Fresh from row with Trump, Ilhan Omar pushes pro-BDS resolution in House
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Fresh from row with Trump, Ilhan Omar pushes pro-BDS resolution in House

Democrat’s initiative, which affirms 1st amendment right of Americans to boycott, comes as her party’s leadership seeks to introduce measure condemning pro-Palestinian movement

US Rep Ilhan Omar speaks to support LGBTQ and allied high school students from across the state of Minnesota who marched to the State Capitol steps Thursday, March 21, 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota. (AP/Jim Mone)
US Rep Ilhan Omar speaks to support LGBTQ and allied high school students from across the state of Minnesota who marched to the State Capitol steps Thursday, March 21, 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota. (AP/Jim Mone)

US Representative Ilhan Omar introduced a resolution on Tuesday aimed at pushing back against laws seeking to clamp down on boycotts of Israel.

The resolution, which does not explicitly mention Israel or the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, comes as Omar and several other progressive freshman Democrats have been thrown back into the spotlight, thanks to attacks on them by US President Donald Trump.

The resolution affirms the right of Americans to participate in boycotts as an expression of free speech under the First Amendment, citing boycott movements against Nazi Germany, the USSR and apartheid South Africa.

It is cosponsored by Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat whose family is Palestinian, and Georgia’s John Lewis, a civil rights pioneer.

“We are introducing a resolution… to really speak about the American values that support and believe in our ability to exercise our first amendment rights in regard to boycotting,” Omar told the Al-Monitor news site in comments published late Tuesday. “And it is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”

The resolution introduced Tuesday calls on the House to oppose “unconstitutional legislative efforts to limit the use of boycotts to further civil rights at home and abroad,” a reference to resolutions passed in several states that ban working with companies who back the BDS movement.

The Combating BDS Act introduced in the Senate would grant federal protections to states that target the pro-Palestinian movement, including states that ban contracts with individuals and entities who partake in Israel boycotts.

Meanwhile, the Democratic leadership in the House is gearing up to introduce a non-binding resolution condemning BDS.

On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the resolution, which accuses the BDS movement of promoting “principles of collective guilt, mass punishment and group isolation.”

However, some Democrats have cautioned House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer against introducing the measure next week, fearing it could open a new rift in the Democratic party.

“I think the timing would not be very wise to take up additional measures around the Middle East,” Representative Mark Pocan told Politico this week. “Donald Trump just brought us all together, so let’s take advantage of that.”

US President Donald Trump takes part in the 3rd Annual Made in America Product Showcase on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 15, 2019. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

Pocan was referring to a series of tweets in which the US president accused Omar, Tlaib, and representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley of being anti-Semitic and told them to “go back” to the countries they were from.

The four, all women of color in Congress for the first time, are all American citizens, and only Omar was born outside the US. The comments were widely denounced as racist.

Omar came under fire earlier this year for some comments about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that some took to be anti-Semitic.

Omar and Tlaib have both spoken out in support of BDS. Omar has also expressed support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though Tlaib says she supports a single state formula.

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