The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a resolution pledging unconditional support for Israel, condemning anti-Semitism and declaring that the country is neither a racist nor an apartheid state, in an implicit rebuke of Democrats who criticized the nation before its president’s address to the commonwealth. session of the Congress.
Republican members raced to place the resolution on the floor this week after Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington and the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called Israel a “racist state,” drawing condemnation from leaders of both parties. Ms. Jayapal later walked back her comments, saying she did not intend to condemn the idea of Israel but only the policies of its current administration, but the GOP pushed through the vote anyway, in a move that Democrats denounced as politically opportunistic even as. most lined up to support it.
Ten Democrats refused to support the resolution, which passed by a vote of 412 to 9, with one “absent” vote. Mrs. Jayapal supported it.
Only one lawmaker stood on the House floor to argue against the initiative, underscoring both the broad support for Israel in Congress and a belief among many of its critics that there is no tolerance on Capitol Hill for airing their views.
“Israel is an apartheid state,” Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat and the first Palestinian American woman elected to Congress, said Wednesday in an emotional speech on the House floor. “This is not made up,” she added, citing rulings by United Nations officials, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounted to apartheid.
“The government is deeply problematic in the way they proceed in the structure of oppression,” Ms. Tlaib continued. “This is about speaking out against violence. Congress must stop funding apartheid.”
The debate unfolded as President Joe Biden welcomed President Isaac Herzog of Israel to the White House, a day before Mr. Herzog was scheduled to address a joint session of Congress and at a tense moment in US-Israel relations.
And while the vote was skewed in favor, the number of Democrats who registered against the resolution, which also rejected “all forms of anti-Semitism and xenophobia,” was striking, underscoring a growing boldness on the left to challenge Israel even at the risk of being branded a bigot. Along with Ms. Tlaib, the opponents were: Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both from New York; Cori Bush of Missouri; Andre Carson of Indiana; Summer Lee of Pennsylvania; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; and Delia Ramirez of Illinois.
Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota voted absent, declining to register a position.
Most other Democrats argued strongly in favor of the measure.
“Israel is not perfect; it has challenges and policies that are openly criticized, often by the Israeli people themselves,” said Representative Kathy Manning, Democrat of North Carolina, who voted for the resolution. “But Israel is not now and has never been a racist state. That characterization is contrary to the facts. It is a false and unfair characterization that slanders our strongest ally in the region.”
Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, argued that the resolution is necessary to combat “small-minded” views on Israel and ensure that Congress continues to “reject false accusations and repulsive anti-Israel statements.”
“Israel is not a racist country,” he said. “It is deeply disturbing and concerning to me that some in this body have such a profound misunderstanding of Israel and Israeli society.”
The vote on the resolution is likely to only inflame growing tensions between the two parties over Israel, which have been exacerbated in recent years by the GOP’s wholehearted embrace of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose policies have been criticized as steering the country away from its democratic roots. supports Republicans and Democrats have clashed over whether US officials should speak out against Mr Netanyahu’s efforts to accelerate settlement building in the West Bank in violation of international law, and impose a series of legal reforms that would reduce the independence of the courts.
Israel’s critics in the Democratic Party have been further angered in recent weeks after the government launched the biggest airstrike over the West Bank in nearly two decades, killing 12 people in the tightly populated Jenin refugee camp. Such moves are seen as detrimental to an eventual two-state solution for the Israelis and Palestinians, which Democrats continue to advocate but Republicans have largely abandoned.
The dispute flared up in recent days as several progressive Democrats – including Mr Bowman, Mrs Bush, Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Ms Omar and Ms Tlaib – announced plans to boycott Mr Trump’s speech Herzog, accusing Republicans of anti-Semitism. . It reached a pitch over the weekend with Ms. Jayapal’s comments.
“We have heard disgusting statements from members on the other side of the aisle against Israel,” said Representative August Pfluger, Republican of Texas. Mr. Pfluger, who wrote the resolution, called on Democrats “to stand up against bullying” and “those who would denounce or use words that are hateful in their rhetoric, that undermine the very essence of the nation of Israel.”
Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican, challenged Democratic leaders to punish rank-and-file members for speaking out against Israel.
“Do they think Israel is a bad state? If they believe otherwise, they should act against their own,” he told reporters on Monday.
The accusation that Democrats have an anti-Semitism problem in their ranks has infuriated even the party’s staunchest supporters of Israel, who have accused Republicans of trying to drive a wedge between their political rivals by ignoring the actions of their own members.
Speaking on the House floor on Tuesday, Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, questioned the motives of Republicans. He asked why they did not call for a resolution of solidarity with Israel after representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona, both Republicans, spoke at conferences organized by Nick Fuentes, a high-profile white nationalist who routinely espouses anti-Semitic views, or when former President Donald Trump J. Trump hosted him at Mar-a-Lago.
“Why are we taking this today?” Mr. Sherman said, after complimenting the resolution as an “excellent” statement of solidarity. “If we are going to allocate floor time, it should be when Holocaust deniers are honored by our colleagues and by the former president of the United States.”
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, supported the resolution but complained that Republicans planned it only to win political points against Democrats.
“I wish that their intentions were genuine and that they really wanted to make sure that they do things to strengthen the American-Israeli relationship,” she told reporters. “But they just want to win elections.”