Imagine the outrage if Democrats introduced a bill that would protect state and local governments who wanted to refuse to do business with Christian organizations because those organizations don’t support gay marriage and Republicans refused to vote for the bill. Republicans would be painted as bigots, for sure.
We’re experiencing something similar today, but the parties are reversed.
Republicans in the senate are trying to pass S.1, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, which includes the Combating BDS Act of 2019. The anti-boycott, divestment, and, sanctions (BDS) bill would allow state and local governments to avoid contracting with businesses and individuals who support or engage in “commerce-related or investment-related boycott, divestment, or sanctions activity in the course of interstate or international commerce that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or Israeli-controlled territories.”
Supporters of this bill argue that it is not about prohibiting free speech or political activity, but about prohibiting discrimination. Harvard Law School emeritus professor Alan Dershowitz told the Federalist recently that “If the law prohibits advocacy, it is unconstitutional. If it prohibits economic discrimination based on religion or national origin, it is constitutional.”
Two Federalist contributors, Ellie Bufkin and Melissa Langsam Braunstein, reached out to every Democrat senator (plus the two “Independents” who caucus with the Democrats) earlier this week to ask for their position on BDS. Braunstein said just two offices responded, offering tepid statements about Israel and the movement.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) office pointed Braunstein to the senator’s previous statemen tof “strong support for Israel,” but described the anti-BDS bill as unconstitutional. Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-MD) office sent the Federalist a statement:
We should not stand idle when foreign countries or international governmental organizations use BDS tactics to isolate one of our key allies and bypass direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Senator Cardin has a very clear record opposing the BDS movement. He strongly believes in individual First Amendment rights that permit anyone to support BDS if they want to do so. He simply disagrees.
Just four Democrats voted to advance S.1 on Tuesday: Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Braunstein notes that the Democrat Party is more supportive of the anti-Israel BDS movement now than previously:
Consider that one year ago, Pew Research polled Americans’ attitudes toward Israel and the Palestinians. They reported that “the partisan divide in Middle East sympathies, for Israel or the Palestinians, is now wider than at any point since 1978. Currently, 79% of Republicans say they sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, compared with just 27% of Democrats.”
Drilling down, Pew quantified the change within the Democratic Party’s progressive wing that’s been apparent to Middle East watchers for some time: “The share of liberal Democrats who sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians has declined from 33% to 19% since 2016. Currently, nearly twice as many liberal Democrats say they sympathize more with the Palestinians than with Israel (35% vs. 19%).”
Further, two pro-BDS Democrats, Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) were elected in the last election.