In one of the lesser recognized moves Gov. Ron DeSantis made in an already hectic term was his announcement that the lodging business AirBNB was no longer an approved travel expense for state employees. DeSantis declared that any employees using AirBNB locations on business stays would not be reimbursed.
The reason for the move was that the company made the decision to no longer list properties in Israel’s West Bank. Like a growing list of companies these days, AirBNB has waded into the minefield of social activism -- and like many of those companies, it is receiving pushback on its position. Its stance regarding Israel reflects what is a growing reality in political circles, and the Democratic Party in particular is grappling with the issue.
Since the midterm elections this past November, the issue of anti-semitism has become a metastasizing problem with the Dems. Two freshman congresswoman in particular -- Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Talib -- have become a perpetual source of concern for the party. They have been accused of anti-semitism while regularly becoming outspoken in their opposition of Israel, and forwarding the economic agenda against Israel of Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS).
This rise of anti-semitism has also affected groups such as The Women’s March, which has become fractured because some of its leadership are avowed anti-Israel activists. Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory are outspoken opponents of Israel and ally themselves with Louis Farrakhan. This became such a significant problem that many groups backing the March pulled out of endorsing the event.
When the National Organization for Women, Emily’s List, and the Southern Poverty Law Center sees reason to abandon an outfit for its toxic positions, the problems have reached an apex. The Democrats struggled to choose sides, as they have been regular supporters of the March over the years. Debbie Wasserman Schultz came out with a vocal repudiation of the group herself. As a result of the turmoil, last month's rallies were attended by significantly lower numbers.
The DeSantis/AirBNB issue is only one of the latest political conflicts to well up regarding BDS, a growing effort from the anti-Israel set. As the issue of anti-Israel bias refuses to ebb, Sen. Marco Rubio forwarded a bill last month that would protect states penalizing companies that boycott Israel.
Rashida Talib sparked a siege on Twitter with Rubio over the matter. Of the sponsors of the bill she said directly, “they forgot what country they represent.” Rubio fired back at Talib with very pointed language: “This “dual loyalty” canard is a typical anti-semitic line #BDS isn’t about freedom & equality, it’s about destroying #Israel.”
Rubio’s bill may have exposed some of the challenges being faced by the Democrats on the BDS issue. As the bill passed in the Senate by a margin of 77-23, only one of the opposition votes was a Republican. Of the 22 dissenters six of them in particular are notable for being on the long list of Democratic candidates for the presidential election -- Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, and Sherrod Brown.
The DeSantis stance was also a callback to the campaign for governor last fall. While running against Andrew Gillum the issue of the Tallahassee mayor having a deep alliance with a Florida activist group was brought to light. The Dream Defenders are a left-wing organization that has a socialist agenda and is an avowed anti-Israel voice of activism. They are decidedly pro-Palestine in their positioning and promote BDS activities. The group could become a thorn in the makeup of the 2020 election.
Gillum had been more than a supporter of the Dream Defenders. Its founder was an ally of Gillum’s from their college activism days, and for years Gillum was an enthusiastic backer of the group, all the way up to his winning the Democratic nomination for governor. It was only during that campaign that he made the effort to distance himself from some of the policies of the group, including giving a voice of opposition to BDS efforts.
Gillum’s name has frequently been mentioned as a potential running mate for one of the Democratic candidates. His recent job at CNN seems made to give him the needed exposure as a possible selection. It shows the sticky web within which the Democrats are currently entangled regarding anti-semitism.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.