Media Ignores Pro-BDS Congresswoman’s Checkered History on Israel
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D) is not the most high-profile of politicians. Serving as the representative for Minnesota’s 4th Congressional District since 2001, her political endeavors are arguably overshadowed by fellow Twin Cities Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
But on Israel, McCollum and Omar have much in common: For example, both have falsely accused the Jewish state of maintaining a system of “apartheid” that systematically dehumanizes Palestinians.
Possibly owing to the fact that McCollum has been in politics much longer than Omar, who first entered office in 2019, the former’s anti-Israel voting record is much longer than the latter. An article published by a local news outlet, the MinnPost, suggests that the Democrat may even be the most outspoken detractor of the Jewish state in politics, labeling her “Israel’s staunchest critic in Congress.”
But this is an assessment that does not go far enough when considering McCollum’s long career, one characterized by smearing, undermining, and attacking Israel — something American news outlet the Intercept downplayed this week as mere “advocacy on behalf of Palestinians.”
In October 2021, for example, McCollum introduced a House resolution that condemned Israel over the designation of six Palestinian NGOs as terror groups. Describing them as “courageous” organizations that are “defending the human rights of a vulnerable and at-risk Palestinian population living under Israeli military occupation,” her document reviles the action of the Jewish state as “a repressive act designed to criminalize and persecute important Palestinian human rights organizations.”
However, as HonestReporting has repeatedly highlighted, there is no shortage of publicly-available information that confirms links between the outlawed groups and the US-designated terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Furthermore, an independent audit commissioned by the Dutch government, which had generously donated to one of the Palestinian NGOs, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), confirmed extensive links between the UAWC and PFLP — an assessment that somewhat undermines the McCollum-backed resolution that erroneously lauds the groups as human rights defenders.
In April of last year, McCollum sponsored a bill that sought to place restrictions on US aid going towards a variety of Israeli military operations. According to the Israeli watchdog group NGO Monitor, the text was rife with distortions and false allegations, including its heavy reliance on accusations levied by the Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), an organization with ties to the PFLP and whose board members have “utilized social media to glorify terrorists who murdered Israeli civilians, including a baby.”
In a letter circulated among her House colleagues to drum up support for the bill, McCollum accused Jerusalem of “aggressively undermining any prospects for a Palestinian state” — a statement that is a staggering departure from the truth, considering the number of times the Palestinian leadership has rejected proposals that would have seen the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
She was also one of just a handful of legislators to vote against a non-binding resolution opposing the Boycott, Divestment ,and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to delegitimize and eventually dismantle the world’s only Jewish state. The motion, which was passed by a margin of 398-17, pointed out that the BDS movement “undermines the possibility for a negotiated solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by “demanding concessions of one party alone and encouraging the Palestinians to reject negotiations in favor of international pressure.”
Earlier on in her career, McCollum was among the few members of Congress to vote against the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, co-sponsored by then-Senator Joe Biden, which came in response to Hamas’ electoral victory in the Gaza Strip.
Aimed at curbing the influence of the US-designated terror group and ensuring that American funds do not reach it, the bill set out a number of caveats for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to receive financial assistance, including ensuring that “no ministry, agency, or instrumentality of the Palestinian Authority is effectively controlled by Hamas.”
Another caveat conditioned funding on the PA acknowledging Israel’s right to exist. Despite the sensible aims advanced by the legislation, McCollum refused to support it on the grounds that it “would place so many restraints on aid to the Palestinian people.”
However, a casual reader would be none the wiser about McCollum’s extreme positions on Israel if they were reading The Intercept article published on January 10, where the American non-profit news organization describes her political positions on the Jewish state thus:
McCollum has been a reliable vote for House Democrats and a leader on the question of Palestinian rights, but she otherwise has largely kept a low profile and declined to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In an interview, [Minnesota Primary Challenger Amane Badhasso] said she would raise few if any substantive objections to McCollum’s voting record. Badhasso said that she has long applauded McCollum’s advocacy on behalf of Palestinians but that the representative hadn’t done enough broadly. ‘I’m not challenging her on the basis of that,’ she said. ‘There’s so much more that we need to do. We can’t just be a champion on one issue.’
According to The Intercept, then, being a “leader on the question of Palestinian rights” means introducing legislation that falsely accuses Israel of mistreating Palestinian children — a bill that Jewish advocacy group StopAntisemitism.org warned, “subliminally perpetuates the age old antisemitic trope dating back to England circa 1144 that Jews kidnap and torture non-Jewish kids.”
Perhaps The Intercept also believes McCollum’s “Middle East activism” is exemplified by her bizarre tirade against AIPAC, which she branded a “hate group” after it called out what it perceived as antisemitism by her and fellow Congress members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
As McCollum’s track record shows, she has not championed the rights of Palestinians at all, unless such advocacy means pushing for legislation that leaves Israel vulnerable to terror attacks, and promoting the Jewish state’s isolation from the international community.
The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.