Expresses Profound Disappointment with Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Current Support for BDS After Omar Correctly Pointed Out in 2018 That BDS is ‘Counteractive’ to Achieving a Two-State Solution
July 24, 2019
Minneapolis, MN — Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement in response to the strong bipartisan passage of Congressional House Resolution 246, which opposes efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement targeting Israel:
“The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) applauds yesterday’s overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of Congressional House Resolution 246, by a vote of 398 to 17 which opposes efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement targeting Israel.
“This bipartisan House resolution is consistent with Minnesota’s 2017 bipartisan anti-BDS law, which the JCRC helped pass.
“We are grateful for the strong bipartisan support for this resolution among the members of the Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota delegations. Thank you to Representatives Kelly Armstrong, Angie Craig, Tom Emmer, Jim Hagedorn, Dusty Johnson, Colin Peterson, Dean Phillips, and Pete Stauber for signing on as cosponsors and for voting yesterday to pass the resolution.
“We are particularly grateful to Rep. Dean Phillips for his strong leadership on this resolution as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“We also express appreciation to Minnesota employers such as Medtronic, 3M, and the Mayo Clinic, which recently entered a Memorandum of Understanding with Israel’s Innovation Authority, for their continued investment in bilateral trade between Minnesota and Israel.
“The impressive bipartisan support for H. Res. 246 is matched by the moral clarity articulated within the text of the resolution itself. While we strongly encourage everyone to read the full text of the resolution for themselves, some highlights include the acknowledgment that 1) the BDS Movement is an impediment to peace because it ‘does not favor a two-state solution [and] promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment, and group isolation [which] seeks to exclude the State of Israel and the Israeli people from . . . the rest of the world;’ and 2) ‘the BDS Movement does not recognize, and many of its supporters explicitly deny, the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination.’
“Accordingly, we are grateful to the House of Representatives for resolving that it 1) ‘opposes the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement) targeting Israel; 2) ‘[u]rges Israelis and Palestinians to return to direct negotiations;’ and 3) ‘[r]eaffirms its strong support for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states—a democratic Jewish State of Israel, and a viable, democratic Palestinian state—living side-by-side in peace, security, and mutual recognition.’
“In contrast to our appreciation for the overwhelming bipartisan support for H. Res. 246, the JCRC is profoundly disappointed that Reps. Betty McCollum and Ilhan Omar were among only 17 members who voted no. As explained below, we are also in sharp disagreement with Rep. Omar’s recent statements in support of BDS.
“We are appalled that Rep. Omar’s stance on BDS, and Israel is being used as an excuse for racist and xenophobic attacks on her. As previously stated, the JCRC condemns such expressions, including most recently the campaign rally taunt to ‘send her back.’ The JCRC also shares the concern expressed by Senator Amy Klobuchar, and many others, for the safety of Rep. Omar and that of her staff.
“We believe, however, that it is our responsibility to both articulate our condemnation of the vitriol being directed at Rep. Omar while at the same time respectfully expressing our fundamental disagreements with the Congresswoman.
“Almost a year ago, then candidate Omar publicly articulated several of the most compelling reasons for why BDS was detrimental to peacefully reaching a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Specifically, at the August 6, 2018, candidate forum which the JCRC co-sponsored with other Jewish community partners, Ms. Omar told an audience of more than 1,000 people at Beth El Synagogue:
‘I believe right now with the BDS movement, it’s not helpful in getting that two-state solution. I think the particular purpose for [BDS] is to make sure that there is pressure, and I think that pressure really is counteractive. Because in order for us to have a process of getting to a two-state solution, people have to be willing to come to the table and have a conversation about how that is going to be possible and I think that stops the dialogue. I want to make sure that we are furthering policies and advocating for things that get people closer to having that conversation.’
“We raise this point not just to point out that Rep. Omar said one thing before the election and now says something very different, but because then candidate Omar’s previous thoughtful rejection of BDS as an impediment for achieving peace is remarkably consistent with the sentiments expressed in H. Res. 246, which she now opposes.
“Additionally, we are deeply troubled with any argument in support of BDS, either directly or even indirectly, which equates the right to boycott Israel with past boycotts of Nazi Germany. For example, in the competing pro-boycott resolution sponsored by Rep. Omar, H. Res. 496, the text reads in part:
‘Whereas Americans of conscience have a proud history of participating in boycotts to advocate for human rights abroad, including—
(2) boycotting Nazi Germany from March 1933 to October 1941 in response to the dehumanization of the Jewish people in the lead-up to the Holocaust;’
“Any such analogies are egregiously inappropriate and are understandably perceived by many as ‘[d]rawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,’ which according to The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance meets their ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism.’
“Moving forward, the JCRC will continue to work with all members of our Congressional delegation to underscore the critical role Congress performs in fostering efforts to reaching a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is still best achieved through a two-state solution and the return to direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”
As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights anti-Semitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.