New House resolution labels any criticism of Israel’s government policies as “antisemitism”
By Cassie B. // Dec 08, 2023

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that condemns antisemitism at home and abroad despite controversial language that equates anti-Zionism with antisemitism, which many believe will be interpreted to mean that any type of criticism against the policies of the Israeli government will be considered antisemitism.

In addition to condemning the October 7 massacre that resulted in 1,200 Israeli deaths, the resolution condemns chants that are popular with peaceful protesters, such as “From the river to the sea.” It also lists several recent incidents involving attacks on Jews in the U.S.

House Resolution 894 passed in a vote of 311 to 14. A further 92 representatives voted “present” following efforts by some Jewish Democrats to convince members of their caucus to go with a “present” vote to protest the line of the bill that specifies that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.

Representatives Dan Goldman (D-New York), Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) and Jerry Nadler (D-New York) released a statement in which they said the bill “does not account for the complexity of Judaism itself and ignores nuanced examples such as the Satmar sect, a Hasidic Jewish movement, which remains staunchly anti-Zionist and quite obviously not antisemitic.” They also said the bill was redundant because a resolution that was approved by the House last week affirmed Israel’s right to exist.

Rep. Nadler explained the importance of drawing a distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, noting: “The resolution suggests that ALL anti-Zionism is antisemitism. That is either intellectually disingenuous or just factually wrong. And it unfairly implicates many of my orthodox former constituents in Brooklyn, many of whose families rose from the ashes of the Holocaust.”

He added that while the two sentiments sometimes go hand in hand, those who are familiar with Jewish culture and history can understand there are important differences.

Criticizing Israeli government DOES NOT equate to antisemitism

Nadler, who is the longest-serving Jewish House member, explained in a floor speech what he found problematic about the bill: “Under this resolution, those who love Israel deeply but criticize some of its policy approaches could be considered anti-Zionist. That could make every Democratic Jewish member of this body, because they all criticized the recent Israeli judicial reform package, de facto antisemites. Might that be the author’s intention?”

It is believed that the language of the bill could result in any lawmakers who voted against it to be labeled antisemitic, and this could explain the overwhelming majority that voted in favor of it.

Among the 14 who voted against the resolution, 13 were Democrats; the lone Republican opposing the bill was Thomas Massie of Kentucky. He said he opposed the bill because it equated anti-Zionism with antisemitism. Last week, Massie was the only member of Congress voting against a resolution claiming that denying the right of Israel to exist is a type of antisemitism.

Political anthropologist Eric Reinhart takes the idea that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism one step further. He wrote on X: “Not only is anti-Zionism not anti-Semitism, but a strong argument can be made that Zionism is in fact anti-Semitic. It is used to license Zionist violence against Jews who refuse to back it (eg, the Israeli government’s recent attacks on their own anti-Zionist Jewish citizens).

Being critical of Israel and its government policies is not the same thing as being bigoted against Jews, just like criticizing the American government's policies does not make a person inherently anti-American. This measure is not only pointless; it could even be harmful. It’s not surprising that some skeptics believe it is nothing more than a new way to prevent lawmakers from having critical debates about Israel.

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