On Dec. 5, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the rise of antisemitism in the United States and around the world that declared, among other things, that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism.” The resolution passed by a 311-14 margin, with the support of all but one Republican and 95 Democrats. The remaining 92 Democrats voted “present” — not taking a position for or against the measure.
The splintered vote reflects a deep and growing divide in the Democratic party between those who have offered unequivocal support for the Jewish state and others — especially those in the party’s progressive wing — who have been more critical of Israel’s government, its policies and its conduct in the war with Hamas.
Many of those voting “present” expressed concern that the sweeping designation of anti-Zionism as antisemitism goes too far, since it would encompass any criticism of the Israeli government and its policies, including criticism from some of the Jewish state’s most vocal supporters. That argument is a red herring.
Zionism began as a movement to create a Jewish state in the historic Jewish homeland. Since Israel’s founding, Zionism has been defined as the political ideology of supporting Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish state. Anti-Zionism, on the other hand, is an ideology based upon the belief that the Jewish people should not be able to have a nation-state.
Neither the concept of Zionism nor the theory of anti-Zionism has anything to do with the policies, practices, makeup or politics of the state of Israel. Instead, both ideologies center on the right of Jews to self-determination in the land of their ancestors. Zionism says yes. Anti-Zionism says no. And anti-Zionism’s “no” is antisemitic.
Criticism of the policies or practices of Israel’s government is not antisemitic. We therefore reject the argument of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — one of the 13 Democrats who voted against the resolution — that the resolution improperly “conflates criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism” and “paints critics of the Israeli government as antisemites.” No one has called Omar antisemitic for any of her criticisms of Israeli government policies. She was labeled antisemitic for her hateful comments about Jews and Israel’s right to exist.
These points should be clear to at least the 23 Jewish Democratic representatives who voted “present” on the anti-Zionism resolution. They should know better. They should understand that it is hatred of the Jewish people that energizes anti-Zionists and motivates their challenge to Israel’s right to exist — and that none of the anti-Zionist vitriol stems from particular policies of the Israeli government.
That’s why we reject the disingenuous argument of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) that “under this resolution, those who love Israel deeply but criticize some of its policy approaches could be considered anti-Zionist.” Nadler’s argument is simply not true. We say this even as we recognize Nadler’s unflinching support for Israel over his many years in office.
We are disappointed by those who voted “present” on the resolution. Anti-Zionism and antisemitism are serious issues. Taking a passive approach by voting “present” on the resolution is simply not serious.