Democratic Rifts Over Israel Burst to the Forefront in Congress


Israel’s war against Hamas is exposing deep divisions among Democrats in Congress, as the most outspoken supporters of the Jewish state and vocal pro-Palestinian members on the left trade accusations of bigotry and feud over what role the United States should play in the hostilities.

The tensions burst into the open last week after 15 House Democrats drew rebukes for refusing to vote for an overwhelmingly bipartisan resolution that declared solidarity with Israel and condemned Hamas.

The situation is expected to escalate this week as the House debates an emergency $14.3 billion spending bill to provide security assistance for Israel. It will also consider a separate Republican-written resolution to censure Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan and the only Palestinian-American member of Congress, for participating in a pro-Gaza rally this month at the Capitol, where she accused Israel of committing genocide.

The schism reflects a broader split inside the Democratic Party, where a left-leaning coalition of younger voters and people of color are breaking with President Biden over this staunch support of Israel, and primary battles are brewing between strong defenders of the Jewish state and progressives who promote Palestinian rights.

On Capitol Hill, the divide has been exacerbated by Republicans, who are eager to exploit the rift among their political rivals. Speaker Mike Johnson plans to hold a vote this week pairing a bill to fund Israel’s war effort with cuts to the I.R.S. that were a key part of Mr. Biden’s sweeping climate and health care law, a tough pill for Democrats to swallow. And some left-wing Democrats think Mr. Biden should have requested more humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians in his proposed emergency spending plan.

The House also is expected to vote as soon as Wednesday on the measure to formally censure Ms. Tlaib, who has harshly criticized Israel and expressed skepticism of U.S. intelligence findings that Israel was not culpable for a recent hospital bombing in Gaza. At the rally at the Capitol, she pleaded for a cease-fire, saying, “We are literally still watching people commit genocide and killing a vast majority just like this, and we still stand by and say nothing.”

The measure, which is sponsored by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, accuses Ms. Tlaib of “antisemitic activity, sympathizing with terrorist organizations and leading an insurrection” at the Capitol.

Even the most pro-Israel Democrats appear disinclined to back Ms. Greene’s resolution.

“The language is extreme and over the top,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, noting that the measure falsely refers to the pro-Gaza rally and sit-in, which was organized by Jewish antiwar groups, as an “insurrection.”

Several other Democrats scoffed at the idea that a lawmaker who once compared coronavirus mask and vaccine mandates to the treatment of Jews by Nazis during the Holocaust and promoted a conspiracy theory that space lasers controlled by Jews were responsible for wildfires in California, as Ms. Greene did, could credibly accuse a colleague of antisemitism.

But Ms. Wasserman Schultz said she had “deep concerns” that Ms. Tlaib was engaging in “inflammatory conduct” and savaged Democrats who have refused to condemn Hamas.

“I understand there are usual suspects that are not pro-Israel, that object to Israel’s policies, but we should all be against slaughter,” she said, referencing the 1,400 civilians and soldiers killed and 222 hostages seized when Hamas raided Israel. “If you’re not against slaughter, you don’t have a soul.”

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