WASHINGTON – There's a growing anti-Israel movement known as Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) that's targeting the Jewish state's economy. Now Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is raising the alarm that support for the movement is spreading to the US.
"BDS is a movement around the world to try to get companies, pressure companies to boycott Israel, meaning not do business there, divest from any Israeli companies and to get governments to sanction Israel," Rubio explained to CBN News.
Currently, those behind BDS target companies like Ahava, Caterpillar, HP and Sabra hummus hoping, as their website indicates, to isolate Israel "academically, culturally, economically and militarily."
"It is an anti-Semitic movement," The Heritage Foundation's Joel Griffith told CBN News.
Griffith says it's also a threat to Israel's security.
"Israel is a beacon of democracy; it's an area where ethnic minorities and religious minorities enjoy equal rights and yet that is the country that these individuals have chosen to target," continued Griffith. "The end goal, as stated by their founder Omar Barghouti, is the end of the Jewish state of Israel."
The protestors boast their campaigns have cost Israeli companies billions due to lost contracts and major shareholders divesting.
"I'm concerned that for the very first time we're seeing at least two House members that are openly pro-BDS," said Rubio.
Those members would be newly elected Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Tlaib recently told The Intercept she believes the boycotts bring attention to "issues like the racism and the international human rights violations by Israel."
Sen. Rubio included a Combatting BDS Act in the first bill the Senate is taking up this year.
"We have a law that says that states and local governments can decide not to do any work, meaning no contracts for goods or services with companies that are boycotting or divesting services from Israel," explained Rubio.
Senate Democrats have blocked the bill for two weeks now, however, saying they won't consider any measures unrelated to opening the government. But Republican senators like John Cornyn say this is "hypocrisy at its worst" since Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) forced a vote this week on a resolution that reinstates sanctions on Russia previously lifted by the Trump administration.
"I would like to just point out the hypocrisy of our colleagues across the aisle who have refused to take up any legislation whatsoever, like the Senate Bill 1 that's on the floor, that would take extraordinarily positive measures to protect our most important allies in the Middle East, including Israel and Jordan," said Cornyn in a statement.
"They've filibustered that bill and said, 'Well, we're not going to take up any legislation until the government is back open, all 100 percent of it.' So for the past two weeks, the minority leader has paralyzed the work of the Senate," he charged.
Rubio thinks there's another reason at play in Senate Democrats blocking the bill.
"I think they're blocking it because they're afraid of radical elements in their own base," said Rubio. "There's a growing group of people in the Democratic Party that are anti-Israel, openly, and I think they're afraid of them."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Rep.Tlaib say Rubio's bill "punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity."
But Rubio argues, "The First Amendment applies to individuals; this law doesn't apply to individuals. You can support BDS all you want. All this law says is you can go ahead and support BDS, but if I'm a city or a state, I don't have to contract with a company that's involved in BDS."
Schumer, a staunch supporter of Israel, did not answer CBN News's question about his thoughts on the Democrats who openly support the BDS movement – but he did say this about the Combatting BDS Act.
"I am a cosponsor so I've supported it all along," Schumer said Tuesday.
Congresswoman Tlaib says she plans to go against tradition and lead a House delegation to what she refers to as the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Historically, freshman lawmakers have been invited to spend a week meeting with Israeli leaders on a trip sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).