After several days of infighting and a near-rebellion by rank-and-file Democrats, as well as a major last-minute revision, the House on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other bigotry.
The final vote was 407 to 23, with 23 Republicans voting no, and all Democrats voting yes. [SEE FULL TEXT of the resolution in extended article]
It only indirectly condemned Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s repeated ‘anti-Semitic’ comments and does not mention her by name.
For days, Democrats wrestled with whether or how to punish Omar, one of two Muslim-American women in Congress, and what other types of bias should be decried and whether the party would tolerate dissenting views on Israel.
It is shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference. Anti-Semitism has fueled atrocities throughout history and it’s inconceivable they will not act to condemn it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 6, 2019
WATCH: Rep. Omar runs away when asked “are you anti-Semitic?” and if she supports a Congressional resolution condemning anti-Semitism:
Generational as well as ideological, the upheaval was fueled in part by young, liberal lawmakers — and voters — who have become a face of the newly empowered Democratic majority in the House. This group is critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, rejecting the conservative leader’s approach to Palestinians and other issues.
They split sharply from Democratic leaders who seemed caught off guard by the support for Omar and unprepared for the debate. But the leaders regrouped.
“It’s not about her. It’s about these forms of hatred,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before the vote.
Pelosi said she does not believe that Omar understood the “weight of her words” or that they would be perceived by some as anti-Semitic.
Asked whether the resolution was intended to “police” lawmakers’ words, Pelosi replied: “We are not policing the speech of our members. We are condemning anti-Semitism.”
Nancy Pelosi refuses to say if Ilhan Omar should apologize for her anti-Semitism: “She may need to explain that she did not, it’s up to her to explain. But I do not believe that she understood the full weight of the words”
“Her words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude” pic.twitter.com/qD8wbsI9cI
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) March 7, 2019
The resolution approved Thursday condemns anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities “as hateful expressions of intolerance.” Omar, a Somali-American, and fellow Muslims Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Andrew Carson of Indiana, issued a statement praising the “historic” vote as the first resolution to condemn “anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Some Democrats complained that Omar’s comments on Israel had ignited all this debate while years of President Donald Trump’s racially charged rhetoric had led to no similar congressional action.
The seven-page document details a history of recent attacks not only against Jews in the United States but also Muslims, as it condemns all such discrimination as contradictory to “the values and aspirations” of the people of the United States. The vote was delayed for a time on Thursday to include mention of Latinos to address concerns of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It was inserted under a section on white supremacists who “weaponize hate for political gain” over a long list of “traditionally persecuted peoples.”
An earlier version focused more narrowly on anti-Semitism. The final resolution did not mention Omar by name.
Getting this debate right will be crucial for Democrats in 2020. U.S.-Israel policy is a prominent issue that is exposing the splits between the party’s core voters, its liberal flank and the more centrist Americans in Trump country the party hopes to reach.
“What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate. That’s wrong,” said presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who is Jewish.
“Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world,” the senator said. “We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel.”
Other Democratic presidential contenders tried to walk a similar line.
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris said “we need to speak out against hate.” But she said she also believes “there is a critical difference between criticism of policy or political leaders, and anti-Semitism.” Harris added that she is “concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk.”
A statement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said, “Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians.” She said threats of violence, including those made against Omar, “are never acceptable.”
The Democratic excuses so far:
1. Omar is a benighted ignoramus who must be educated like a small child.
2. Omar’s open anti-Semitism is ACKSHUALLY just anti-Israel rhetoric.
4. Maybe she’s anti-Semitic but the Holocaust was a long time ago and she’s from Somalia.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 7, 2019
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said, “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, they are allowed to have free speech in this country,” Gillibrand said. “But we don’t need to use anti-Semitic tropes or anti-Muslim tropes to be heard.”
Fancy dancing on the head of a pin, @SenGillibrand. Why do you find it so difficult to simply call Congresswoman Omar's antisemitism what it is, like @NYCMayor was decent enough to do? There's so much garbage in this statement, and not enough characters on Twitter. pic.twitter.com/sljBPt81Hu
— Kalman Yeger (@KalmanYeger) March 8, 2019
Another member of the new crop of outspoken young House freshmen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, said the final product, as well as the way presidential candidates are now talking about the issue, showed “there’s been some really great progress we’ve made.”
Many Democrats are able to navigate the terrain between their support for Israel and their criticism of Netanyahu. Some take official visits to Israel and attend the annual AIPAC conference, a premier event of a prominent lobbying group, coming later this month to Washington.
But Omar’s rhetoric is taking Democrats to a place that leaves many uneasy. The new lawmaker sparked a weeklong debate in Congress as fellow Democrats said her comments have no place in the party. She suggested politicians have “allegiance” to Israel, reviving a trope of dual loyalties. It wasn’t her first dip into such rhetoric.
The new congresswoman has been critical of the Jewish state in the past and apologized for those previous comments. But Omar has not apologized for what this latest comment.
Some of the House’s leading Jewish Democrats wanted to bring a resolution on the floor simply condemning anti-Semitism.
But other Democrats wanted to broaden the resolution to include a rejection of all forms of racism and bigotry. Others questioned whether a resolution was necessary at all and viewed it as unfairly singling out Omar at a time when Trump and others have made disparaging racial comments.
After getting pushed around by freshmen reps in the House, it’s clear Pelosi is the leader in name only. And a feckless one at that.
She couldn’t even pass a toothless resolution condemning vile antisemitism.
— Dov Hikind (@HikindDov) March 7, 2019
There remained frustration that the party that touts its diversity conducted such a messy and public debate about how to declare its opposition to bigotry.
“This shouldn’t be so hard,” Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said on the House floor.
Among the Republican dissenters, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the GOP leadership, called the resolution “a sham put forward by Democrats to avoid condemning one of their own and denouncing vile anti-Semitism.”
In part, Democratic leaders were trying to fend off a challenge from Republicans on the issue.
They worry they could run into trouble on another bill, their signature ethics and voting reform package, if Republicans try to tack their own anti-Semitism bill on as an amendment. By voting Thursday, the House Democratic vote counters believed they could inoculate their lawmakers against such a move.
BOOKER: Any questions, anybody?
REPORTER: Regarding the controversy surrounding Congresswoman Omar
BOOKER:Can we do off topic questions when we finish? I will happily stand and talk with you about that…
(no one asks q’s on topic and Booker jovially ends presser) pic.twitter.com/j3E4BMLe9t
— Alan He (@alanhe) March 7, 2019
FULL TEXT of the House resolution condemning bigotry:
Condemning anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values and aspirations that define the people of the United States and condemning anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contrary to the values and aspirations of the United States.
Whereas the first amendment to the Constitution established the United States as a country committed to the principles of tolerance and religious freedom, and the 14th amendment to the Constitution established equal protection of the laws as the heart of justice in the United States;
Whereas adherence to these principles is vital to the progress of the American people and the diverse communities and religious groups of the United States;
Whereas whether from the political right, center, or left, bigotry, discrimination, oppression, racism, and imputations of dual loyalty threaten American democracy and have no place in American political discourse;
Whereas white supremacists in the United States have exploited and continue to exploit bigotry and weaponized hate for political gain, targeting traditionally persecuted peoples, including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others with verbal attacks, incitement, and violence;
Whereas the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., taught that persecution of any American is an assault on the rights and freedoms of all Americans;
Whereas on August 11 and 12, 2017, self-identified neo-Confederates, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klansmen held white supremacist events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where they marched on a synagogue under the Nazi swastika, engaged in racist and anti-Semitic demonstrations and committed brutal and deadly violence against peaceful Americans;
Whereas a white nationalist murdered nine African American worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on the evening of June 17, 2015, in the hopes of igniting a nationwide race war;
Whereas on October 27, 2018, the perpetrator of the deadliest attack on Jewish people in the history of the United States killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue building in Pittsburgh and reportedly stated that he “wanted all Jews to die”;
Whereas anti-Semitism is the centuries-old bigotry and form of racism faced by Jewish people simply because they are Jews;
Whereas in 2017 the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported a 37 percent increase in hate crimes against Jews or Jewish institutions and found that attacks against Jews or Jewish institutions made up 58.1 percent of all religious-based hate crimes;
Whereas there is an urgent need to ensure the safety and security of Jewish communities, including synagogues, schools, cemeteries, and other institutions;
Whereas Jews are the targets of anti-Semitic violence at even higher rates in many other countries than they are in the United States;
Whereas it is a foreign policy priority of the United States to monitor and combat anti-Semitism abroad;
Whereas anti-Semitism includes blaming Jews as Jews when things go wrong; calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or extremist view of religion; or making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotyped allegations about Jews;
Whereas Jewish people are subject in the media and political campaigns to numerous other dangerous anti-Semitic myths as well, including that Jews control the United States Government or seek global, political, and financial domination and that Jews are obsessed with money;
Whereas scapegoating and targeting of Jews in the United States have persisted for many years, including by the Ku Klux Klan, the America First Committee, and by modern neo-Nazis;
Whereas accusing Jews of being more loyal to Israel or to the Jewish community than to the United States constitutes anti-Semitism because it suggests that Jewish citizens cannot be patriotic Americans and trusted neighbors, when Jews have loyally served our Nation every day since its founding, whether in public or community life or military service;
Whereas accusations of dual loyalty generally have an insidious and pernicious history, including—
(1) the discriminatory incarceration of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II on their basis of race and alleged dual loyalty;
(2) the Dreyfus affair, when Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish French artillery captain, was falsely convicted of passing secrets to Germany based on his Jewish background;
(3) when the loyalty of President John F. Kennedy was questioned because of his Catholic faith; and
(4) the post-9/11 conditions faced by Muslim-Americans in the United States, including Islamophobia and false and vicious attacks on and threats to Muslim-Americans for alleged association with terrorism;
Whereas anti-Muslim bigotry entails prejudicial attitudes towards Muslims and people who are perceived to be Muslim, including the irrational belief that Muslims are inherently violent, disloyal, and foreign;
Whereas Muslims and people perceived to be Muslim are subjected to false and dangerous stereotypes and myths including unfair allegations that they sympathize with individuals who engage in violence or terror or support the oppression of women, Jews, and other vulnerable communities;
Whereas in 2017, mosques were bombed in Bloomington, Minnesota, and burned in Austin, Texas, Victoria, Texas, Bellevue, Washington, and Thonotosassa, Florida, and mass attacks on Muslim communities were planned against communities in Islamberg, New York, in 2019, Jacksonville, Florida, in 2017, and Garden City, Kansas, in 2016;
Whereas the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that hate crimes against Muslims or Muslim institutions in the United States increased by over 99 percent between 2014 and 2016;
Whereas attacks motivated by bigotry against those who are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim have substantially increased since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks;
Whereas the violation of an individual’s civil rights based on his or her actual or perceived membership in a particular religious group clearly violates the Constitution and laws of the United States; and
Whereas all Americans, including Jews, Muslims, and Christians and people of all faiths and no faith, have a stake in fighting anti-Semitism, as all Americans have a stake in fighting every form of bigotry and hatred against people based on religion, race, or place of birth and origin:
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) rejects the perpetuation of anti-Semitic stereotypes in the United States and around the world, including the pernicious myth of dual loyalty and foreign allegiance, especially in the context of support for the United States-Israel alliance;
(2) condemns anti-Semitic acts and statements as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States;
(3) reaffirms its support for the mandate of the United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism as part of the broader policy priority of fostering international religious freedom and protecting human rights all over the world;
(4) rejects attempts to justify hatred or violent attacks as an acceptable expression of disapproval or frustration over political events in the Middle East or elsewhere;
(5) acknowledges the harm suffered by Muslims and others from the harassment, discrimination, and violence that result from anti-Muslim bigotry;
(6) condemns anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against all minorities as contrary to the values of the United States;
(7) condemns the death threats received by Jewish and Muslim Members of Congress, including in recent weeks;
(8) encourages law enforcement and government officials to avoid conduct that raises the specter of unconstitutional profiling against anyone because of their race, religion, nationality, political, or particular social group, including the assignment of blame or targeting members of an entire religious group for increased suspicion, based on the conduct of a single individual or small group of individuals; and
(9) encourages all public officials to confront the reality of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and other forms of bigotry, as well as historical struggles against them, to ensure that the United States will live up to the transcendent principles of tolerance, religious freedom, and equal protection as embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the first and 14th amendments to the Constitution.