The recent vote in the House of Representatives on H.R. 246, supporting the so-called “Opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement targeting Israel” bill, provides us with some important lessons. At the very least, it demonstrates some important realities for the Palestinian rights movement.
H.R. 246 is essentially a statement of principles by the House—in this case, a statement demonizing BDS as unacceptable and implying that it’s anti-Semitic. It is filled with misrepresentations and specific lies about what BDS is and isn’t. Unlike previous iterations of anti-BDS legislation in Congress, this resolution has no enforcement provisions and imposes no direct punishments on BDS supporters. Some in Congress took the position that it was “not as bad” as the earlier versions, which would have criminalized boycott activities against Israeli corporations and institutions.
Technically, that’s true—but claiming that a congressional resolution condemning and demonizing nonviolent BDS supporters is somehow OK because it’s not “as bad” as an enforceable bill sets an outrageously low bar for determining statements of principle. It also leaves out the very real consequences of the resolution, such as giving city and state authorities eager to placate pro-Israel forces what amounts to a congressional seal of approval on any kind of anti-BDS legislation or regulation.