Rep. Tlaib recalls boycotts against Nazi Germany to defend right to snub Israel

During debate over resolution outlawing embargoes on Jewish state, Democratic congresswoman says America has long history of blacklisting foreign regimes to advocate human rights

Screen capture from video of Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan, addressing the US House of Representatives during a debate over a resolution rejected boycotts of Israel, July 23, 2019. (YouTube)
Screen capture from video of Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan, addressing the US House of Representatives during a debate over a resolution rejected boycotts of Israel, July 23, 2019. (YouTube)

Democratic Congresswoman Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Tuesday pointed to the examples of boycotts against Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa as justification for maintaining the individual right to boycott Israel.

Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to be elected to Congress, made the remarks during a House debate on a resolution rejecting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

“Americans boycotted Nazi Germany in response to the dehumanization, imprisonment and genocide of Jewish people,” Tlaib said. “In the 1980s, many of us in this very body boycotted South African goods in the fight against apartheid. Our right to free speech is being threatened with this resolution.”

Recalling her Palestinian roots, the Michigan representative said, “I can’t stand by and watch this attack on our freedom of speech and the right to boycott the racist policies of the government and the State of Israel.”

Tlaib and other BDS supporters say that in urging businesses, artists and universities to sever ties with Israel, they are using nonviolent means to oppose unjust policies toward Palestinians. Israel says the movement masks its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

Despite Tlaib’s objections, the bill passed by a vote of 398-17, with five abstentions. Sixteen Democrats opposed the bill, including Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Both support the BDS movement.

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.”

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

On Tuesday Trump renewed his attacks on Tlaib after a video emerged of her trying to disrupt one of his presidential campaign events in August 2016. In the video, which surfaced over the weekend, Tlaib is seen being escorted from the event hall by two security guards as she jumps and shouts at Trump.

Speaking at a teen student action summit in Washington, Trump said that he had seen the video and thought that Tlaib was “acting like a lunatic.”

“I watched just this morning this Tlaib from Michigan,” he said. “There is no way she stands for the values of the people of Michigan. But I watched her this morning. She’s vicious. She’s like a crazed lunatic.”

“She’s screaming,” Trump continued. “She’s screaming like a total lunatic. This is not a sane person.”

Also Tuesday, Omar 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.

Omar and Tlaib are planning to visit Israel and the West Bank in August. On Friday, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer told The Times of Israel that Jerusalem will not prevent the US lawmakers from entering the country “out of respect for the US Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America.”

Under a controversial law that Israel enacted in 2017, the state can prohibit any foreigner from entering the country who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.”

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