The House approved a revised resolution on anti-Semitism early Thursday evening with an expanded focus on white supremacists, “neo-Confederates,” and violence against black and Muslim Americans, to the disappointment of many Republicans and Democrats alike who had hoped to see language pin-pointing anti-Jewish rhetoric, or a censure of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Omar was the subject of combative in-fighting among House Democrats during closed door meetings today and yesterday. Dogged by charges of anti-Semitism for posts made to social media since taking office, the current controversy over Omar began last week when she spoke at a bookshop in Washington DC about “a powerful lobby that is influencing policy” and said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
Her remarks were promptly decried by members of Congress as an anti-Semitic statement that accused Jewish-Americans of dual loyalty, and ushered in a debate over limits of discussion on Israel and criticism of a pro-Israel lobby, as well as Islamophobia.
By yesterday evening the immense pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus, liberal constituents and freshman representatives caused Dems to axe the resolution. Party leaders suggested it had morphed into a divisive and biased sanction against Omar who is naturalized citizen after entering the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia and is one of two of the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand all released statements yesterday suggesting Omar had become the victim of an Islamophbic campaign.
In a surprise move, the resolution was rewritten today and H.R. 183 passed 407 in favor and 23 opposed.
Nearly twice as long as the original, the measure added definitions of anti-Muslim discrimination, condemned bombings of several black churches and mosques, and the Tree of Life synagogue massacre. The resolution cited FBI figures of skyrocketing hate crimes against Muslims, which increased by “99 percent between 2014 and 2016.” In 2017 hate crimes against Jews rose by 37 percent.
Here was Omar’s statement on the legislation:
Our nation is having a difficult conversation, but we believe this is great progress. pic.twitter.com/gSua9a8mki
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) March 7, 2019
The final text of the resolution repeated a rebuke of the anti-Semitic allegation of Jewish “dual loyalty” found in an earlier version. Yet it included condemnations of similar allegations made against Japanese-American who were interned during WWII, and President John F. Kennedy who “was questioned because of his Catholic faith.”
Republicans did not support the rewrites led by Cedric Richmond (D-LA), the former chair of of the Congressional Black Caucus and Jamie Raskin (D-MD).
Doug Collins (R-GA) argued Democrats wasted a week on revisions, turning out a hasty and convoluted resolution presented to him less than an hour before debate opened.
“I don’t know where to begin, I really don’t,” a frustrated Collins said, tossing his arms up in the air.
“We are debating a resolution all of us should have learned in kindergarten.”
At one point, referencing its 7-page length, Collins mocked Democrats for not adding a condemnation against a death threat made towards him and his family.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 7, 2019
Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who voted against the resolution, castigated peers for writing a “watered down” resolution that diverted focus away from anti-Semitism.”
“This resolution as changed up over the last hour now condemn just about everything,” he said, later adding, “There has never been a persecution of a people like the jewish people, 1936 to 1945.”
Some Democrats expressed uneasiness with the resolution for similar reasons, but still backed it.
Eliot Engel (D-NY) said he would vote in favor even though he thought there should have been a separate resolution on anti-Semitism.
“Questioning my allegiance is painful and personal,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said.
“Israel is our friend,” speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said as she urged for unanimous approval, “but not every one of us in this body agrees on every provision, any consideration in that relationship. that’s a separate and complete issue from anti-Semitism.”
“All of us must remember as member of Congress, as president of the United States, that our words are weightier once we cross the thresh hold into Congress and indeed they weigh a ton when someone becomes the president of the united states,” Pelosi said.
I look forward to the day when congress can condemn bigotry not only against Jews and Muslims but against Jews and Palestinians
— Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) March 7, 2019
This new resolution talks about white supremacy and white nationalism four times. The previous resolution did not make any mention of those hateful ideologies — which are to blame for rise of antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, and other bigotry in this country.
— IfNotNow🔥 (@IfNotNowOrg) March 7, 2019
One notable revision signals to President Donald Trump as a source of racial discord. The resolution denounces “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.”
America First Committee was an anti-Semitic group active in the 1940s that lobbied for isolationist policies and critics of the president have questioned if Trump’s “America First” slogan is an intentional namesake.