Nine House Democrats voted against a resolution Tuesday expressing support for Israel and denouncing antisemitism, a measure that was brought to the floor as a response to comments Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) made over the weekend that were critical of Israel.
The chamber voted 412-9-1 to approve the resolution, which asserts that Israel “is not a racist or apartheid state,” rejects antisemitism and xenophobia in all forms and states that the U.S. “will always be a staunch partner and supporter of Israel.”
All nine Democrats who opposed the measure are members of the Progressive Caucus, which Jayapal is the chairwoman of: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Summer Lee (Pa.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Andre Carson (Ind.), Delia Ramirez (Ill.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.). Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) voted “present.”
Jayapal supported the resolution.
Speaking at a conference in Chicago on Saturday, Jayapal said, “Israel is a racist state.” The comment came as Palestinian protesters disrupted a panel discussion, which three members of Congress were taking part in.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a Jewish lawmaker who was also on the panel, said the activist group protesting has focused attention on her for years, and told reporters this week that Jayapal was confronting “an attack on me.”
Jayapal walked her comments back one day later, writing in a statement, “I do not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist” and apologizing “to those who I have hurt with my words.” She also criticized the conservative government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The congresswoman, however, still faced bipartisan criticism for her initial comments, which included a rare joint statement from House Democratic leadership pushing back on the remarks and a separate statement signed by 43 of her Democratic colleagues in the chamber that said they were “deeply concerned” about her “unacceptable” comments.
Tuesday’s vote, and particularly how it fractured Democrats, highlighted a dynamic that has played out in the party for years: liberals concerned with human rights issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict colliding with party leaders wary of interfering with diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Israel.
Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Bowman, Omar and Bush have all said they plan to skip Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday, citing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and concerns over human rights.
Israel’s human rights record toward Palestinians drove some of the Democratic opposition to the resolution.
“The United States is an outlier in terms of its refusal to recognize the severity of the human rights crisis that Palestinians face,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s vote. “And, you know, at this point, from Amnesty International to U.N. Special Commissions, are recognizing that the denial of rights of Palestinians amounts to apartheid.”
“Our inability to actually be honest about this conversation prevents us from being an ally to advancing human rights, and being a good ally as well,” she added.
Shortly before the vote ended, Ocasio-Cortez was spotted hugging Jayapal on the House floor.
Lee, a first-term lawmaker, sounded a similar note, citing “basic human rights and democratic values” in a statement following the vote.
“I condemn antisemitism and xenophobia in all its forms. Whether we’re talking about India, Israel, or Sri Lanka, we are not true allies if we cannot push our partners to uphold basic human rights and democratic values. I cannot vote for unconditional support of any nation-state,” she wrote.