Sen. Marco Rubio threw a rock at a political hornet’s nest on Monday when he tweeted, “The shutdown is not the reason Senate Democrats don’t want to move to Middle East Security Bill. A huge argument broke out at Senate Dem meeting last week over BDS. A significant # of Senate Democrats now support #BDS & Dem leaders want to avoid a floor vote that reveals that.”
Twitter erupted — as it is wont to do — with users arguing whether this reflected insider knowledge or was a convenient lie. Personally, I’m inclined to believe there’s something to what Rubio wrote. Anyone who’s followed American foreign policy in recent years knows that the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement is an explosive and barely contained hot-button issue for Democrats.
Consider that one year ago, Pew Research polled Americans’ attitudes toward Israel and the Palestinians. They reported that “the partisan divide in Middle East sympathies, for Israel or the Palestinians, is now wider than at any point since 1978. Currently, 79% of Republicans say they sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, compared with just 27% of Democrats.”
Drilling down, Pew quantified the change within the Democratic Party’s progressive wing that’s been apparent to Middle East watchers for some time: “The share of liberal Democrats who sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians has declined from 33% to 19% since 2016. Currently, nearly twice as many liberal Democrats say they sympathize more with the Palestinians than with Israel (35% vs. 19%).”
Lest these numbers be dismissed as theoretical concerns, Midwestern voters just elected the nation’s first two pro-BDS members of Congress. Of course, neither Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan nor Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota were particularly forthright about their views during election season. It wasn’t until after winning her Democratic primary that Tlaib “explicitly endors[ed] a one-state solution and oppos[ed] aid [to Israel], a change celebrated by far-left Palestinian activists, who sharply criticized her for seeking out and receiving the J Street endorsement.” Omar didn’t publicly acknowledge that she supported BDS until after November’s election. (Read more from “Only Two Democrat Senators Will Publicly Oppose the Anti-Israel BDS Movement” HERE)