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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”