Party Split Widens Over Israel


Congressional Quarterly’s online publication, Roll Call, quotes USCPR Policy Director Josh Ruebner in its cover story about the widening partisan divide on Israel.

On the introduction of HR 4391, the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act:

The bill has 28 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats, including Rep. Seth Moulton, a former Marine from Massachusetts who is heavily involved in recruiting fellow veterans to run for Congress. The McCollum bill has no chance of passing in this Congress, but its backers say its introduction was a sign of serious change. “It really is the first-ever example of a bill being introduced in Congress that completely centers on Palestinian human rights,” says Josh Ruebner, policy director for the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, a national coalition of hundreds of organizations pushing the United States to end its support to Israel until there is an equitable solution reached with the Palestinians.

On the recent successes of boycott, divestment, and sanctions and subsequent pushback:

As of last November, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights had documented 200 supportive actions for BDS in the United States. Those include 10 student referendums, student council resolutions and changes to school bylaws supporting divestment at college campuses across the country.

Activists attribute the BDS momentum, at least in part, to progressives’ frustrations with Congress, particularly lawmakers’ reticence to tying diplomatic and military support for Israel to improvements in the Middle East peace process and treatment of Palestinians. Some analysts say Democrats’ criticisms of Israel may be an effort to show activists that Congress is changing. “You are seeing a huge, huge shift in how important grass-roots and civilsociety groups are relating to this issue these days,” Ruebner says.

The legislation’s [Israel Anti-Boycott Act] opponents object to it conflating boycotts of Israeli businesses located in the occupied Palestinian territories with Israel proper. They also see it as a U.S. government-sponsored attack on individual Americans’ right to protest Israel’s policies. “You have a country that was founded on act of boycott, the tea party, and here you have legislation that in its original version suggested a 20-year criminal penalty,” Ruebner says of the Senate version of the bill, while contending the House legislation could still allow a prison sentence.