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Tulsi Gabbard voted to condemn BDS, but she’s become a cosponsor of Ilhan Omar’s boycott bill

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Congresswoman and presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has become the fifteenth House member to cosponsor H.Res.496, a resolution affirming that Americans have the right to boycott foreign countries to advance the cause of human rights.

The legislation was introduced last month by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and although the text doesn’t specifically mention Israel or Palestine at all, Omar has made it clear that it was developed in response to the recent proliferation bills that target the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (also known as BDS). “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,” she said shortly before the bill’s introduction, “And it is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”

Gabbard became a cosponsor just one week after she voted for H.Res.246, a resolution that doesn’t penalize supporters of BDS like other legislation, but condemns the movement and effectively tags it as antisemitic. Only seventeen House members voted against the measure, sixteen of them Democrats. Multiple Democratic lawmakers (including Gabbard, California Rep. Ro Khanna, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley) felt compelled to make public statements justifying their YES votes, presumably because of the strong online backlash they received. Gabbard posted a video on her website explaining the vote and touting her support for Omar’s resolution:

Some of you have sent me messages and posted on social media asking for more information about why I voted for the way I did on a recent resolution talking about BDS so I wanted to give you some background and talk to you about my commitment to defending our First Amendment rights. 

Nothing is more fundamental to the identity of our country than the rights and freedoms that are enshrined in our Constitution. Now I’ve fought to defend these freedoms both as a solider and as a congresswoman and it’s why we’ll continue to oppose unconstitutional legislation like S.1 [the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019], a bill that does restrict free speech by imposing legal penalties against those who participate in the BDS movement. That’s why I cosponsored H.Res.496, to affirm our freedom of speech and right to protest or boycott for any cause as well as stating opposition to any legislative efforts that seek to restrict these fundamental First Amendment rights.

Now I voted for H.Res. 246 because I support a two-state solution that provides for the rights of both Israel and Palestine to exist and for their people to live in peace with security in their homes. I don’t believe BDS is the way to accomplish that. However, I will continue to defend those who choose to exercise their right to free speech without any threat of legal action. Now H.Res.246 does not in any way limit or hinder our First Amendment rights. In fact, it affirms every American’s right to exercise free speech for or against U.S. foreign policy, as well as the right of Israeli and Palestinian people to live in safe and sovereign states free from fear and violence and with mutual recognition. The right to protest the actions of our government is essential if America is to truly be a free society. So no matter what our disagreements are about various political positions or choices that our government makes, we can all agree that every American should have the freedom to make those disagreements known and protest peacefully in support of their views.


Despite the fact that there’s been a lot of media coverage focusing on the growing rift over Israel that’s developing in the Democratic Party, there was not one question about Israel or Palestine during this week’s debates. On a recent episode of Peter Beinart’s Occupied Thoughts podcast he pointed out that this will probably change soon. “If you think about the 2016 campaign,” said Beinart, “I think it was really when they got to the New York primary (surprise surprise) that you had the most significant debate about Israel so I imagine as you get towards that with the larger Jewish constituencies, it will come up.”

This certainly isn’t the first time Gabbard has sent seemingly mixed messages on the subject of Israel. After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu controversially addressed the United States Congress in 2015 in an effort to undermine the Obama administration’s Iranian nuclear negotiations, she wasn’t one the 60 Democrats who boycotted the speech. “It’s unfortunate that an issue as important as preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons has been muddled by partisan politics,” she said, “This is an extremely serious issue, at a critical juncture, that should not be used as a political football.”

That same year she spoke at the Christians United for Israel conference, despite their rabidly pro-Israel views and founder John Hagee’s history of antisemitic comments and support for settlement expansion in the West Bank. In 2016, she received an award from controversial Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who has close ties to the pro-Israel GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson. A picture from the event shows Gabbard posing with Shmuley and Adelson’s wife Miriam.

In 2017, Gabbard voted against a House resolution that refuted the U.N. Security Council Resolution condemning the expansion of Israeli settlements and in 2018 she tweeted criticism of  Israel’s attacks of protesting civilians. “Israel needs to stop using live ammunition in its response to unarmed protesters in Gaza,” she said, “It has resulted in over 50 dead and thousands seriously wounded.”

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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23 Responses

  1. Donald on August 2, 2019, 5:29 pm

    Under her issues page, Gabbard has a piece highlighting Prof. Postol’s skepticism regarding two gas attacks in Syria.

    I am not a weapons expert so won’t comment on the merits either way, but here is something I feel comfortable saying—

    The msm in the US completely ignores this and they also ignore her when she says we are supporting Al Qaeda, which, indirectly, is what we have been doing by supplying weapons to rebels in Syria. ( Though right now she might be referring to what is going on in Yemen).

    The press is happy to report that she met with Assad, but they stay well away from reporting the substance of her claims. I think it is because they are afraid people might look into it.

    Imagine if instead she said that 9/11 was done by the CIA.. I don’t want to get 9/11 theories ( I think Al Qaeda did it, but who knows who else knew it was coming.) Then I am sure they would be happy to ridicule her crazy conspiracy theory. But coming back to reality, they don’t report what she says about Syria and Al Qaeda because they don’t want people talking about it.

    • JWalters on August 2, 2019, 6:53 pm

      Anyone in politics who want to move the ball forward toward justice for Israel’s victims has to step very carefully in order to stay in the game. Right now the Israeli agents blanketing America are content to ignore Tulsi and information of the sort you mention. But stepping too far out in front will bring a devastating onslaught of smears. In this high-stakes war, deceiving the treacherous Israelis is a legitimate tactic.

      • Donald on August 3, 2019, 12:47 am

        “But stepping too far out in front will bring a devastating onslaught of smears. I”

        She already gets that. I am not sure what to think of her, but I read some liberal blogs and the comments about her there are usually unhinged. You see claims she must be working for Putin or Assad. On that last point people said similar things about antiwar people who visited Iraq in the runup to the war.

        IMO talk about the Syrian War and our unsavory role there is more tightly controlled in the US than talk about Israel. This blog focuses on Israel and that’s fine, but I suspect there is a lot of crap that went on in Syria which is our fault that we won’t know about in detail for decades, if ever. It’s only in recent years that the mainstream acknowledged our role in the Indonesian mass murders in the mid 60’s. It’s far enough in the past that it would seem like ancient history to most Americans now.

      • Misterioso on August 3, 2019, 10:19 am

        JWalters, et al

        For the record:

        Short CNN Video, July 31/19

        “Tulsi Gabbard takes on Kamala Harris over her prosecutorial record in California and her record on criminal justice reform, the death penalty, and the war on drugs during the second Democratic presidential debate in Detroit.”

    • oldgeezer on August 2, 2019, 9:08 pm

      “when she says we are supporting Al Qaeda, which, indirectly, is what we have been doing by supplying weapons to rebels in Syria. ”

      It’s a heckuva a lot more than merely supplying weapons to rebels in Syria. In fact it’s not even close to that. Factor Israel’s involvment and it becomes even more massive. While they’re the majors I also don’t doubt most western/nato countries aided and abetted. They’re just under the radar so far.

      • Donald on August 3, 2019, 12:34 am

        “It’s a heckuva a lot more than merely supplying weapons to rebels in Syria. ”

        I am not sure what you mean, unless you are also talking about how US air strikes demolished Raqqa while attacking ISIS. That’s one of the bizarre things about the US in Syria— we bomb the people we indirectly arm, along with thousands of civilians. But you might know something else I haven’t read about.

        But anyway, to me our arming of insurgents is a very serious matter, especially when so many of these weapons somehow as if by magic quickly ended up in the hands of ISIS or Al Qaeda. The document below, from an organization funded by the EU, shows how ISIS was armed. Some of it came from us.

    • JWalters on August 3, 2019, 8:23 pm

      Has Morning Joe said she’s an enemy of America yet?

    • Tuyzentfloot on August 5, 2019, 5:27 am

      Tulsi’s report is rather indirect. Postol himself only reviewed the leaked Henderson report on Douma and didn’t author it. The leakers however, who are actual whistleblowers with all the risks involved, and they put their trust in the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media to publish the report, and remained in contact for followup reports. This should mean something but in the mainstream the WGSPM has preemptively been dismissed as Kremlin/Assad stooges so everyone avoids them like the plague. But they are very good.

      Also, the Henderson report is not the work of an individual. It is team work. This is not a case of an individual dissident in the OPCW. They published a followup article about the considerable internal problems with the OPCW due to excessive western control.

      I am not a weapons expert so won’t comment

      I took that point of view but changed it. There are several intermediate levels between expert level right to talk and having to completely rely on authority. I’ve read the thing and it’ll take a pretty good expert to change my mind. But if you see it as ‘I have no authoritative voice so I shut up’ then yes.

  2. Citizen on August 2, 2019, 6:47 pm

    I will vote for Tulsi, at this point. I have donated to help her meet the floor # for participation in the succession of TV debates. I would like to see her detail why she thinks BDS is no way to achieve a 2-state solution, and also, if she thinks Israel must end settlement expansion to offer any hope of a 2-state solution. Would she avoid the insider label “Israel’s Lawyer” glued onto US as broker in the past regarding negotiation when she is POTUS? How?

    • pjdude on August 3, 2019, 7:25 pm

      i wont’t until she answers some rather strong contections to her links to the Sangh Parivar. Im not going to trust anyone with such strong links to to unsavory groups. She has ties to what if my research is accurate functions as a hindu version of the KKK back in india.

  3. JWalters on August 2, 2019, 7:27 pm

    H. Res. xxx

    Whereas the state of Israel is officially an apartheid state, favoring Jews over non-Jews;

    Whereas Israel has been dedicated to its apartheid character since its founding;

    Whereas Israel intends to maintain its apartheid policies and actions indefinitely into the future;

    Whereas Israel has consistently violated the conditions of the Balfour Declaration to which it agreed;

    Whereas Israel has consistently violated the civil rights of the non-Jewish people of Palestine;

    Whereas Israel has consistently violated international law and U.N. resolutions;

    Whereas Israel has consistently violated the fundamental principle of equal justice under the law, enshrined in the United States Constitution;

    Whereas Israel’s unjust actions and policies have become a security liability for the United States;

    Resolved, That the House of Representatives-

    (1) suspends all monetary payments to Israel immediately;

    (2) demands that Israel comply with all U.N. resolutions regarding Israel’s violations of international law and the civil rights of the people of Palestine;

    (3) requires AIPAC and other Israeli agents in the United States to register as agents of a foreign government.

  4. braciole on August 3, 2019, 6:59 am

    Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that politicians can lie and be inconsistent with their policies. Tulsi Gabbard is wise to do the same to get herself elected as without power politicians are a complete waste of space/time/energy.

  5. RoHa on August 3, 2019, 10:01 am

    “Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that politicians can lie and be inconsistent with their policies. ”

    Politicians lying and being inconsistent? This was unheard of before Trump.

    • Donald on August 3, 2019, 1:00 pm

      “Politicians lying and being inconsistent? This was unheard of before Trump.“

      It’s the fault of the Russians. George Washington had bequeathed our political culture a habit of uncompromising integrity and honesty and we didn’t want to let him down. Then Putin came along and spoiled everything.

      • JWalters on August 3, 2019, 8:44 pm

        The corruption of George Washington’s legacy is the the secret subject of the Book of Revelations. The money worshipers will rise up too high, building an unsustainable edifice of corruption. Eventually it will collapse and be destroyed decisively. The human race will learn, and those predatory practices will be eliminated thereafter. So they say.

      • CigarGod on August 4, 2019, 9:20 am

        Perhaps in an evolutionary way…the Revelation really only describes the cycle.
        Most likely, we will have thousands of cycles before we can measure any learning

  6. Misterioso on August 3, 2019, 10:04 am

    First and foremost a politician, Gabbard is “covering her a**.” She feels the growing winds of change among Americans regarding “Israel,” i.e., they are increasingly sick and tired of paying its bills and disgusted with the monstrous crimes it inflicts on the defenseless Palestinians.

    • Tuyzentfloot on August 5, 2019, 5:47 am

      Her antiwar stance looks quite bipartisan to me: against foreign intervention both because it is bad for the US citizens and bad for the others. This can appeal to conservatives as well as progressives.
      Which way this goes where Israel and the Palestinians are concerned is not straightforward. I don’t expect her to champion the rights of Palestinians. But her position challenging the war state is definitely not a matter of covering her ass and it’s important. She is up against the entire democratic establishment as well as the war state.

      • Citizen on August 6, 2019, 5:55 pm


  7. Talkback on August 3, 2019, 1:51 pm

    The Real Reason So Many Republicans Love Israel? Their Own White Supremacy. – Peter Beinhart

  8. Citizen on August 3, 2019, 4:21 pm

    Tulsi has enough donors now to be in the next debate, but she has only 1 of 4 the Democratic Party’s “qualified polls” showing her at 2%, which is the additional criteria she must meet. I hope she gets 3 more of those poles registering her as at least at 2%.

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