(March 8, 2019 / JNS) Jewish and pro-Israel groups expressed mixed reactions to the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passing a resolution on Thursday condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry.
It was initially geared in response to ongoing remarks and tweets from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who on Sunday defended her recent comments accusing her “Jewish colleagues” for attacking her and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), labeling criticisms of theirs as anti-Israel because of the faith of the congresswomen, in addition to slamming her critics regarding “the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
Supporting the passage of the legislation were organizations such as the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, the Anti-Defamation League and Democratic Majority for Israel.
“We support this strong denunciation of anti-Semitism and join the House in rejecting all forms of intolerance and hatred,” said Jewish Democratic Council of America chairman Ron Klein, a former Florida Democratic congressman. “Anti-Semitism does not emerge in a vacuum. It is an indication of larger trends of intolerance in society and should be combated in conjunction with other forms of discrimination.”
Ginna Green, chief strategy officer of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, said that “the proposed House resolution is an important reminder that our collective safety relies on our collective solidarity, and it is a victory for the organizing and advocacy of the many community organizations [that] rose up in solidarity. We applaud the House leaders who listened to dozens of groups representing millions of Americans that joined us in pushing for a People’s Resolution, which emphasizes that anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia reinforce each other, and must be addressed together.”
ADL CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt said, “We are pleased the House of Representatives took a firm stance against anti-Semitism, including making an explicit statement rejecting the pernicious myth of dual loyalty and other vile slurs that have been used to persecute Jews for centuries. We strongly agree that anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and other forms of hate constitute a threat to our democracy.”
And Democratic Majority for Israel CEO and president Mark Mellman noted that “we are pleased that the Democratic controlled House passed a resolution condemning various forms of hate, including bigotry against Muslims, and anti-Semitism. House Democrats were unanimous in supporting the resolution. The House specifically defined accusations of dual loyalty as anti-Semitism.”
The final tally was 407-23.
The 23 Republicans who voted against the resolution were Reps. Lee Zeldin (N.Y.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Ken Buck (Colo.), Mike Conaway (Texas), Chris Collins (N.Y.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Peter King (N.Y.), Rick Crawford (Ark.), Doug LaMalfa (Calif.), Chip Roy (Texas), Jeff Duncan (S.C.), Tom Graves (Ga.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Ted Budd (N.C.), Michael Burgess (Texas), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Steven Palazzo (Miss.), Mike Rogers (Ala.), Greg Steube (Fla.), Mark Walker (N.C.), Ted Yoho (Fla.) and Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who is the chair of the House Republican Conference.
‘Will not be enough to counter repeated anti-Semitic comments’
While the American Jewish Congress (AJC) and StandWithUs (SWU) also supported the resolution’s passage, they expressed disappointment about Omar not being explicitly mentioned in the final version of the legislation, and not condemning Jew-hatred alone.
“Congresswoman Ilhan Omar insinuated that Jews and others who care about Israel are not loyal enough to America. The House resolution includes a clear explanation of why such rhetoric is not only anti-Semitic, but also harmful to our values as a nation of immigrants,” said SWU CEO Roz Rothstein. “There is no question that all the other forms of hate that were added to the original resolution must be stopped as well. That said, it is troubling that Congress could not condemn anti-Semitism on its own or hold one of its members accountable more directly.”
American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen noted that the resolution’s passage was “a much-needed step,” adding that the text “is thorough in addressing the history, range and insidious nature of anti-Semitism, as well as Islamophobia and other forms of hatred and racism. For these truths to be acknowledged publicly by Congress is necessary and timely.”
However, he continued, “we are concerned that this action will not be enough to counter the repeated anti-Semitic comments by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and other members of the House of Representatives. When Rep. Omar alleged that AIPAC was buying support for Israel from Congress, a similar resolution was passed. Not only did Rep. Omar proceed to make further problematic statements, but she also went as far as to use that controversy for her own fundraising.”
“Furthermore, the resolution fails to mention Omar by name,” stated Rosen. “Now that her anti-Semitic statements have become a pattern, Congress should have the courage to call her out clearly.”
‘A garbage resolution’
Groups including the Republican Jewish Coalition, the Zionist Organization of America, the Coalition for Jewish Values and the World Jewish Congress condemned the resolution’s passage, echoing Republican concerns such as Omar’s name being omitted from it.
“We think the resolution that passed yesterday was a sham and insulting to the Jewish community,” RJC spokesperson Neil Strauss told JNS. “No group deserves the hate that Ilhan Omar leveled at the Jewish community, but this was anti-Semitism. Ilhan Omar deserved to be called out by name in a resolution that focused solely on her anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
The ZOA called it a “woefully inadequate, watered-down, distorted, so-called “anti-Semitism” House resolution.”
The organization’s president, Mort Klein, and its chair, Mark Levenson, said “the resolution thus should have focused on and strongly condemned Ilhan Omar and her cohorts’ anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing. Such language is dangerous and frightening.”
The two added that Omar should be removed from her committee assignments, similar to what happened to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who was stripped in January of his committee assignments after he made remarks questioning how terms such as “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” have become “offensive.”
A House resolution passed almost unanimously in January, condemning King explicitly and white supremacy. Of course, many noted that it was far too long in coming, after years of King’s derogatory language.
Omar serves on both the Foreign Affairs and Education and Labor Committee.
At this point, no signs point to her being removed from the committee.
“This resolution insulted American Jews and all other decent Americans,” said Rabbi Dov Fischer, Western regional vice president of the Coalition for Jewish Values. “Jews who invested their political lives in the Democratic Party were rewarded with a resolution that failed to uniquely address the unique hate directed against them. A resolution against ‘all hate’ is not a resolution against anti-Semitism, but a garbage resolution that I would have voted against.”
“The House of Representatives failed to explicitly condemn anti-Semitism as a unique and targeted form of hatred, and to recognize that any inflammatory rhetoric that utilizes anti-Semitic tropes to criticize the State of Israel and fan the flames of hatred against Jews is unacceptable across the board and must be met with zero tolerance and immediate condemnation,” said World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder.
“Instead, the House has regrettably chosen to water down the resolution, thus sanctioning Representative Ilhan Omar’s remarks, which put the loyalty of American Jewry into question,” he continued. “All forms of bigotry and xenophobia, including Islamophobia, should be condemned, but we must not forget the specific nature of anti-Semitism within the current climate of anti-Zionism and rising attacks against Jews.”