J Street has addressed two new US proposals regarding boycotts of Israel, one that affirms citizens’ constitutional right to engage in boycotts, and another that rejects the BDS movement and calls for a two-state solution.
US Representative Ilhan Omar introduced a resolution on Tuesday that ostensibly seeks to counter laws that restrict boycotts of Israel. Her bill does not name the Jewish state or the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, but she said in am interview that the goal of the resolution was supporting the BDS movement.
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.
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.” House leadership will decide if the resolution will be voted on by the full house, and when the vote would take place.
J Street said in a statement that it supports the resolution introduced by Omar and cosponsored by Reps. Rashida Tlaib and John Lewis since it is protected by the First Amendment right to free speech.
“We have been at the forefront of the fight to oppose dangerous legislation that seeks to impose unconstitutional legal penalties on those engaging in boycotts. We also believe that such efforts to restrict the constitutional rights of supporters of the Global BDS Movement ultimately only serve to garner more attention for their movement,” the liberal Mideast policy organization said in a statement.
Omar’s legislation “opposes unconstitutional legislative efforts to restrict this fundamental right for any group of Americans in the service of any cause. It does not mention or reference Israel, the Palestinians or the Global BDS Movement,” J Street said.
The group also said it supports the House Foreign Affairs Committee resolution that rejects BDS, since it does so “without in any way infringing upon or seeking to restrict Americans’ free speech rights.”
That resolution jibes with the group’s objections to BDS, including “the movement’s refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination and its refusal to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
J Street does not consider support of both bills contradictory, saying that lawmakers can oppose the BDS movement and support the right of Americans to support any boycott movement.
“No matter how strongly one disagrees with or opposes the rhetoric or goals of specific movements and efforts, the right to boycott is an important component of our democracy. At a time when key democratic institutions and values are increasingly under assault from demagogues in this country and around the world, it is a right that we cannot forsake,” J Street said.