BDS win: Virginia governor hopeful backs Israel boycott movement

BDS win: Virginia governor hopeful backs Israel boycott movement
In rare move, Lee Carter, a candidate running for governor of Virginia, expressed strong support for the Israel boycott movement.
3 min read
20 March, 2021
Lee Carter confirmed his stance at a virtual Q&A session [Getty]
WASHINGTON D.C. (The New Arab) - In a rare move in US politics, a candidate for governor of Virginia has expressed his strong support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement - a pro-Palestine campaign promoting the boycott of Israel.

Lee Carter confirmed his stance at a virtual Q&A session with other contenders, when he was asked if we would ever issue a gubernatorial directive against BDS.

"No, I would never do that. I’m a supporter of the BDS movement," Carter said. "I believe that the human rights abuses that are being inflicted upon the [Palestinian] people are among the worst currently ongoing in the world."

He continued: "And there is only one state in America that has an agency dedicated to increasing its trade deficit with a foreign country, and that agency is the Virginia Israel Advisory Board.

"I don’t think that we should have an agency like on our books that for any country, but specifically for a country that has a military occupation over a captive population like the Israeli government does over the Palestinian people."

The agency Lee was referring to, the Virginia Israel Advisory Board, is an Israeli government agency located in northern Virginia, whose stated aim is to improve economic and cultural ties between the two entities.

Critics, however, point to an increased trade deficit with Israel and also allege conflicts of interest.

Read also: Palestine solidarity is alive and well this Israeli Apartheid Week

The BDS movement has seen executive orders issued against it in 32 states, all of which have been rebuked on grounds of freedom of speech. 

Waleed Mahdi, assistant professor of US-Arab cultural politics at the University of Oklahoma, told The New Arab that Carter's support of BDS is "significant – especially in the context of the challenges BDS has faced in litigation". 

He said he would be interested to see what the response will be to Carter's stance.  

"It could be a good way to measure where BDS is. Has it garnered more support? The response to his candidacy could be a litmus test," he said.

Carter's background – a white military man from a rural part of Virginia – could also be a sign that the BDS movement is appealing to those beyond Arab and Muslim communities.

"It's important for the face of movement to be represented by individuals who are not representative of the Middle East. Sometimes it takes a white individual to mainstream an issue. It diversifies the narrative of BDS and makes it more multiracial," Mahdi said.

Virginia's gubernatorial election will be held November 2. There are currently 12 other candidates vying for the position.

Carter, who now serves in Virginia’s House of Delegates, is considered among the more liberal candidates. He previously co-chaired the Democratic presidential campaign in Virginia for Senator Bernie Sanders.

Brooke Anderson is The New Arab's correspondent in Washington D.C., covering US and international politics, business and culture.

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