Minister cheers US vote against Israel boycott movement

Minister cheers US vote against Israel boycott movement

Gilad Erdan, whose office oversees anti-BDS efforts, hails House resolution for showing ‘support for Israel is stronger than ever’

Public  Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, February 19, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, February 19, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan on Wednesday welcomed the US congressional resolution passed a day earlier that rejected the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, calling it a powerful show of bipartisan support for Israel.

The House of Representatives passed the resolution by a 398-17 margin, with five abstentions.

“The sweeping bipartisan resolution condemning BDS passed earlier today in the US House of Representatives proves, despite certain extremist and unique voices in Congress, support for Israel is stronger than ever,” tweeted Erdan, whose ministry oversees efforts to stymie the boycott movement.

“This decision publicly recognizes that BDS opposes Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, no matter the borders, and it harms the chance of achieving peace and coexistence in the region,” added Erdan, who is also the country’s public security minister.

Palestinian and left-wing Jewish groups stage a rally walking from Times Square to United Nations Building in New York Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. The marchers are calling to end all US aid to Israel, end the Occupation and support Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) against Israel (AP Photo/David Karp)

The Palestinian leadership of the global BDS movement also responded to the measure, saying the resolution is “based on lies and aims to demonize peaceful resistance to Israel’s military occupation and apartheid.”

The measure “opposes the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement) targeting Israel, including efforts to target United States companies that are engaged in commercial activities that are legal under United States law, and all efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel.”

It also says that the BDS campaign “undermines the possibility for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by demanding concessions of one party alone and encouraging the Palestinians to reject negotiations in favor of international pressure.”

The bill — formally known as House Resolution 246 — also calls for increased security aid to Israel and a two-state solution.

Sixteen Democrats opposed the bill, including representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Both support the BDS movement. One Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, voted against the resolution.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., right, listen as US President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 5, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Tlaib forcefully castigated the measure after it was introduced two weeks ago, saying it was an effort to silence BDS supporters.

“Our [First Amendment] right to free speech allows boycott of inhumane policies,” she tweeted. “This bill is unconstitutional.”

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — applauded its passage.

“The resolution sends a powerful message that the House of Representatives explicitly rejects discrimination directed against the Jewish state through economic, cultural and political boycotts” the group said. “Underscoring the House’s solid pro-Israel position, the resolution was cosponsored by 350 representatives — strong majorities of both parties.”

Last year, Omar was intensely criticized for saying that AIPAC paid American politicians to take pro-Israel positions, which some criticized as promoting an anti-Semitic trope. Omar has since apologized but recently told CBS News that she did not regret what she said.

The resolution also comes a little more than a week after Trump sparked a controversy over his tweets telling four liberal freshmen congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from, and accused them of hating Israel.

On Tuesday Omar, one of the congresswomen targeted by Trump, introduced a resolution affirming the right of Americans to participate in boycotts as an expression of free speech.

“It is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement,” Omar told the Al-Monitor news site in comments published late Tuesday.

That resolution currently has three sponsors, Omar, Tlaib, and Georgia Representative John Lewis, a civil rights icon who famously marched on Selma.

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