Dec 5, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP antisemitism measure inflames Democrats’ Israel divide

Rep. Jerry Nadler. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

A Republican resolution condemning antisemitism that's slated for a House vote on Tuesday is poised to split House Democrats and hand new advertising fodder to the GOP's campaign arm.

Why it matters: The measure's sweeping denunciation of anti-Zionism as a form of antisemitism has rankled many progressives and resurfaced a debate over Israel that has long divided Democrats.

Driving the news: The four-page resolution, introduced by Reps. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) and Max Miller (R-Ohio), Congress' two Jewish Republicans, "strongly condemns and denounces all instances of antisemitism occurring in the United States and globally."

  • Controversially for some Democrats, it "clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism."
  • It is set to be voted on Tuesday afternoon, and Democratic leadership is not whipping for or against it, House Minority Whip Katherine Clark's (D-Mass.) office told Axios.

What they're saying: Several prominent Jewish progressives are voicing opposition to the bill and strongly urging their Democratic colleagues to vote against it.

  • "Any kind of criticism of Israel at all could be deemed antisemitic," Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) told Axios, adding that she is "hoping we're not going to get any Democrats who are going to vote for that."
  • Schakowsky said opponents of the measure are encouraging even the most staunchly pro-Israel Democrats to vote "present" on the measure instead of voting for it.
  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, spoke forcefully against it in a floor speech on Tuesday, stating, "with this resolution, the GOP has shown themselves fundamentally unserious about combating antisemitism."

Zoom in: Nadler, along with Reps. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), has proposed his own resolution calling for the implementation of the Biden administration's National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.

What we're hearing: Nadler also made a fiery case against the resolution in a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting on Tuesday morning, according to several lawmakers who were present.

  • House Rules Committee ranking member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a progressive, told Axios he still needs to review the bill but added that there are "problems with it" and "Jerry Nadler just spoke against it, and I trust his judgement."

Yes, but: Several prominent Democrats emerged from the meeting on Tuesday saying they are inclined to vote for the resolution.

  • "I haven't seen the bill yet, but I'm deadly set against antisemitism, I can tell you that," said House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.). "So my initial response would be I'll vote for it."
  • Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the former House majority leader, said he is still reviewing the measure, but "it's pretty clear that Hamas and others have made anti-Zionism a catchword for antisemitism, because they equate the two."

Jewish Democrats ranging from staunchly pro-Israel to more critical are expected to vote for the measure, the lawmakers or their offices told Axios.

  • Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), a Jewish progressive who has broken with the left on several pro-Israel bills in recent months, told Axios he plans to vote for it.
  • Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), a pro-Israel moderate from a swing district, will vote for it as well, his office told Axios.

Between the lines: The National Republican Congressional Committee is watching the vote and plans to go after Democrats who vote against the antisemitism measure, according to an NRCC source.

  • "It's clearly a gotcha," said Schakowsky, but "I think that we're on very solid ground that this is another extremist position [the GOP is] taking.
  • "I know that the GOP is playing games with this. It's really disappointing," said Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) – though she added that she is leaning towards voting for the bill "despite my frustrations with the GOP."
  • "They do this because it confuses constituents, and I don't know how you would explain coherently why you wouldn't be condemning ... antisemitism," Stevens added.
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