The first two Middle East Congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, have openly endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Michigan congresswoman Tlaib said on Saturday that she wanted to highlight “issues such as racism and Israel’s violations of the Palestinians’ human rights”.
Meanwhile Omar, the congresswoman for Minnesota, said she is working to bring some balance to the US position, which currently gives priority to Israel. Omar told US media:
When I see Israel institute laws that recognize it as a Jewish state and do not recognize the other religions living in the country, and we still hold it up as a democracy in the Middle East, I almost chuckle.
She added: “I know that if we saw that in another society we would criticize it – we do that to Iran and any other place that upholds its religion.”
In response, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin slammed Tlaib and Omar’s open support for the BDS movement, urging his colleagues to “to reject the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred that we are starting to see infiltrating American politics and even the halls of Congress”.
The Republicans also accused the Democratic Party leadership of encouraging “hate speech and intolerance towards Israel”. Alvin Rosenfeld, director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism at Indiana University, said that “there is obviously a serious fight going on within the Democratic Party with respect to how to deal with BDS and some within their party who advocate for it”. “Should the party swing to the far left and appear to be way out of line with America’s traditional ties to one of its strongest allies, Israel, the party will surely suffer at the polls,” he told AFP.
However, Omar has defended her views on Israel, saying she finds it “exciting” that her views are sparking debate. “I think it is actually exciting because we are finally able to have conversations that we weren’t really willing to before,” she told CNN.