Senate Republicans are blocking Joe Biden's nominee for deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration, Dilawar Syed, over his affiliation with a group that advocates for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Republicans and conservative groups are raising concerns about Syed's board position with Emgage Action, a Muslim-American advocacy group that has described Israel as an "apartheid" state and lobbied against legislation that would penalize U.S. companies for boycotting Israel.
"As a board member of Emgage Action, Dilawar Syed has embraced the hateful [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] movement and anti-Semitic rhetoric calling Israel an 'apartheid’ state," said Tom Jones, the founder of the American Accountability Foundation, a nonprofit group that conducts oversight on the federal government.
Republicans on the Senate Small Business Committee were no-shows at a Thursday hearing for the nominee, preventing the committee from reaching a quorum necessary to move forward with a vote. GOP senators said that they will stall Syed's confirmation not only because of his anti-Israel activism but also because he has not committed to recovering around $100 million in taxpayer-funded loans they say were illegally issued to Planned Parenthood. The Biden administration is under fire for awarding Planned Parenthood this cash via the COVID relief program, even though the organization was ineligible to receive these funds.
Syed's connection to Emgage, "paired with his lack of a commitment to recover PPP funds illegally allocated to Planned Parenthood, should immediately disqualify him as deputy administrator of the small business administration," said Jones.
Emgage Action has described the BDS movement as a "constitutionally protected nonviolent response that seeks to end the occupation" and says it "support[s] the right to boycott, divest, and sanction, as well as the Right of Return of Palestinians." The organization describes Israel as an "apartheid" state, saying on its website that Palestinians "continue to suffer under racist, undemocratic Israeli apartheid rule that steals their land and destroys their homes to make way for illegal Jewish settlements."
While Syed has said during his confirmation process that he does not support the anti-Israel BDS movement, critics say that Emgage Action has issued inflammatory statements about Israel since Syed's confirmation hearing in April, even though Syed still sits on the board. Eight Republican senators in June wrote to Democratic committee chairman Ben Cardin (Md.) to request a follow-up hearing to address their concerns about Emgage Action's comments.
Emgage Action "has since made alarming statements that have members of your committee and the small business community that we represent seriously concerned," wrote the senators.
The letter cited the group's defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) after she in June compared Israel and the United States to the Taliban. Emgage Action in a Twitter post described Omar's comments as "standing up for human rights" and "calling out state violence."
Emgage Action and a coalition of progressive activist groups released a statement Thursday that slams Republicans for blocking Syed's confirmation, calling him "a historic nomination for the Muslim and Asian American Pacific Islander communities."