3 liberal US Jewish groups back anti-BDS congressional resolution

Text introduced in Congress last month seen as a compromise to enlist Democratic support; J Street and Americans for Peace Now don’t sign on

Illustrative: Students protest at an anti-Israel demonstration at the University of California, Irvine. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images/JTA)
Illustrative: Students protest at an anti-Israel demonstration at the University of California, Irvine. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images/JTA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Three liberal Jewish groups have joined their centrist counterparts in supporting a nonbinding bipartisan congressional resolution that condemns the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.

The resolution, backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was introduced in Congress last month while the Israel lobby was holding its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C.

It’s seen as a compromise to get Democrats to support anti-BDS language. Previous anti-BDS legislation failed to attract overwhelming support from Democrats because of concerns advanced by civil libertarians, a key Democratic constituency, that legislating to limit BDS infringes on speech freedoms. The earlier measures were binding and punitive.

Garnering the support of liberal Jewish groups could bring more Democrats from the party’s left on board. Among 17 groups backing the resolution in a March 26 letter to the congressional leadership are three associated with the community’s liberal wing: the Union for Reform Judaism, the National Council of Jewish Women and Jewish Women International.

Groups perceived as centrist who already signed the letter include the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Reps. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., introduced the resolution in the US House of Representatives. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., introduced the measure in the Senate.

Portman posted the letter Sunday on Twitter. It singles out for criticism efforts to get universities to boycott Israel, calling such activism “fundamentally contrary to the principle of academic freedom.”

The resolution, while describing BDS as promoting “principles of collective guilt, mass punishment, and group isolation,” also emphasizes the right to oppose U.S. foreign policy, calling it “a hallmark of American democracy.” It also reaffirms support for the two-state solution at a time when the Republican Party, the Trump administration and Israel’s government have retreated from backing Palestinian statehood.

At least two liberal Jewish groups, J Street and Americans for Peace Now, that have been outspoken in opposing punitive anti-BDS legislation did not sign the letter.

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