(CNSNews.com) – Freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a Palestinian-American supporter of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, drew criticism Monday for insinuating that supporters of anti-BDS legislation in the Senate are acting in the interests of Israel rather than the United States.
“They forgot what country they represent,” Tlaib tweeted earlier, alluding to a commonly-wielded slur that pro-Israel lawmakers, especially Jewish ones, have dual loyalties to Israel and the U.S.
While Israel traditionally enjoys strong support from U.S. lawmakers across the aisle, both of the first two Muslim women to be elected to the U.S. Congress, Tlaib and Rep. Ihlan Omar (D-Minn.), have publicly voiced support for the BDS movement.
“This is the U.S. where boycotting is a right & part of our historical fight for freedom & equality,” Tlaib continued in her Twitter post. “Maybe a refresher on our U.S. Constitution is in order, then get back to opening up our government instead of taking our rights away.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who this week introduced a bill (S.1) incorporating elements of his earlier, unsuccessful Combating BDS Act, hit back at Tlaib on Monday.
“This ‘dual loyalty’ canard is a typical anti-Semitic line,” Rubio tweeted, adding that the BDS movement “isn’t about freedom & equality, it’s about destroying Israel.”
“And if boycotting Israel is constitutionally protected,” he added, “then boycotting companies that boycott Israel is also constitutionally protected.”
Tlaib was also scolded by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, a group established in 2017 as “the voice for Jewish Democrats and progressive, pro-Israel values that Jewish voters hold dear.”
“We oppose your charge of dual loyalty,” the organization, chaired by former Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), said on its Twitter feed in response to Tlaib's tweet.
“It's wrong, dangerous, and hurts the cause of peace. Whether one supports a particular bill or not, it's offensive to insinuate that senators would be driven by anything other than the best interests of the U.S.”
‘Dem leaders want to avoid a floor vote’
Critics argue that the campaign of economic warfare against Israel is anti-Semitic, since it targets only the Jewish state and none of the other nations around the world where territorial disputes exist.
In 2017, Rubio’s Combating BDS Act enjoyed strong bipartisan support, with 33 Republicans joined by 15 Democratic co-sponsors including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Ben Cardin (Md.) and Bob Menendez (N.J.)
This time, however, his initiative has hit a number of hurdles.
S.1 (the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019”), would be the first piece of legislation taken up by the Senate in the 116th Congress.
It includes provisions allowing state and local governments to divest from companies or funds that participate in the BDS campaign by boycotting, divesting from, or sanctioning Israel.
The bill also deals with security assistance to Israel, defense cooperation with Jordan, and sanctions targeting the Assad regime. It is cosponsored by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
Criticism of the legislation includes the view that it is a distraction from the federal government shutdown, and that it attempts to muzzle free speech.
“It’s absurd that the first bill during the shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity,” commented Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), in a tweet that was retweeted by Tlaib. “Democrats must block consideration of any bills that don’t reopen the government. Let's get our priorities right.”
But Rubio alleged Monday that there was another reason why Democrats are leery – a reluctance to expose emerging support for BDS within their ranks.
“A huge argument broke out at Senate Dem meeting last week over BDS,” Rubio tweeted. “A significant # of Senate Democrats now support BDS & Dem leaders want to avoid a floor vote that reveals that.”
Citing Rubio’s claim, the Republican Jewish Coalition on Monday urged supporters to call Senate Democratic leaders about the “plan to block this legislation.”
Opposition to the legislation comes from, among others, the ACLU, whose senior legislative counsel Kate Ruane accused supporters in the Senate of “trying to slip a measure intended to suppress protected political expression past public scrutiny.”
Ruane said the ACLU takes no position on the BDS movement or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but “we do maintain that states should not be sanctioning businesses on the basis of First Amendment-protected expression and association.”