Omar Submits Pro-BDS Bill, Will Visit Israel


Undaunted by outrage provoked by her previous comments on Jews and Israel, Democratic Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar submitted on Wednesday a bill that seeks to protect Americans’ right to participate in the Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel.

“We are introducing a resolution … to really speak about the American values that support and believe in our ability to exercise our First Amendment rights in regard to boycotting,” Omar told the Al-Monitor news site. “And it is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”

While Omar’s bill does not mention Israel by name, it states that “all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

The bill was cosponsored by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia).

The first-term congresswoman seemed out of step with her party, though. On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a non-binding resolution characterizing the BDS movement as promoting “principles of collective guilt, mass punishment and group isolation.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-California) told The Jerusalem Post that Omar’s resolution had little chance of passing.

“I can’t imagine that any committee is going to mark up or take seriously any pro-BDS resolution,” Sherman said. “Am I worried about the overall BDS movement worldwide as an economic matter? No. As an effort to delegitimize Israel, of course. The comments here today are a tiny part of that delegitimizing effort.”

But some Democrats were wary of moving ahead with it just yet. They cautioned House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer against introducing the measure next week, fearing it could open a fresh rift in the party.

“I think the timing would not be very wise to take up additional measures around the Middle East,” Rep. Mark Pocan told Politico this week. “Donald Trump just brought us all together, so let’s take advantage of that,” referring to the party-wide defense of Omar and three other left-wing Congresswomen of color against a tweet barrage by the president.

Omar also told reporters that she’ll be traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories in a few weeks. “I am going in a couple of weeks and so I’ll learn more,” she said, without giving any further details.

A second piece of legislation backed by Omar would force the Trump administration to disclose details about how it shares the FBI’s watchlist of more than a million known or suspected terrorists with foreign countries.

The proposal comes as an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act. It would require a report within 180 days detailing which foreign countries get access to the database and how such decisions are made.

The watchlist has been subject to multiple lawsuits challenging its constitutionality. Critics say the list is mismanaged and innocent Muslims end up on it with no recourse for clearing their names.

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