The Resolve to Condemn Hate: Where the Controversy Originates

On Thursday, March 7th, the House passed a resolution condemning discrimination of all minority groups. “Whether from the political right, center or left, bigotry, discrimination, oppression, racism and imputations of dual loyalty threaten American democracy and have no place in American political discourse”, the resolve states, including mentions of all sides of the political spectrum in an attempt to bridge an ever-growing political divide. However, this seemingly innocuous motion was not without controversy.

The resolution was originally intended to explicitly focus on antisemitism, an issue that has been in the national spotlight since the white supremacist riots of Charlottesville in August of 2017. However, edits to the draft (released the Monday before the final vote) condemned antisemitism and anti-Muslim behaviors to the same extent. By the time the resolution was proposed, it included “African-Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants and others” as those experiencing the “hateful expressions of intolerance” the resolution intended to denounce.

This resolution follows backlash from claims made by Ilhan Omar, the freshman Democratic Representative from Minnesota. Ms. Omar, one of three Muslim Congress members, insinuated that supporters of the Israeli government had pledged “allegiance to a foreign country.” The idea of “dual loyalty” has been an anti-Semitic trope for years, indicating that members of the Jewish community are not truly devoted Americans. Omar has since apologized for her previous statement. Omar’s apology was posted to Twitter as follows:

“Antisemitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.

“At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”

The resolution does not mention Omar’s comments explicitly. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stated that she believes Omar did not understand the “full weight” of her words and that Omar’s comments were not rooted in any sort of anti-Semitic nature. She also stated that the resolution is “not about [Omar]- it is about these forms of hatred.”

Several Democrats disapproved of the decision to combine the resolution about antisemitism with other forms of bigotry. Democrat Eliot Engel stated, “I am going to vote yes on this measure today. Obviously all forms of hatred and bigotry are intolerable and we should go on the record in saying so… I wish we had had a separate resolution about antisemitism. I think we deserved it. I think it was wrong not to have it… but I want to say very clearly and very loudly that antisemitism will never be tolerated by me.” Republican Liz Cheney said that this was a ploy by Democrats to “avoid condemning one of their own” by not condemning Omar specifically.

Despite this controversy, the resolution still passed with flying colors – the final vote was 407-23 in favor. Of these votes, all 23 opposing were cast by Republicans, while every voting Democrat supported the resolution – including Ms. Omar herself.