No country has taken a stronger stand and action against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement than the United States, both in Congress and in the 50 states – 27 states, from Rhode Island to California, have already passed regulations using their own finances to block BDS activists from accomplishing their goals.
The battle against BDS is being led by the pro-Israel community in the US, and it is important to note that it remains a bipartisan issue bringing together Republicans and Democrats. Two of its most powerful warriors are Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas who ran for president in 2016, and Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida in the House of Representatives.
In exclusive interviews, Cruz and Deutch were clear that they both consider the BDS movement not just anti-Israel, but antisemitic too.
“Boycotts and other attacks on the livelihood of Jews have been part of antisemitism for centuries, and BDS is one of the latest manifestations,” Cruz said. “It is an antisemitic movement that seeks to delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state, and deserves to be condemned. The United States and our allies, meanwhile, should stand with Israel and ensure that it has what it needs to defend itself diplomatically and militarily.”
“The BDS movement is rooted in the antisemitic belief that the only Jewish state in the world doesn’t have a right to exist,” he said. “There is a clear difference between political speech critical of any government’s policies, and advocacy for a policy that results in the end of the Jewish state. Efforts to delegitimize Israel or treat Israel differently than every other country in the world cross that line into antisemitism.”
Cruz expressed hope that an anti-BDS resolution that he drafted with Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, would soon be passed by the Senate.
“I recently introduced a resolution with Senator Kaine that condemns all antisemitism, including boycotts targeting Jewish businesses,” said Cruz. “It has over 50 cosponsors in the Senate, and I hope that the Senate will soon pass it and condemn these manifestations of antisemitism in one voice.”
Cruz pointed out that “there’s a long tradition of senators coming together to combat BDS. In 2015, I penned a letter with Senator Gillibrand to Federica Mogherini, which was signed by 36 senators, condemning Europe’s efforts to impose labeling restrictions that would’ve amounted to a de facto boycott of Israel.”
Mogherini has served as High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy since November 2014.
Asked what he had accomplished in his battle against BDS, Deutch responded: “Boycotting, divesting from or sanctioning Israel are counter-productive toward achieving a peaceful, two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have supported legislation to condemn the BDS movement, and considered legislative options for pushing back against it. I have also pressed the Department of Education to seriously address antisemitism on our college campuses.”
Cruz said he was proud that his home state had taken a lead in the fight against BDS.
“There is no question that we’re seeing a dangerous rise of antisemitism around the world, and it must be condemned in all forms,” he said. “In 2017, Texas Governor Greg Abbot signed anti-BDS legislation into law, which sent a powerful message that Texas stands with Israel and will not do business with or invest certain public funds in companies that participate in this discriminatory economic campaign that intentionally seeks to delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state.”
Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis led a high-level delegation to Israel in May, and came out strongly against BDS during a visit to Ariel University.
“There is no place for BDS in the State of Florida – don’t worry about that,” he said, noting that he had helped in the successful battle to get Airbnb to drop its boycott of Jews in the West Bank. “Lo and behold, because of our leadership and the leadership of others, just recently Airbnb reversed its discriminatory policy.”
Deutch said that as a member of the Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, he believes prejudice against Israel and Jews could not be tolerated in Florida or anywhere else in the US.
“We can’t allow antisemitism to continue unchecked,” said Deutch. “Whether from the political Left or Right, from white supremacists or anti-Zionists, hatred of Jews will only spread unless we speak out. At the same time, it is unacceptable when groups manipulate this violent hatred of Jews for their personal political gain. When you weaponize issues like antisemitism and support for Israel, you make the Jewish community and the State of Israel less safe.”
Cruz said that President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem sent out “a powerful message” to Israel’s enemies.
“Last year, President Trump relocated the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, where it should be,” said the Texas senator. “Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital since the founding of the modern State of Israel, and it’s been the eternal capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years. Moving the US Embassy to Israel’s rightful capital sends a powerful message to those who wrongly seek to delegitimize Israel. The United States and the state of Texas unequivocally stand with Israel.”
The picture is not entirely rosy, though. At least two Congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, both of whom have hailed their Middle East roots, have openly endorsed the BDS movement.
Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, said she sought to highlight “Israel’s violations of the Palestinians’ human rights,” while Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, said she was providing an alternative view to the mainstream US position squarely supporting Israel.
“When I see Israel institute laws that recognize it as a Jewish state and do not recognize the other religions living in the country, and we still hold it up as a democracy in the Middle East, I almost chuckle,” Omar said.
Asked what their message was to the Israeli people as Israel celebrates its 71st anniversary, both Cruz and Deutch played down such radical views, saying that the US is committed to defending the Jewish state from all threats against it, including BDS.
“The United States stands shoulder to shoulder with Israel in commemoration of 71 years of independence,” said Cruz. “It has been seven decades since Prime Minister Ben-Gurion made his historic declaration of independence and President Truman gave his historic recognition. I’m proud to say that America continues to stand unshakably with our allies.”
Deutch pointed out that “Israel has withstood 71 years of wars, unending security threats, global delegitimization campaigns, and existential threats. But the story of Israel is the story of hope. The United States Congress’s commitment to the bilateral strategic relationship and Israel’s security to defend itself from evolving threats remains firm and unwavering. Personally, I am a proud Zionist who strongly defends our close connection to Israel, which is based on shared values.”