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7 liberal Jewish groups back anti-BDS congressional resolution

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Seven liberal Jewish groups have joined their centrist counterparts in supporting a nonbinding bipartisan congressional resolution that condemns the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.

The resolution, backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was introduced in Congress last month while the Israel lobby was holding its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C.

It’s seen as a compromise to get Democrats to support anti-BDS language. Previous anti-BDS legislation failed to attract overwhelming support from Democrats because of concerns advanced by civil libertarians, a key Democratic constituency, that legislating to limit BDS infringes on speech freedoms. The earlier measures were binding and punitive.

Garnering the support of liberal Jewish groups could bring more Democrats from the party’s left on board. Among the more than 20 groups backing the resolution in two separate letters to the congressional leadership are seven associated with the community’s liberal wing: the Union for Reform Judaism; the National Council of Jewish Women; Ameinu; J Street; Partners for Progressive Israel; Reconstructing Judaism; and Jewish Women International.

Groups perceived as centrist who already signed one of the letters include the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Reps. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., introduced the resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., introduced the measure in the Senate.

Portman posted one of the letters, initiated by the ADL and sent on March 26, on Sunday on Twitter. It singles out for criticism efforts to get universities to boycott Israel, calling such activism “fundamentally contrary to the principle of academic freedom.”

The resolution, while describing BDS as promoting “principles of collective guilt, mass punishment, and group isolation,” also emphasizes the right to oppose U.S. foreign policy, calling it “a hallmark of American democracy.” It also reaffirms support for the two-state solution at a time when the Republican Party, the Trump administration and Israel’s government have retreated from backing Palestinian statehood.

The separate April 3 letter signed by five progressive groups emphasizes the resolution’s support for the two-state solution and its nod to speech freedoms.

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