Two days ago the House of Representatives voted 342 to 80 in favor of a resolution denouncing the Obama administration’s decision to abstain on the UN Security Council condemnation of Israeli settlements late last year. The House resolution called the UN resolution “one-sided and anti-Israel.” And if that wasn’t enough, the House said the UN had violated the Oslo accord; was wrong to describe Jerusalem, including the western wall, the most sacred site in Judaism, as occupied territory; and had lent “legitimacy” to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).
The resolution got the support of many Democrats, including young stars of the party, co-sponsors Rep. Adriano Espaillat, the new congressman replacing Charlie Rangel in Harlem, and Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Clintonite and one of the few Democratic challengers to win in the last election. Also, sadly, my congressman, Sean Patrick Maloney, voted for the resolution. As did Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston and Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn. Blame the donors.
In a particularly unfortunate moment, Brad Schneider of Illinois, who is Jewish, said, “It is impossible to separate Jewish identity from the Western Wall or the Western Wall from its Jewish identity or Jerusalem from the Jewish state of Israel.” While Nita Lowey of New York called the U.S. abstention “a stain” on the American record of supporting Israel.
But I try to be glass-half-full here; and I’d point to a couple of upsides of the vote. It was overwhelming, but it wasn’t thunderous. Eighty congresspeople resisted, including Keith Ellison and Nancy Pelosi. The list of those who voted against includes strong progressive voices in the Democratic Party, who hear what the base is saying. And the Democratic base is overwhelmingly in favor of a UN resolution against settlements; and a majority support sanctions against Israel; and are far more sympathetic to Palestinians than to Israelis.
Among those Congresspeople were Ellison, Anna Eshoo, Tulsi Gabbard, Justin Amash (Republican), Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierrez, Steve Cohen, Peter Welch, Lloyd Doggett, Debbie Dingell, Hank Johnson Jr., Marcy Kaptur, Betty McCollum, Gregory Meeks, Pelosi, Jim McGovern, Maxine Waters, Earl Blumenauer, Louise Slaughter, Jan Schakowsky, John Yarmuth, Walter Jones (another Republican), and Rick Nolan. Three of the five Democrats from Minnesota voted against; that’s a sign of where the party base is going. Also, several of those opponents are Jewish.
Some of these congresspeople gave eloquent speeches against the resolution, during about three hours of debate. And one of the themes of the opposition was that Israel is isolating itself in the world, and that unquestioning American support facilitates that isolation.
John Yarmuth of Kentucky said he’d been to Israel and seen the settlements and there was an American interest in stopping the colonization.
“Some seem to believe that the U.S.’s friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interest, our own positions, our own words, our own principles, even after urging again and again that the policy must change. [per Kerry]” Prime Minister Netanyahu has not treated the Obama administration with respect, and this resolution does not offer the American people the honest true debate we should be having about this critically-important issue.
Luis Gutierrez of Chicago gave the most stirring speech, on the intolerant politics of Israel and the pressures brought to bear on U.S. policy. He referred to theft of Palestinian water, and efforts to restrict on the Muslim call to prayer.
But under the current strong man government in Israel, all pretenses and illusions are being stripped away, from settlements to water to restricting the Muslim call to prayer in Jerusalem. And today as American embarks on its own experiment with strong man politics, this Congress is falling in line. This Congress that allowed our chamber to be used for an Iraeli campaign rally and TV commercials is bending to pressure from abroad and pressure at home.
And two western congressmen emphasized Israel’s isolation, witness the unanimous vote at the U.N.
Earl Blumenauer of Oregon spoke of Israel “confiscating” land, and the unanimity of the Security Council resolution.
But unfortunately Israel’s future is being threatened by its own actions, as well as its adversaries. For years reckless settlement expansion has been opposed by the Untied States and the rest of the world. They’re confiscating Palestinian land in a way that is not just contrary to longstanding American policy…. [This resolution] drives a wedge between Israel and the majority of the Americans, including the majority of Jewish Americans. It weakens that special relationship and furthers the isolation of Israel in evidence as the resolution was approved unanimously by the other 14 countries. Israel will become more vulnerable and candidly more likely will embolden forces that are hostile to the Jewish state.
Lloyd Doggett of Texas also emphasized “isolation, more and more isolation.” And said that Netanyahu was driving the U.S. off a cliff.
Today’s resolution which purports to support Israeli security actually undermines that security. It favors going it alone with the current Israeli government in defiance of our other allies in the 14 countries that unanimously voted for this Security Council measure. Isolation, more and more isolation, is not the way to protect Israel. Those who demonstrate their friendship with Israel by following Mr. Netanyahu on one right turn after another are boxing in America and Israel. He’s moving us further and further to the extremes so that we eventually go off a cliff into chaos.
Nothing more to say than that!