Rashida Tlaib is breaking with Congress’ usual pro-Israel stance to support the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement called BDS.
“As a person that was born to Palestinian immigrant parents, as my only living grandmother now lives in the West Bank of Palestine, it is so important that we really give a voice to those that haven’t been heard, haven’t been at the table,” she stated. “With all the different conflicts that you hear about, and different kinds of policies that you hear, you don’t actually see the human side.”
The BDS movement is an economic boycott that urges Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories, which Israel is occupying and settling in violation of multiple UN resolutions. It was started by Palestinian activists, inspired by the 1980s boycotts against South Africa’s apartheid regime. It has gained traction in the U.S. and around the world, calling for boycotts of companies that do business with Israel, divestment from Israel-affiliated institutions, and sanctions against Israel, including expulsion from the UN.
U.S. lawmakers have historically been strongly pro-Israel and Congress recently passed legislation condemning Hamas, who controls the Gaza Strip, for use of human shields. In February 2019, the Senate approved an anti-BDS bill, 77-23 urging states to ban contractors from supporting a boycott. A number of states have passed similar legislation, punishing companies that refuse to do business with Israel.
“For me, when this bill or this issue comes up it’s a form of speech. It is a First Amendment protection that we all have to make sure that we protect,” Tlaib stated. “And even if it’s the issue around divestment in Israel, even Saudi Arabia, or any other country that we disagree in their policies, we have every right as American citizens to do that.”