ON THE HILL — The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) and J Street have locked horns over the prospective passage of an anti-BDS bill before the end of the Congressional session.
The JDCA announced its support for the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced in the 115th Congress by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA), on Thursday. Executive Director Halie Soifer said in a statement, “The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is consistent with the 2016 Democratic Party Platform that states Democrats ‘oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.’” A JDCA action alert asks supporters to send letters to their Congress members “urging passage before the end of the calendar year, including in an omnibus spending bill.”
J Street sent out its own action alert condemning the legislation and asking supporters to reach out to lawmakers earlier in the week, warning that “the bill’s backers will try to pass it quietly by slipping it into a government funding bill.”
“The legislation draws no distinction between Israel and the West Bank, effectively extending US legal protections to illegal settlements,” J Street wrote, noting that the ACLU has also “flagged major free speech issues” with the bill. “While J Street has always been clear about our opposition to the Global BDS Movement, this legislation is absolutely the wrong way to oppose BDS.”
J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami tells us: “We’re very critical of the BDS movement. We oppose the BDS movement. It’s not even just a matter of being critical. The question is, how do you fight and defeat those at the core of the BDS Movement who are anti-Israel? And the way that you do that is not by labeling every critic of Israeli government policy as an anti-Semite. And further, the legislation being maneuvered on Capitol Hill to try to further criminalize, penalize supporters of the BDS movement increases support for the BDS movement. It turns the movement into the victim because you are trying to squelch their first amendment rights. It is a very un-strategic move, and this is an argument we make all the time on Capitol Hill. We make the argument to the Jewish establishment… that attempting to criminalize and penalize and use the law against the BDS movement is a counterproductive strategy.”