House Passes Resolution Denouncing anti-Semitism Triggered by Ilhan Omar Comments

Resolution passes by large majority of 407-23, with all 23 no votes cast by Republicans. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar votes in favor of resolution

Rep. Ilhan Omar walks to the chamber on Capitol Hill as the House was preparing to vote on a resolution to speak out against anti-Semitism, March 7, 2019.
J. Scott Applewhite,AP

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives voted to approve a resolution denouncing anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, after days of partisan debate following comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar regarding support for Israel in the United States.  

The resolution passed the House by a large majority,  407-23. All the 23 no votes were cast by Republicans. Omar voted in favor of the resolution.

The move was in part intended to resolve a party divide that opened after Omar made comments about Israel last week that were seen by some as anti-Semitic. A Muslim-American, the Minnesota representative has been critical of the Jewish state in the past.

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Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York and chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee that Omar also sits on, told the House: "I wish we had a separate resolution about anti-Semitism. I think it was wrong not to have it."

Engel voted in favor of the resolution. Similar reasoning to his was offered by the Republicans who opposed it.

Florida Democratic Representative Ted Deutch said he felt "let down" by the resolution. "Anti-Semitism is worthy of being condemned, singularly. I hope this painful week is never repeated in this Congress."    

After the vote, Politico's Jake Sherman tweeted: "Democrats have been under pressure for a week on anti-semitism but House Republicans have bailed them out."

He listed some of the more senior Republicans who opposed the resolution, including representatives Liz Cheney, Lee Zeldin and Louie Gohmert, before describing it as "an embarrassing moment for House GOP."

American Jewish organizations welcomed the resolution on Thursday. 

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said he was “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.”
         
Through this process, he said, representatives who passed the resolution have made clear that what Omar said was "anti-Semitic and unacceptable. That is critically important because words matter.

“When any public figure repeats hurtful anti-Semitic rhetoric, it gives others permission to further spread such hate. It's on all of us to condemn this bigoted language,” Greenblatt said.

The Orthodox Union's director of public policy, Nathan Diament, said that while he “certainly agree[s] with the full scope of the resolution's content, and that all forms of intolerance and bigotry — including anti-Muslim bigotry — must be rejected, 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.”

Diament suggested that the House could have separately passed a resolution addressing other forms of intolerance and bigotry. 

The liberal Jewish organization J Street too said the resolution was “an important step forward in the fight against anti-Semitism for the Jewish community to stand together with Muslim-Americans and other vulnerable communities of color and faith that are subjected to discrimination and attack on the basis of their religion, race, ethnicity or other status.

“This congressional resolution puts questions about anti-Semitism raised in recent weeks into the broader context where they belong and makes it unequivocally clear that core American values and principles are violated by anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and racism,” J Street added. 

Omar herself later released a joint statement with fellow Muslim representatives Rashida Tlaib and André Carson on the resolution. 

"Today is historic on many fronts," they wrote. "It's the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation's history. We are tremendously proud to be part of a body that has put forth a condemnation of all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism, racism and white supremacy. At a time when extremism is on the rise, we must explicitly denounce religious intolerance of all kinds and acknowledge the pain felt by all communities. Our nation is having a difficult conversation and we believe this is great progress," they added.

Omar had been denounced by Republicans and some Democrats in recent days for saying supporters of Israel in the United States demand "allegiance to a foreign country" — a statement that some Jewish organizations and politicians viewed as anti-Semitic, or at the very least echoing an anti-Semitic trope.

The scandal around Omar's words has erupted into an internal battle within the Democratic Party. On Wednesday, three presidential contenders defended her: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two of the more left-wing candidates in the upcoming Democratic primaries; and California Senator Kamala Harris.