House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) conducts a news conference after a meeting of the House Republican Conference on January 25, 2023.
(Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
GOP Pushes Resolution Declaring Israel Is ‘Not a Racist or Apartheid State’ After Jayapal Comments
“House Dems and Republicans didn’t get this worked up the other week when Israeli settlers were going on a rampage and attacking Palestinians, including Palestinian-Americans.”
The U.S. House is expected to vote Tuesday on a Republican resolution declaring that “Israel is not a racist or apartheid state” following comments by Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who faced bipartisan backlash for describing Israel as a “racist state” during a progressive conference over the weekend.
Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has since issued a statement clarifying that she does “not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist.” Rather, the congresswoman said, she believes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “extreme right-wing government has engaged in discriminatory and outright racist policies and that there are extreme racists driving that policy within the leadership of the current government.”
But Jayapal’s statement didn’t stop her colleagues from piling on, issuing angry condemnations of her earlier remarks and reiterating their view of Israel as a “vibrant, progressive, and inclusive democracy,” as 43 House Democrats led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) put it Monday in a joint statement.
The House Democratic leadership also issued a statement saying that “Israel was founded 75 years ago on the principle of complete equality of social and political rights for all” and describing the nation as a “beacon of democracy.”
On Tuesday, the House is planning to vote on a Republican-authored resolution stating that Israel is not a racist or apartheid regime, rejecting “all forms of antisemitism and xenophobia,” and affirming that “the United States will always be a staunch partner and supporter of Israel.”
The resolution, led by Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) and backed by the House Republican leadership, is expected to pass with bipartisan support. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) toldAxios that “of course” she will vote for it,” describing the measure as “three very simple, very straightforward clauses I agree with.”
In response to the resolution, MSNBC‘s Mehdi Hasan noted that “House Dems and Republicans didn’t get this worked up the other week when Israeli settlers were going on a rampage and attacking Palestinians, including Palestinian-Americans.”
“But a House member calls Israel racist and suddenly a pro-Israel resolution needs to be passed!” Hasan wrote on Twitter.
The GOP resolution’s claim that Israel is not upholding a system of racist domination runs counter to the assessments of mainstream human rights organizations.
As Amnesty International put it in a report last year, Israel’s “massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians are all components of a system which amounts to apartheid under international law.”
“There is no possible justification for a system built around the institutionalized and prolonged racist oppression of millions of people,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary-general. “Apartheid has no place in our world, and states which choose to make allowances for Israel will find themselves on the wrong side of history. Governments who continue to supply Israel with arms and shield it from accountability at the U.N. are supporting a system of apartheid, undermining the international legal order, and exacerbating the suffering of the Palestinian people.”
In a 2021 report, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem concluded that “in the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Israeli regime implements laws, practices, and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group—Jews—over another—Palestinians.”
“In solidarity with the Palestinian people and all those who have been harmed by Israel’s apartheid government, I will be boycotting President Herzog’s joint address to Congress.”
Jayapal’s comments at Netroots Nation came just days ahead of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s scheduled Wednesday speech to a joint meeting of Congress—an address that several progressive lawmakers, including Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), are boycotting.
“In solidarity with the Palestinian people and all those who have been harmed by Israel’s apartheid government, I will be boycotting President Herzog’s joint address to Congress,” Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman ever elected to Congress, tweeted Monday. “I urge all members of Congress who stand for human rights for all to join me.”
In a move likely to draw further outrage from human rights groups and progressives in Congress, President Joe Biden reportedly invited Netanyahu to a meeting in the United States as the Israeli prime minister faces massive protests over his government’s plan to weaken the nation’s judiciary.
“Thousands of Israelis blocked major highways and held dozens of rallies across central Israel on Tuesday to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to finalize a law next week that would limit the power of the Supreme Court,” The New York Times reported. “Despite temperatures of more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit in some places, protesters marched through several cities in a renewed effort to stop the government proceeding with a binding vote on the law in Parliament.”
In a letter to members of the U.S. Congress on Monday, a coalition of groups leading the protests in Israel warned that Netanyahu is taking the country “down a fake-democracy path that we have seen in other places in recent history.”
“It is opposed by the overwhelming majority of Israel’s security, business, and academic communities, and by a solid majority of the public,” the groups wrote. “The version of Israel that America has found common cause with is fighting for its life, dear friends, and the assailants are the Netanyahu coalition.”