After hours of deliberation on Thursday, the House voted on an a resolution that sparked conversation and criticism.
By Jackie Headapohl
All Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to pass a resolution denouncing anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry March 7. About two dozen Republicans voted against the resolution, many because they said the resolution did not go far enough in rebuking Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, whose statement about Jewish Americans having “allegiance to a foreign government” sparked the controversy. It was not the first time Omar was accused of anti-Semitism.
Originally, the House resolution addressed only anti-Semitism, but after pressure from the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party, was expanded to include Islamophobia, racism and other forms of hate.
At her weekly news conference, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said she had spoken with Omar and explained why her remarks about Israel were hurtful to Jews and others. “I don’t think that the congresswoman perhaps appreciates the full weight of how it was heard by other people, although I don’t believe it was intended in an anti-Semitic way,” said Pelosi before the vote came to the floor.
Michigan Rep. Brenda Lawrence said in a statement in support of the resolution, “Anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry and all forms of hatred do not reflect the values of the American people and deserve the strongest condemnation.”
Many Jewish groups aren’t happy with the vote, including the World Jewish Congress, whose president Ronald Lauder said the resolution “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.”
The Zionist Organization of America issued a statement saying that it was “appalled’ the resolution didn’t mention the anti-Semitic tropes made by Omar.
The Orthodox Union “welcomed” the resolution but added in a statement that “it would have been better for the House of Representatives to respond to recent incidents of anti-Semitism with a resolution exclusively addressing that topic.”
Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said in a statement, “I don’t want to feed into this, what I think is a false narrative, that somehow Democrats who wanted to see this resolution expanded in any way were opposed to denouncing anti-Semitism. I don’t think that’s the case.
“We certainly don’t share the views on Israel of those who have initiated these discussions,” Soifer added, “but … there should be a distinction made between opposing anti-Semitism and engaging in a legitimate debate about U.S. policy toward Israel. It’s important for those engaging in these conversations to recognize that distinction, and that is one of the principle goals, I believe, of this resolution. By defining these anti-Semitic tropes, I hope people will be more careful in the language that they use when engaging in political debate to avoid using anti-Semitic references going forward.”