Jewish Dems react to division over resolution to condemn Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitic rhetoric

Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh spoke to several Jewish Democratic leaders on the divisions within the Democratic Party over a proposed resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other types of religious bigotry following Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic comments.

Halie Soifer, Executive Director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA): “Clearly, there has a been a robust discussion within the party about the best way to go forward with this condemnation and it appears as though there will be wide support for a condemnation of anti-Semitism, along with the addition of a denunciation of other forms of hatred. So I don’t want to feed into this, what I think is a  false narrative, that somehow Democrats who wanted to see this resolution expanded in any way were opposed to denouncing anti-Semitism. I don’t think that’s the case. It is very important that the provisions with regard to denouncing anti-Semitism not be watered down. I have every reason to believe and trust that the Democratic leadership will do its very best to ensure that the final resolution will be a strong denunciation of anti-Semitism and a denunciation of other forms of intolerance and hatred in a way that indicates where Democrats are on this issue.”

Soifer added: “We certainly don’t share the views on Israel of those who have initiated these discussions but it is different and there should be a distinction made between opposing anti-Semitism and engaging in a legitimate debate about U.S. policy towards Israel. It’s important even for those who are engaging in these conversations to recognize that distinction, and that is actually one of the principle goals I believe of this resolution. By defining these anti-Semitic tropes, I hope people will be more careful in the language that they use when engaging in political debate to avoid using anti-Semitic references going forward.” 

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro: “There is a lot more that unites Democrats, and I think most Americans, than meets the eye here. The vast majority support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship that ensures Israel’s security and legitimacy, and works toward a two-state solution. The vast majority reject Rep. Omar’s suggestions that Americans’ support for Israel is driven by money or reflects a dual loyalty, which echo anti-Semitic tropes. The vast majority believe we can have a full and open debate on our Middle East policy, or disagree with given Israeli policies, without crossing those lines. The vast majority believe that anti-Semitism from any side needs to be condemned and ruled out of bounds, as do other forms of racism and bigotry, including that which has been aimed at Rep. Omar and other Muslims, and which have too often been fueled by the President’s rhetoric. This is less complicated than it seems.”

Matt Nosanchuk, a former White House Jewish Liaison for President Obama: “Attempts to portray the Democratic Party as hostile to, or anti-Israel are wildly over-cranked. There is still a strong bipartisan consensus in Congress that supports Israel. But it’s also the case that there are now members of Congress who hold a different perspective and have expressed that perspective on occasion using unfortunate language that invokes antisemitic tropes. And when language like that is used, it’s appropriate to call it out. But an all-out war within the Democratic Party that divides pro-Israel progressive Democrats from other progressives only serves to play into the hands of those who have been trying for a number of years now to make support for Israel into the exclusive purview of the far right.”

“There’s been an effort to shatter this bipartisan consensus that existed throughout numerous administrations and to position support for Israel on the right. But that is not reflective of the reality that exists today where that historic support for Israel within the Democratic Party remains the case. When it comes to antisemitic tropes, there are numerous examples of that happening with our president and others in the Trump administration and in Congress. It is wrong to focus entirely on these instances when they occur. My view is, you want us to be vigilant against anti-Semitism when it rears its ugly head, but does that mean that the Democrats should engage in full self-destruction around this.”

“There needs to be space for diversity of opinion on policy as distinct from the language. There are going to be differences over policy, that’s clear. We now have members of Congress from the progressive side, they have a different view, but that’s a minority view within the Democratic Party. It was before the 2018 election and it remains that way today. I think it’s crucial for Democrats not to play into notions that the Democrats should not be doing the work of the right which wants to see this controversy continue to boil and is throwing gasoline on the fire. I think Democrats need to resist that, call out anti-Semitism the language and when it arises, but not to engage in ad hominem attacks or cease finding ways to work on those issues on which we share, on which progressives and Democrats share common ground and can work together.”

“There are policy differences and support for Israel doesn’t mean reflexive support for the policies of the Israeli government. There is a strong progressive pro-Israel view that exists, that is recognized throughout the American Jewish community and is embodied in organizations like J Street. It’s embodied in progressive work that AIPAC does. It’s embodied by the existence of organizations like the Jewish Democratic Council of America and the new organization that was just established — Democratic Majority for Israel.”

“Democrats should not be lured into this self-destructive mode and should stand strong in their support for Israel and for robust policy debates.”

Andrew Weinstein, a leading Democratic donor from Coral Springs, emails:  “While the ‘Dems in disarray’ narrative makes for an interesting news cycle, it does not reflect the reality inside the caucus. There is strong support for Israel among Democratic House members and there has been absolutely no effort to change that. There is no question that Rep. Omar’s comments were inappropriate and unacceptable, but the GOP’s efforts to capitalize on her remarks and drive a wedge between Jewish voters and the Democratic Party is hypocritical and beyond shameful.”

“Where was the GOP outrage when Matt Gaetz brought a Holocaust denier to the State of the Union, Kevin McCarthy tweeted that Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and George Soros were trying to ‘buy’ the midterm election, Donald Trump called white nationalists ‘very fine people,’ or the countless times Jim Jordan and Steve King made anti-Semitic comments?”

“It is possible to criticize the Israeli government without resorting to anti-Semitic tropes and stereotypes. That’s something all office holders, regardless of party, should be mindful of. “

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