Omar and Tlaib enlists Congressional Democrats in BDS war against Israel

In the wake of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s refusal to allow Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib  Israel, a group of House Democrats are “planning retaliatory moves in Congress against” US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.  The Democrats are angry that after initially allowing Omar and Tlaib to visit Israel, Netayanhu reversed the decision when it became clear they were running afoul of an Israeli law banning individuals who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting the Jewish state.

Yet, they seem to have no problem with Omar and Tliab using their trip to bolster BDS, even though the movement is dedicated to destroying Israel.  That tells you everything you need to know about how far (and easily)  Democrats have moved to normalize anti-Israel sentiments.

Omar and Tlaib have played an important role in that shift.  Since they were elected, they’ve used their positions to become two of the most important leaders of the BDS movement. Some claim that the conflict would have not developed if Netanyahu had simply let the two in. That view underestimates the ability of Omar and Tlaib to increase support of BDS and rejection of Israel and the desire among some of their fellow Democrats to aid in that effort.

Indeed, the way in which events unfolded suggests Omar and Tlaib saw the trip as the capstone of a month-long effort to make BDS a key element of the Left’s agenda.

As a Washington Post article describes, Netanyahu was initially opposed to allowing them into the United States and made it clear to leader Congressional Democrats of his position as far back as June. Then it appears Democrats wanted to find a way to avoid a confrontation. To this end US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer developed an approach what seemed to be acceptable to all: Omar and Tlaib would travel with a bipartisan congressional delegation and both would be able to visit Palestinian communities as long as they did not overtly promote BDS.

Only days before they were to leave, Omar and Tlaib submitted their travel schedule of “Palestine” to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.  It revealed they were meeting with organizations that have actively promoted anti-Semitism and have refused to renounce terrorism against the Jewish state. Hence, they were banned because they wanted to use their trip to advance the BDS war against the Jewish state.  (In that context President Trump’s tweet can be viewed as hinting at a decision already made).

Then it was discovered that their excursion was paid for by a non-governmental organization (NGO) called MIFTAH, an organization they were scheduled to meet. The group was founded by Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi who conceived the BDS movement as a way to wage war against Israel since terrorism and the second Intifada had failed.

Speaking at the virulently anti-Semitic United Nations Durban Conference On Racism.  Ashrawi called upon other NGOs to support “a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state…the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel.  In 2005 The formal Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement was founded to carry out this attack on Israel by Omar Barghouti.

Omar and Tlaib’s characterize BDS as a human rights movement seeking a Palestinian state through non-violent means. In fact, as As’ad Abu Khalil, a BDS activist in the U.S. wrote, “There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”

Barghouti and Ashrawi were banned from entering the United States this spring because of their BDS leadership activities. Both MIFTAH and BDS are affiliated with the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), which “has refused to sign the anti-terror clause that is a condition of US government funding, stating “that its members would not sign funding agreements that included the ATC [Anti-Terror Certificate]: this is now a condition for membership under PNGO by-laws.”   (In July, Omar and Tlaib, along with 17 other Democrats voted against a resolution condemning BDS and Barghouti.)

In May 2019, Israel revoked the work visa of Omar Shakir, an American citizen who used his position as director of the Human Rights Watch office for Israel and the Palestinian territories, to advance the BDS movement.  According to the Washington Post article, Omar and Tlaib along with were among another group of Democrats who sent a letter to Netanyahu to intervene in Shakir’s deportation.

The letter reads in part: deporting Shakir would “reinforce the impression that Israel is increasingly hostile to human rights defenders.”  The fact that the letter presumes that Israel is already perceived as hostile to human rights should not go unnoticed.

Omar and Tlaib want to make hating Israel a normal, if not critical, element of American politics in the same way that Jeremy Corbyn has done in Great Britain. And like Corbyn, Omar and Tlaib want to use their political authority to implement the BDS program in close cooperation with that movement’s founders and funders.

Indeed, they have made spectacular progress in the short time they have been in Congress. The media has taken up their bogus assertion that singling out Israel for condemnation and isolation isn’t anti-Semitism. No Democratic candidate for president supports the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a bill that would prohibit companies from joining anti-Israel boycotts.

Now many Democratic members of Congress are furious about Israel enforcing a law to prevent the BDS movement from taking the Jewish state apart. House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has called the decision to ban Omar and Tlaib “disrespectful” and a “self-inflicted wound” on the U.S.-Israel alliance.  If that is the case, what does that make Omar and Tlaib’s decision to reveal their plans to meet with MIFTAH at the last minute or their willingness to accept funding from a group whose founder has been banned from the US?

The attack on Israel’s action suggests that among many Democrats, BDS and its corresponding anti-Semitism is now part of the normative liberal political behavior of Western countries where Jews have been an active, welcome presence.  Omar and Tlaib have played an important role in sowing this sickness into the American political landscape. And as the Democratic soft-peddling of BDS demonstrates, it will only get worse.

About the Author
Robert Goldberg is the Vice President, Centre for Medicine in the Public Interest and co-founder of program for Israeli biotech startups “Healthcare Technological Innovation- From Idea to Commercialisation."
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