Jul 13, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Progressives plan boycott of Israeli president’s speech to Congress

Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Ilhan Omar. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Several progressive House members are expected to boycott Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address to a joint session of Congress on July 19.

Why it matters: It underscores the stark divide on Israel among Democratic lawmakers and voters.

What they're saying: Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), a member of the progressive "Squad," told Axios on Thursday that he's "probably going to be boycotting" the address.

  • "I've been very outspoken regarding the treatment of Palestinians," Bowman said. "The United States is important in ensuring accountability and uplifting the human rights of Palestinians."
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said she is “not planning to” attend the speech.
  • Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) declined to say whether she will attend.

The backdrop: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted Wednesday that there is "no way in hell" she is attending, noting that she and Tlaib, both Muslims, were banned from entering the country in 2019.

  • "The United States can and should use its diplomatic tools to engage with the Israeli government," Omar said.
  • "But giving the current government the honor of a joint televised address sends the absolute wrong signal at the wrong time."

The other side: Republicans were swift to slam the boycott.

  • "Jamaal Bowman, seeing no condemnation from his colleagues for Ilhan Omar's anti-Semitism, has decided to join in her hateful boycott," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Will Reinert said in a press release.
  • "How long will House Democrats allow this rabid anti-Semitism to grow in their ranks?"
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