Silver lining in US Congress debate on Palestinian “incitement”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduces her one-sided resolution in the US House of Representatives on 2 November condemning Palestinian “incitement.” (Watch video)

On Monday, the US House of Representatives voted on H.Res.293, a resolution “Expressing concern over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement within the Palestinian Authority.”

This predictably one-sided text exclusively blames Palestinian “incitement” for the current violence, ignoring Israel’s physical and verbal incitement against Palestinians, as well as the overarching system of oppression it inflicts upon them.

The “debate” featured a handful of members of Congress denouncing Palestinian attacks against Israelis, condemning Palestinian leaders for encouraging violence and blaming Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas for his inability to tamp it down (video).

The only mildly dissenting voice came from Representative Keith Ellison who inserted into the Congressional Record a statement opposing the resolution.

The Minnesota Democrat argued that “when we denounce the Palestinians and leave no mention of divisive rhetoric by the Israeli government, we do a disservice to Palestinians and Israelis.”

Ellison referred to Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments blaming the Holocaust on the Palestinian Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, stating that the Israeli prime minister’s rhetoric “deserves to be condemned by this body just as Palestinian incitement does.”

There is no shortage of other examples Ellison could have mentioned, including incitement by top Israeli officials to carry out summary killings of Palestinians, statements by Eli Ben-Dahan, the deputy defense minister, referring to Palestinians as “animals,” or Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s notorious support for a call to kill Palestinian mothers to stop them giving birth to “little snakes.”

After half an hour of “debate,” the House passed the resolution.

Silver linings

But while this may appear to be one more addition to the never-ending list of congressional efforts backing Israel to the hilt, a number of silver linings emerged.

  1. The resolution attracted only 71 cosponsors (42 Republicans and 29 Democrats). Similar resolutions in the past have easily attracted 200 to 300 cosponsors. This resolution was hardly rushed to the floor for a vote. It was introduced in June and members had ample opportunity to demonstrate their support for it prior to the vote.

  2. Despite New York Democrat Eliot Engel pleading his case that “Israel has much bipartisan support in this Congress, and we intend to keep it this way,” his argument was unconvincing. Only one other Democratic spoke in favor of the resolution.

  3. Most encouraging of all, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican and the sponsor of the resolution, called for a voice vote, meaning that only representatives on the floor at the time voted for the resolution. Judging by the paltry number of representatives who spoke in support of the resolution, there were likely less than one dozen representatives who actually cast a vote in favor. Resolutions adopted under voice vote do not mean that all members of Congress voted in favor.

Most pro-Israel resolutions are instead taken under a recorded vote, meaning that all representatives have the opportunity to cast a “yea” or “nay” vote regardless of whether they were on the floor of Congress for the actual debate.

The recorded vote has traditionally been a way for the Israel lobby to show its commanding presence on Capitol Hill by racking up public, lopsided vote tallies and then castigating the few dissenting voices.

The fact that Ros-Lehtinen did not want a recorded vote on the resolution may have been because she was concerned about a substantial defection against this blatantly biased resolution.

Update, 4 November:

After this article’s publication, Politico reported that as of Tuesday, 367 Representatives had signed a letter to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas accusing him directly of “inflam[ing] the current situation” through “abhorrent and deadly rhetoric.”

The large number of signatories may explain why Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen did not press for a recorded vote on H.Res.293 on Monday, as this follow-up letter allows more Representatives to go on record condemning Abbas and Palestinian “incitement.”

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Comments

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As the evidence of Israeli crimes against the Palestinians accumulate and are now all over the internet.It is going to be hard for Congressman and Senators to give unqualified one sided support for the Democratic Terrorist State of Israel against all the evidence

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This vital legislative information about H.Res. 293 gives
us all a voice. Act now.

Go to www. thomas.gov

Go to House of Representatives

Punch in NUMBER (of bill)

Get the name of each "co-sponsor"
Also name of all reps who supported it.

Is YOUR Rep in any of these lists??

Email (to his/her) office,( NOT district office)
a very brief comment. Make sure it is short
and on this item ONLY.

Your email can be sent ONLY to your own
rep. Others you can write separately
by mail, but this is a big project.
you will need precise room numbers etc.

You can if you wish follow debate on
given page numbers in the "CR" (Congressional
Record).

IMPORTANT: Other concerns you have must await
another email.

Give your own reason if possible for why you are
contacting.

About the following:

"Resolutions adopted under voice vote do not mean that all members of Congress voted in favor..."

Make absolutely clear that this is an important issue to you.
If your rep is on the wrong side (!!), write very shortly and
professionally that you deeply regret that position. You will
be communicating that lots and lots of people---even those
not part of AIPAC etc--consider this a very important
issue.

(Otherwise they will think---"no one cared"etc.)

You may address your rep but do not expect he/she
will read it. An assistant will and you wnat it clear
that many feel his/gher vote was vital or must change.

Make it short and brief (eg opne page only)

Former advocate (in medicaid issues).

Get on it NOW.

PS Don't forget your "prefix", Mr.Ms.
etc. Otherwise it will not go through!!!

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

Josh Ruebner

Josh Ruebner's picture

Josh Ruebner is Policy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace. His forthcoming book is tentatively entitled Israel: Democracy or Apartheid State? He is a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service.