(Adds names of members who voted against the resolution or voted “present.”)
(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday night passed by an overwhelming margin a resolution opposing the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, with three of the four Democratic freshmen known as “the squad” voting against the majority of their colleagues.
Sponsored by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), and co-sponsored by almost 80 percent of the House (175 Republicans and 174 Democrats), H.Res. 46 passed by 398 votes to 17.
The measure opposes the BDS movement, calls on Israelis and Palestinians to resume direct negotiations, reaffirms support for the so-called “two-state solution” to the conflict, and – in response to a key complaint of opponents – affirms U.S. citizens’ constitutional right to free speech.
Critics argue that BDS is inherently anti-Semitic, since it targets only the Jewish state and none of the numerous other nations around the world where territorial disputes exist.
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Democrats speaking on the floor in favor of the resolution included House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), a Palestinian-American, argued that the resolution “sets a dangerous precedent because it attempts to delegitimize a certain people's political speech, and to send a message that our government can and will take action against speech it doesn’t like.”
Among the 17 “no” votes were Tlaib and her fellow freshmen Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.). The fourth congresswoman viewed as their close ally, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), voted for the resolution.
One Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.), voted no. The other “no” votes came from Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Andre Carson (Ind.), John Dingell (Mich.), Jesus Garcia (Ill.), Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) , Barbara Lee (Calif.), Betty McCollum (Minn.), Gwen Moore (Wisc.), Chellie Pingree (Me.), Mark Pocan (Wisc.), Bobby Rush (Ill.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.)
Voting “present” were indepent Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.) and Democratic Reps. Karen Bass (Calif.), Danny Davis (Ill.), Jared Huffman (Calif.), and Hank Johnson (Ga.)
Of the three House members running for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination, Reps. Seth Moulton (Mass.) and Tim Ryan (Ohio) did not vote, while Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) voted “yes.”
Tlaib and Omar, the first Muslim women elected to Congress, are outspoken supporters of the BDS movement.
Last March Tlaib prompted criticism from Democrats as well as Republicans when she insinuated that supporters of a Senate anti-BDS measure were acting in the interests of Israel rather than the United States. “They forgot what country they represent,” she tweeted.
Disputes over such comments, especially by Tlaib and Omar, have roiled the Democratic caucus this year.
Earlier on Tuesday, Schneider declined to label BDS supporters among his Democratic colleagues as bigoted or anti-Semitic, even as he characterized the BDS movement as bigoted and anti-Semitic.
“There are a lot of people who support the BDS movement but they may not necessar – may not necessarily understand the intent or the expression of how the BDS movement is actually, uh, what it’s fighting for,” Schneider told CNN. “The fact that it’s not just fighting against the occupation of the West Bank or Gaza; it denies Israel’s connection to the land going back to 1948.”
Schneider said he had spoken to Tlaib about it, “and she has her narrative and she has her experience.”
CNN’s Dana Bash challenged him further, asking him how he could disconnect or separate the people who support a movement – which he had clearly stated was anti-Semitic – from the movement itself.
“So I, very simply, the fact that they support this movement, I believe they have a understanding of what they believe the movement does, without fully understanding the impact of it,” he replied.
Schneider’s approach to the issue recalled that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this year, when in defense of Omar she said she did not believe the freshman “appreciates the full weight of how” her comments – suggesting that some U.S. politicians have “allegiance to a foreign country,” i.e. Israel – were received by others.
“I don’t think that the congresswoman perhaps appreciates the full weight of how it was heard by other people, although I don't believe it was intended in an anti-Semitic way,” Pelosi told reporters at the time.
Meanwhile Omar has introduced a resolution that does not mention BDS, Israel or the Palestinians, but affirms the rights of Americans, under the First Amendment of the Constitution, to participate in boycotts that are intended to promote human rights, in the U.S. or abroad. Tlaib is one of six Democratic co-sponsors.