What the 70 new members of Congress reveal about pro-Israel politics in the United States

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) leads a protest against police brutality, on June 12, 2020 in University City, MO. A long-time activist, Rep. Bush is the only newly-elected member of Congress to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. (photo:  MICHAEL B. THOMAS / GETTY IMAGES)
Useful information for groups meeting with their newly elected congressional representatives.

By Dale Sprusansky  | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs  |  March/April 2021

Many of the new members support legislation to criminalize BDS, with a few having worked to pass such laws during their time in state government

The politics of Israel on Capitol Hill are simultaneously contentious and unifying. Politicians from both parties—many of whom have received campaign contributions from pro-Israel groups—rarely challenge the U.S.-Israel “special relationship.” When they do, they are summarily attacked and often hit with spurious charges of anti-Semitism.

Recent years have seen notable changes in how Israel is discussed in Washington, DC. A new generation of progressive legislators, such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), have fearlessly challenged the assumptions underpinning long-standing U.S. support for Israel. Polls show their approach has a large base of support with their constituents.

The emergence of this vocal minority within the Democratic Party has in turn motivated Republicans to deepen their pro-Israel rhetoric. Eager to draw a dichotomy between their party and the Democratic Party, Republicans now regularly portray Democrats as Israel-hating and anti-Semitic. This, even though most Democrats, particularly those in leadership positions, regularly appear with Republicans at pro-Israel lobby events, such as the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. Most Democrats also join Republicans in condemning the non-violent Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

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