HOLLYWOOD, Florida (JTA) — US Vice President Mike Pence said the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel has “no place” in the US market, and cited Airbnb’s delisting of West Bank Jewish settlements as an example of the movement.
“In the wake of Airbnb’s decision to ban Jewish homes in Jerusalem and the West Bank, we made it clear, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is wrong and it has no place in the free enterprise of the United States of America,” Pence said at the annual conference of the Israeli American Council, taking place this year in southern Florida.
Pence did not explain what specifically the Trump administration had done to “make it clear” BDS was unwelcome in the United States. As Indiana governor from 2013-2017 Pence was among the first to sign a law banning state cooperation with businesses that boycott Israel. There are similar bills under consideration federally; Pence may have been signaling administration support for the legislation.
Airbnb still lists dwellings within Israel’s 1967 borders.
Pence, long a pro-Israel leader dating back to his days in Congress, got multiple standing ovations during the conference and repeatedly said — to applause — that Donald Trump is the most pro-Israel president ever.
“It’s a great pleasure to serve with a man who has made the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever before, President Trump,” he said.
Pence noted Trump’s Israel-related actions, including moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and pulling out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Listing instances in which Trump had made good on his “vow to combat anti-Semitism,” Pence listed the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, which disproportionately targets Israel, the Airbnb incident — although he did not say what Trump had done regarding BDS — and moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
Jewish groups have called on the administration to restore funding for a Homeland Security effort to track right-wing extremists that Trump has all but shut down and to name someone to the congressionally mandated role of a monitor of anti-Semitism overseas. Pence did not address these issues.
At the end of his speech, Pence turned to the massacre last month at a Pittsburgh synagogue complex, when an anti-Semitic gunman killed 11 worshippers.
“I believe there may have been no better example of the president’s love for the Jewish people than the way the president responded in the wake of the terrible attack of the Tree of Life Synagogue,” Pence said.
Trump visited the site of the killing three days after the attack but did not speak. A number of local Jews protested Trump and local politicians had asked him not to come. The gunman, while reviling Trump as beholden to Jews, had embraced a claim advanced without evidence by Trump that Central American migrants planned to “invade” the United States. The gunman blamed Jews for the “invasion.”
“This anti-Semitic attack was an assault not just on the Jewish community,” Pence said. “It was an assault on all of us in America.”