Senators Demand Congressional Leadership Publicly Oppose Israel Boycotts

Letter warns of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic incoming congressional Democrats

A tourist photographs a sign painted on a wall in the West Bank biblical town of Bethlehem
A tourist photographs a sign painted on a wall in the West Bank biblical town of Bethlehem / Getty Images

A delegation of Republican leaders in the Senate are demanding that Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer make public moves to oppose boycotts of the state of Israel, warning that such a declaration is needed in light of several incoming Democratic members of Congress who espouse anti-Israel views and endorse the anti-Semitic boycotting of Jewish goods, according to a copy of a letter sent Thursday and exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

A group of 15 senators led by Cory Gardner (R., Colo.) implore McConnell and Schumer to send a direct message to a new group of incoming Democratic lawmakers that support for the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS, which seeks to wage economic warfare on Jews and Israel, will not be tolerated.

"We write today to bring to your attention a disturbing development concerning the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic movement known as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)," the senators write, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon. "Regrettably, in recent days, future members of the U.S. House of Representatives have publicly expressed support for this extreme movement."

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"It is disheartening to see future members of Congress take a position on BDS that is not only highly biased, but contrary to fundamental facts and detrimental to U.S. national security interests," they write. "We therefore respectfully urge you to immediately condemn these comments and to show bipartisan support for our ally Israel."

The senators—including Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Lindsay Graham (R., S.C.), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), and David Perdue (R., La.), among several others—urge congressional leadership to prioritize several pieces of legislation rejecting the boycotters and solidifying even further the U.S.-Israel alliance.

"We urge you to issue a joint statement publicly condemning BDS and to prioritize legislative efforts in the next session of Congress to counter this destructive trend," the senators write. " We note there were bipartisan legislative efforts, including the Combating BDS Act (S.170) and the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.720), which were introduced in the 115th Congress."

The senators note that the U.S.-Israel alliance has long been a bipartisan consensus issue, and that a new class of Democrats who proudly wear their anti-Israel bona fides will not erode this historically strong alliance. They go on to invoke the words of President Barack Obama, who heralded Israel as a "thriving democracy" in a 2013 speech.

"As then-President Barack Obama stated in his speech in Jerusalem on March 21, 2013:  ‘Israel has established a thriving democracy—with a spirited civil society, proud political parties, a tireless free press, and a lively public debate—lively may even be an understatement. And Israel has achieved this even as it has overcome relentless threats to its security—through the courage of the Israel Defense Forces, and a citizenry that is resilient in the face of terror.'"

"Simply put," the letter continues, "the BDS movement seeks to de-legitimize the State of Israel and its people."

The senators also remind Schumer that he has gone on the record multiple times condemning the BDS movement.

Congressional sources familiar with the effort say that the growing numbers of fringe, anti-Israel lawmakers in both parties are slowly eroding U.S. support for Israel, prompting worries that the leadership will begin to entertain the idea of Israel boycotts.

"The vast majority of Republicans, Democrats, and the American people want to counter economic warfare against our Israeli allies," said one GOP congressional staffer who worked on the effort. "Some Democrats and a couple Republicans don't think our Israeli allies should get support from the United States. It's not clear which camp Republican leadership will side with."