Ilhan Omar
© Wikimedia
Ilhan Omar
Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar has introduced a bill affirming that Americans have the right to participate in boycotts. Although the legislation doesn't specifically mention the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), it coincides with an anti-BDS resolution that is currently being pushed by many Democrats.

House Resolution 496 (HRes496) asserts that boycotts "have been effectively used in the United States by advocates for equal rights since the Boston Tea Party and include boycotts led by civil rights activists during the 1950s and 1960s in order to advocate for racial equality, such as the Montgomery bus boycott, and promote workers' rights, such as the United Farm Workers-led boycott of table grapes." It also identifies historical moments when Americans participated in boycotts to push human rights in other countries: the boycotting of Imperial Japan during the late 1930s, the boycotting of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1941, the boycotting of the 1980 summer Olympics in Moscow, and the boycotting of South Africa. The text of the bill also takes aim at legislative efforts to prohibit boycotts urging, "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."

Omar's bill currently has two cosponsors: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Interestingly Lewis is also a cosponsor of House Resolution 246 (HRes246), the aforementioned anti-BDS bill that was scheduled for a congressional mark up this week. While Democratic supporters of HRes246 claim that resolution doesn't impede on First Amendment protections, its critics believe that it will be used by pro-Israel lawmakers as a means to push much more aggressive anti-BDS legislation. Tlaib has blasted HRes246 as "unconstitutional."

On the same day that Omar introduced the legislation she told the website Al-Monitor, "We are introducing a resolution ... to really speak about the American values that support and believe in our ability to exercise our first amendment rights in regard to boycotting. And it is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement."

Hind Awwad, a steering committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), put out a statement on behalf of the BDS campaign regarding the resolution:
This groundbreaking resolution will inspire human rights defenders everywhere including BDS activists for Palestinian rights. It affirms the right of all activists and people of conscience to advocate for human rights through boycotts against systems of oppression. It reassures us that progressives, including in Congress, are defending freedom of expression and the rights of oppressed communities, including Palestinians to peacefully fight for their rights. The defense of those rights is more vital in light of the rise of far-right racism and white supremacy, including Israel's decades-old apartheid regime.
Omar's bill was also introduced on the same day that the House passed a resolution condemning President Trump for a racist Twitter tirade, in which he told Omar, Tlaib, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) to "go back" to their home countries. All of these women were born in the United States besides Omar.