The fact that the support of two members of Congress for BDS sparked this controversy is seen as a sign of how far the movement has come. For the first time, it has vocal, high-profile advocates in federal office who are eager to challenge Capitol Hill’s long-standing, unequivocal support for the state of Israel. “It’s quite remarkable,” said Fox, “to see the wave cresting.”
Among the vast majority of lawmakers, however, BDS is and has long been considered an unacceptable, fringe idea. Just last month, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a symbolic resolution opposing BDS—just 17 members voted against it. But a range of stakeholders in the debate over Israel policy are increasingly concerned that, despite its broad lack of support, BDS could become a focal point for a breakdown of U.S.-Israel ties in the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s move to ban the congresswomen from Israel.
“The only people to gain through this campaign against the BDS movement are the BDS activists themselves,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the advocacy group J Street, which shares the goal of changing the U.S.-Israel status quo but opposes BDS.
“The more you fight them and elevate their status into an existential threat to the state, the more they become a compelling outlet for people’s unhappiness over what’s going on in the West Bank,” he told The Daily Beast on Friday. Israel, he said, “played right into the hands of their critics.”