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Is anti-Israel sentiment in Congress the wave of the future?
By Hugh Fitzgerald
Representative Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) has promised to “kill” any resolution in the House that attempts to place conditions on aid to Israel, including such demands on Israel as ending all new settlement building in Judea and Samaria. Gottheimer is a liberal Democrat and one of many who are unswerving in their support for Israel, giving the lie to those who claim that Israeli can no longer count on the support of liberal Democrats. More on his statement can be found here: “US Lawmaker Pledges to ‘Kill’ Growing Efforts to Condition Aid to Israel,” by Andrew Bernard, Algemeiner, April 26, 2023:
US Representative Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) told The Algemeiner in an interview that he would work to “kill” any efforts to condition aid to Israel.
“I’ve worked personally against and successfully killed attempts to condition aid,” he said. “I’ll continue to work to kill conditions on aid [to the sole] democracy in the region and a critical ally. The idea that you condition aid is unacceptable and we will work around the clock to stop any attempts to do it.”
Gottheimer’s comment follows the passage of a resolution that he co-sponsored that reaffirmed the House’s support for military aid to Israel. 18 Democrats and 1 Republican voted against the resolution, including all but one of the so-called Squad of progressives who have been among the harshest critics of Israel in Congress.
Those nay voters also largely overlapped with the 14 signatories of the 13 April letter led by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) calling on President Biden to condition US aid to Israel.
That previous letter of April 13, asking Biden to condition American aid to Israel on its human rights record, was signed by 13 Representatives and only one Senator, Bernie Sanders. When one Senator, out of a total of 100, signs an anti-Israel letter, that does not suggest some enormous shift in support for Israel in the Senate. As for those 13 Representatives who signed that letter, all of them subsequently voted “Nay” on a House resolution reaffirming support for military aid, without conditions, to Israel. That is, in that vote, six more Democratic representatives joined those 13 who signed the April 13 letter calling on Biden to condition aid to Israel on the Jewish state’s treatment of the Palestinians. Nineteen votes out of a total of 435 is not exactly impressive: 96% of the House voted with Israel.
We keep hearing about how Israel is “losing critical support” among Democrats. When it can command the unwavering support of 99% of the Senate, and 96% of the House, that alarm seems…alarmist.
While the contingent of Democrats that are critical of Israel remains small it has grown substantially in recent years. A similar resolution passed in 1998 recognizing the 50th anniversary of Israel’s founding passed the House without a single nay vote and passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
A Gallup opinion poll in March found for the first time that Democrats were more sympathetic to the Palestinians than the Israelis in the conflict. While support for Israel declined among all age groups, the biggest shift was among younger Americans, with millennials the only generation group that had a net negative view of Israel.
Of course, some younger Democrats, bombarded as they have been with BDS-sponsored propaganda, especially on campuses, have become more sympathetic to the Palestinians. And there is also the effect of a steady increase in the Muslim population in the U.S., and thus of Muslim voters, who are solidly anti-Israel. But so far, thankfully, there has been a most modest increase in Muslim political power. There are three Muslim members of Congress: Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Andre Carson. Those three constitute less than 1% of the 435 House members. And the most important change in Congressional attitudes toward the Jewish state has nothing to do with the Democrats: over the past two decades, the Republicans, who were once deemed lukewarm to Israel, are now nearly unanimous in supporting the Jewish state. And despite all the worry about a loss of Democratic support for Israel, in the recent vote on military aid to Israel, only a handful of Democrats, a mere 18 Representatives (a nineteenth is a Republican, Thomas Massie), chose to vote against.
Gottheimer, who recently returned to Washington following a Congressional delegation trip to Israel led by Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, said that the participation of the Congressional Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, and Problem Solvers Caucus in the delegation showed the depth of support for Israel.
“Our key message was to reinforce the special relationship and how critically important it is to be both bi-partisan and also for America’s national security,” he said. “Despite those who are trying to drive wedges into the relationship, it’s ironclad.”
Defeating those Israel critics in both the Democratic primaries and in general elections has become a key battleground for pro-Israel groups like AIPAC. One new member of the Squad, Summer Lee (D-PA), was the only candidate opposed by AIPAC in both the primary and the general election to win a seat in congress in 2022.
That’s an impressive record. Only one candidate opposed by AIPAC in both the primary and the general election – Omar, Tlaib, Carson, Bush, Grijalva, among other anti-Israel Representatives who voted “No” on the Support-For-Israel resolution, had no primary opponent to contend with – was elected.
James Hayes, a Republican seeking to challenge Lee in 2024, called her vote on Tuesday’s resolution “outrageous and immoral.”
“Does Summer Lee not know why Israel exists? Does she not care?” Hayes said. “There can be no doubt that Summer Lee stands with antisemites like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. All pretense has been cast aside by this despicable, hateful vote.”
Summer Lee defeated her primary opponent by 740 votes, less than 1% of the total. She won election against her Republican opponent by 55-45%. That still puts her within reach of a loss, particularly if a strong candidate can be fielded to run in the primary. AIPAC will no doubt help direct its pro-Israel membership to supporting her primary opponent, and if she wins the primary, then to her Republican opponent in the election. The organization hasn’t given up on defeating Summer Lee, and several of the 19 Congressmen who voted against the Support Israel Resolution are deemed vulnerable in 2024. We’ll see just how well that “anti-Israel” cabal — the supposed “wave of the future” — holds up against such energized pro-Israel groups as AIPAC.
Omar (D-MN) was expelled from the House Foreign Affairs Committee in February in a party line vote that cited her past anti-Israel statements and use of antisemitic tropes, while Tlaib (D-MI) in 2022 introduced a resolution recognizing the “Nakba,” an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe” that is used to refer to the founding of the state of Israel. That resolution was not given a vote in the House. Both congresswomen voted against Tuesday’s resolution in support of Israel.
Both Omar and Tlaib represent districts that have large Muslim populations.They are regarded as unbeatable. So is AOC. But of the remaining 16 Democrats and one Republican who voted against the resolution — Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Summer Lee (D-PA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Andre Carson (D-IN), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) and Delia Ramirez (D-IL) — several are regarded as beatable in 2024, if, that is, their opponents get the financial backing they deserve.
The main point is this: there has been no massive loss of support for Israel in Congress. Anti-Israel sentiment is nonexistent among the Republicans. And among the Democrats the alarm about an “anti-Israel drift” is at this point quite unnecessary. This April, in a vote that took the temperature of anti-Israel sentiment, a House resolution reaffirming American support for military aid for Israel was passed overwhelmingly, with only nineteen nay votes. Nineteen votes out of a possible total of 435 is less than 4%. Does that seem like an alarming figure to you?