Rep. Ilhan Omar drew praise for introducing a resolution on Wednesday affirming the use of boycotts as constitutionally-protected free speech and a tactic for effecting social change.
"This is HISTORIC!" tweeted antiwar group CodePink.
Co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and John Lewis (Ga.), H.R. 496 says that "governments and nongovernmental organizations alike have sought to criminalize, stigmatize, and delegitimize the use of boycotts in an attempt to stifle constitutionally protected political expression."
Per the text, the resolution:
- affirms 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;
- opposes unconstitutional legislative efforts to limit the use of boycotts to further civil rights at home and abroad; and
- urges Congress, states, and civil rights leaders from all communities to endeavor to preserve the freedom of advocacy for all by opposing anti-boycott resolutions and legislation.
The resolution from Omar—who's faced repeated criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike for noting the power of the Israel lobby—does not mention Israel, Palestine, or the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement known as BDS.
Still, CodePink, in an email to supporters, framed the new measure as "a counterweight" to the bipartisan H.R. 246, a pending measure that seeks to oppose "efforts to delegitimize the state of Israel and the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement targeting Israel."
Strikingly, while Lewis is a co-sponsor of H.R. 246, Tlaib and other critics of the anti-BDS proposal have called it "unconstitutional."
Lewis's co-sponsorship of the new H.Res.496, CodePink said in its email, is one "of the most incredible aspects of this resolution." The group noted that he's "a long-time civil rights leader and 32-year-long congressmember known for his strong support for Israel."
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As such, the group said, having Rep. Lewis as part of the resolution making clear the right to engage in political boycotts "sends a clear and direct statement that the right to boycott must be protected, regardless of one's position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This is a game-changer!"
Jewish Voice for Peace also applauded Omar's new resolution, praising the three House lawmakers for their "unwavering support for human rights, free speech, and the fight for social justice—everywhere."
Thank you @ilhanMN, @RashidaTlaib and @repjohnlewis for your unwavering support for human rights, free speech, and the fight for social justice – everywhere. #Right2Boycott— JewishVoiceForPeace (@jvplive) July 17, 2019
Read the bill in full: https://t.co/MQOYyMvJir pic.twitter.com/dpgLdZA3te
The BDS National Committee also made the connection to the measure's broad affirmation of the right to boycott and how it affects the BDS activists.
"This groundbreaking resolution will inspire human rights defenders everywhere, including BDS activists for Palestinian rights," said Hind Awwad on behalf of the movement, adding that it provides reassurance "that progressives, including in Congress, are defending freedom of expression and the right of oppressed communities, including Palestinian, to peacefully fight for their rights."
This piece has been updated to correct the spelling of Hind Awwad's name. We regret the error.