House to vote on pro-Israel resolution amid uproar over Jayapal comments

Associated Press

The House will vote Tuesday on a resolution defending Israel against charges of racism and condemning all forms of antisemitism, a direct response to recent remarks from Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) that caused a firestorm on Capitol Hill just days before Israel’s president will address Congress. 

Speaking at a conference Saturday, Jayapal, the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, referred to Israel as “a racist state,” leading to widespread condemnation from both parties, prompting her to issue a public apology and triggering a rare public censure from Democratic leaders.

But those efforts have done little to satisfy House Republicans, who are pressing ahead with a resolution designed to affirm Congress’s support for Israel — and highlight the Democratic divisions when it comes to the explosive issue of Israeli policy towards Palestinians. 

The one-page resolution — sponsored by Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) — says Israel is “not a racist or apartheid state,” rejects all forms of antisemitism and xenophobia and asserts that “the United States will always be a staunch partner and supporter of Israel.” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) confirmed that the House will vote on the resolution Tuesday.

“Her comments are just the latest in a long and unfortunate string of comments made by some in that party,” Pfluger said Monday evening. “And this resolution would affirm our relationship — would push back on any sort of notion of what either she or others have said in the past, that Israel is a racist nation, which is nonsense.”

More on Jayapal’s recent comments from The Hill

The House has voted for similar resolutions on numerous occasions in the past. The language in Pfluger’s, however, could set the stage for a tough vote for some Democrats who have been critical of the Israeli government’s policies towards Palestinians using some of the exact language the resolution condemns.

Asked Monday about Jayapal’s initial comments, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), a member of the progressive Squad, pointed to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, two nongovernment organizations that have both published literature suggesting Israel is an apartheid state.

“These organizations that we know, that we respect, that’s respected all across the world, say that it is an apartheid state,” Bush told reporters in the Capitol. “Apartheid means that one group is, you know, one group is, like, prioritized over the other.”

“If it’s an apartheid state, they need to do better,” she added. “They don’t want to be an apartheid state? What’s going on with your Black, with African Jews, you know, are we taking care of our African Jews? Are we taking care of our Palestinians? Treat everybody the same as — we won’t have to call you everything.”

Republicans, for their part, are characterizing the resolution as a no-brainer and are leaning into the Democratic divisions that have played out in recent days.

“It should be an easy vote. Will Dems stand with our ally or capitulate to the anti-Semitic radicals in their party?” Scalise wrote on Twitter.

Downplaying any divisions, some Democrats predict that their caucus will also vote overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution.

“I’m voting for it,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said Monday evening. “I don’t know anyone who’s not voting for it. I mean, it’s a very straightforward resolution.”

Jayapal’s comments came at a progressive conference in Chicago, sponsored by Netroots Nation. Pressed by Palestinian rights activists, Jayapal said liberals in Congress “have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state, that the Palestinian people deserve self-determination and autonomy.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a liberal Jewish lawmaker who also participated in the forum, said the activist group in question has targeted her for years, picketing at her house and refusing to leave her district office. Jayapal was simply standing up against “an attack on me,” Schakowsky explained. 

“It was this group that went after me — a Jewish member who has always been a friend of Palestinians,” Schakowsky said. “It was a fraught situation there. She stood up to say that this is not the person to go after, and said some things that she has taken back now. 

“Pramila Jayapal is not antisemitic. She is not anti-a Jewish state for Israel.”

Schakowsky accused Republicans of exploiting the episode for political gain.  

“This is being now viewed as a moment of opportunity for the Republicans to blow this thing up in a way that absolutely shouldn’t,” she said. “That’s what distresses me much more than any of the attacks on me at that event.”

Tuesday’s vote on the resolution falls one day before Israeli President Isaac Herzog is scheduled to deliver a speech before a joint meeting of Congress, a high-profile event that some progressives are planning to skip as a protest of the conservative government’s policies towards Palestinians and the controversial judiciary reforms backed by the administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Bush is joining Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.) and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) in sitting out the speech.

“I’m boycotting,” Bush said Monday evening.

After Monday’s votes, Jayapal was seen huddling on the House floor in an animated conversation with Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.), the Democratic whip. 

After leaving the chamber, Jayapal said she’s received no pushback from members of the Progressive Caucus she leads and characterized the talks with other lawmakers as “lovely, companionable conversations about our unity as a Democratic Caucus.”

She did not say if she will attend Herzog’s speech Wednesday.

Tags Cori Bush Jan Schakowsky Pramila Jayapal Steve Scalise

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