It was a brilliant move on the part of House Republicans, that drove a wedge between pro- and anti-Israel Democrats, forcing traditional friends of Israel, most notably Manhattan Congressman Jerry Nadler, to abstain on legislation many of his constituents might consider vital to the defense of the Jewish State.
The House resolution “Strongly condemning and denouncing the drastic rise of antisemitism in the United States and around the world” included several “whereas” sections that depicted the gravity of the problem. But the most important, even crucial point that turned the resolution into a litmus test of every lawmaker’s support for the Jewish State came right at the opening:
“Whereas the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism is widely accepted and serves as a critical tool to help individuals comprehend and identify the various manifestations of antisemitism.”
And it led, many whereas points later, to the conclusion: “Resolved, that the House of Representatives … clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.”
That was the wooden stake the Republican members drove straight through the heart of their Democratic opponents, whose party is being torn asunder between pro- and anti-Israel factions. Or, as Nadler put it angrily: “The House GOP is attempting to weaponize Jewish lives for political gain. The explosion of antisemitism worldwide deserves a bipartisan, all-of-government approach. Instead of working in good faith to implement the US National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, they are introducing partisan, intentionally divisive resolutions that do nothing to protect Jewish lives.”
Poor Jerry. His record on Israel is stellar – although he supports the two-state solution, but then every Democrat does. He did not expect to be forced into a vote on the most widely-attacked item on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definitions of antisemitism.
“Under this resolution, those who love Israel deeply but criticize some of its policy approaches could be considered anti-Zionist,” Nadler protested.
He was wrong.
ANTI-ZIONISM IS NOT ANTISEMITISM
For the record, nowhere does the IHRA suggest that anti-Zionism is antisemitism. But it comes close with its definition of antisemitism as “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” as well as “Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis,” and, most potently: “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
No one in Israel’s or America’s mainstream has suggested that criticizing this or that move of the Israeli government amounts to antisemitism. But as the IHRA demonstrated, there’s a big difference between people who object to, say, Israeli settlements, because they conflict with their political world view, and those who support the murder of Jewish settlers by their Arab neighbors.
Come to think of it, going on the record with this resolution with “The House of Representatives clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism” may have changed forever not only the history of antisemitism but also the direction of criminal prosecutions in the US. As one of the “whereas” items in the resolution proclaimed: “Whereas the slogan ‘From the River to the Sea,’ which is a rallying cry for the eradication of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, has been used by anti-Israel protesters in the United States and globally” – it may be implied that singing this slogan is an illegal public display of antisemitism that should be prosecuted.
Congressman Nadler, you, and several of your Jewish colleagues, have shamelessly voted against a widely bipartisan bill that properly considers it antisemitic to deny the Jewish People the right to self-determination and autonomy within their Biblical homeland. You and others… https://t.co/laAtRmCccV
— David M Friedman (@DavidM_Friedman) December 5, 2023
Former US ambassador to Israel David M Friedman rained brimstones and hellfire on Nadler for voting “present” on the Republican resolution (rather than vote against it):
“Congressman Nadler, you, and several of your Jewish colleagues, have shamelessly voted against a widely bipartisan bill that properly considers it antisemitic to deny the Jewish People the right to self-determination and autonomy within their Biblical homeland. You and others cite as justification for this extraordinary disloyalty the fact that there exist fringe Jewish groups who are anti-Zionist. Tell me, sir, would you have voted against the Civil Rights Act because there existed a small fringe of African Americans who eschewed those rights? Of course not.
“The right of the Jewish People to live in their Biblical Homeland is an essential tenet of the Jewish Faith across all streams of Judaism. To deny that right is to be an antisemite and while your feeble sophistry may placate your radical constituents, many of us are stunned by your hypocrisy,” the former ambassador concluded what must have been a field day for Republican Jews everywhere.
The author of the GOP resolution, Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn) also rejected Nadler’s and his fellow Democrats’ claims of using the pain of the victims of antisemitism as a political weapon, saying on the floor of the House, “We have seen members of this very body repeat blatantly antisemitic rhetoric and spread lies about Israel and her right to exist. Let me be absolutely clear, such hate has no place in the halls of Congress, nor in our national discourse.”
One of the worst-hit targets of the new resolution has to be Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) who has already been censured by the House (with 22 Democrats supporting it) for “promoting false narratives” about the October 7 Hamas massacre, and for “calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.” She and the rest of the members of the “Squad” may be facing more of the above, making them more vulnerable as the incumbents in the 2024 Democratic primaries.
Thirteen Democrats voted against the resolution: Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Summer Lee (Pa.), Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (Ill.), Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Gerry Connolly (Va.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Delia Ramirez (Ill.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.). One Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.) opposed the resolution.
Last week, the House approved a resolution calling on Hamas to immediately release all the Israeli and foreign hostages. Earlier, the House passed a resolution condemning support for Hamas and Hezbollah on college campuses. Earlier still, it passed a resolution supporting Israel and condemning Hamas following October 7.