introduced in the Senate last month.

Republicans, who hold the majority in the chamber, teamed up with more than half of the Democrats to approve the bill.

However, a significant number of Democrats have opposed it arguing that it would violate the right to freedom of expression, which is protected in the constituent.

In response to Tlaib, Omar and other pro-BDS lawmakers, prominent members of the Democratic Party formed the Democratic Majority for Israel last month, calling themselves “The Voice of Pro-Israel Democrats.”

Alvin Rosenfeld, director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism at Indiana University, told AFP that the widening rift could cost Democrats dearly.

“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,” he warned.

 

 

   
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