Mondoweiss / July 19, 2023
The House overwhelmingly passed a resolution declaring that Israel is “not a racist or apartheid state.” The final vote was 412-9.
On Tuesday the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution declaring that Israel is “not a racist or apartheid state.” The final vote was 412-to-nine vote, with one present vote.
The resolution was GOP-effort introduced by Reps. August Pfluger (R-TX), David Kustoff (R-TN) and Max Miller (R-OH). It was developed as a rebuke to comments made by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) at the recent NetRoots conference, in which she referred to Israel as a “racist state” while addressing Palestine activists. She has since walked those comments back and claims she was merely referring to Israel’s current right-wing government and not the country overall.
The nine Democrats to vote against the resolution were Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Summer Lee (D-PA), Cori Bush (D-MO), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Andre Carson (D-IN) and Delia Ramirez (D-IL). Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), a consistent advocate for Palestinian rights in congress, voted present.
“Attempting to silence conversations about Palestinian human rights and intimidate people who wish to have open and honest conversations about the mistreatment of the Palestinian people will only prolong this problem,” said McCollum in a statement. “I will not be silenced. I will keep speaking up against antisemitism, oppression, and hate in all forms.”
“I vote ‘present’ on this resolution, because Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians deserve genuine steps forward on the goal of peace, not more division and political gamesmanship,” she continued. “I do this because every Palestinian child and Israeli child deserves to go to sleep at night dreaming of a brighter future, not one of violence.”
Jayapal said the resolution had “clear political motivations” and was a Republican “distraction,” but still voted for the measure.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian member of Congress, denounced the resolution on the House floor.
“Israel is an apartheid state. To assert otherwise, Mr. Speaker, in the face of this body of evidence, is an attempt to deny the reality and an attempt to normalize violence of apartheid,” said Tlaib. “Don’t forget: This body, this Congress, supported the South African apartheid regime, and it was bipartisan as well.”
The vote came shortly after Israeli President Isaac Herzog met with President Joe Biden and the day before Herzog is set to deliver a speech to Congress. A number of Democratic House members (including Reps. Tlaib, Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, and Bowman) have announced that they will boycott the event.
“There is no way in hell I am attending the joint session address from a President whose country has banned me and denied Rashida Tlaib the ability to see her grandma,” wrote Omar in a Twitter thread. “WE SHOULD NOT BE INVITING THE PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL—A GOVERNMENT WHO UNDER ITS CURRENT PRIME MINISTER BARRED THE FIRST TWO MUSLIM WOMEN ELECTED TO CONGRESS FROM VISITING THE COUNTRY—TO GIVE A JOINT ADDRESS TO CONGRESS.”
Israel has been accused of apartheid by a number of mainstream human rights organizations, and despite the fact that only a small number of Democratic politicians openly refer to the country that way, an increasing number of Democratic voters do. A University of Maryland Critical Issues poll from earlier this year found that 44% of Democratic voters believe Israel is “a state with segregation similar to apartheid.”
That survey mirrors a number of public opinion studies that have been released recently. A 2023 Gallup poll found that 56% of Democrats now view Israel favorably, down from 63% in 2022. 49% of the Democratic voters polled said they sympathize with Palestinians, compared to just 38% who said they sympathize with Israelis.
Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss