Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus Boosts Anti-BDS Movement Resolution

April 16, 2019 Updated: April 16, 2019

WASHINGTON—Partisan conflict is the congressional norm, but the 48 members of an unusual House of Representatives caucus—evenly divided between the two major political parties—are backing an official resolution condemning the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement.

House Joint Resolution 246 explicitly condemns the movement and endorses the “two-state solution,” under which Israel would give up territory that would become an independent Palestinian state.

The resolution was introduced in March by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.).

“BDS is anti-Israel, anti-peace, and harmful to America’s interests. I’m proud that all members of the Problem Solvers Caucus are committed to opposing BDS and standing up for the U.S.–Israel relationship because these should not be partisan political issues,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.).

Gottheimer is co-chairman with Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) of the House Problem Solvers Caucus. Members of the caucus issued a statement on April 15, putting them on record in opposition to BDS.

“Israel is an unwavering ally of the United States and one of our most important strategic partners around the globe,” Reed said in the statement. “I am proud of our Problem Solvers Caucus members who have stood up to ensure Jewish people are treated fairly and spoken out to show we care about this great nation.”

In addition to explicitly condemning the BDS movement, the resolution puts the House on record in support of “the full implementation of the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 and new efforts to enhance government-wide, coordinated United States-Israel scientific and technological cooperation in civilian areas, such as with respect to energy, water, agriculture, alternative fuel technology, civilian space technology, and security, in order to counter the effects of actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel.”

The BDS movement is a loosely organized coalition of far-left academic and activist groups in the United States and Europe that describes itself as “a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice, and equality.”

The movement’s leaders condemn Israel as an apartheid state that is an occupation force preventing Palestinians from controlling their traditional homeland.

But critics of the BDS movement, according to the Capital Research Center (CRC), point to multiple statements of its leaders that encourage the creation of a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea.”

That’s a reference to the Jordan River, which borders Israel in the east, and the Mediterranean Sea on Israel’s west. Such a Palestinian state would require the complete elimination of Israel as a sovereign state.

The Nadler-Schneider resolution was introduced partly in reaction to a crescendo of anti-Israel criticism in the mainstream media in March, with a focus on the annual conference of the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Four senators who are also Democratic presidential candidates boycotted the conference, which normally is a must-attend event on the political calendar for Democrats and Republicans.

The four no-shows were Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Their absence from the AIPAC conference prompted Vice President Mike Pence to tell a packed audience of attendees that “anyone who aspires to the highest office of the land should not be afraid to stand with the strongest supporters of Israel in America. It is wrong to boycott Israel. It is wrong to boycott AIPAC.”

Pence’s comment drew sustained applause and a standing ovation.

The BDS movement’s most prominent supporters in Congress are three freshmen representatives: Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez ran with the endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) party, which supports the BDS movement in its official platform.

Tlaib and Omar have both been inconsistent in their public statements regarding the movement. Tlaib said before winning her Democratic primary in 2018 that she supported the two-state approach, according to the Israeli media outlet Haaretz.

“But in a post-victory interview, asked whether she supported a one-state or two-state solution, her response was clear: ‘One state. It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work. I’m only 42 years old, but my teachers were of that generation that marched with Martin Luther King. This whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work,’” reported Haaretz.

Omar’s views on the two-state solution are similarly conflicting.

“During a primary debate in August, Omar said the BDS Movement is ‘not helpful in getting that two-state solution.’ She also called the tactics of the BDS Movement ‘counter-productive,’” according to CRC.

“Yet in November, Omar’s campaign told that ‘Ilhan believes in and supports the BDS Movement, and has fought to make sure people’s right to support it isn’t criminalized. She does, however, have reservations on the effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution,” CRC said.

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