When you write about anti-Semitism, there’s typically not much good news to report; the world’s oldest hatred has been making a comeback not only overseas, but also here in the US of A. So, it’s both good and important to pause and celebrate the U.S. Senate unanimously passing a resolution that unequivocally condemns anti-Semitism.
Where the House of Representatives fumbled, the Senate succeeded. And thank G-d for that.
In March, the House struggled to rebuke blatantly anti-Semitic remarks from freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar. Rather than forcefully denounce anti-Semitism within their own ranks, House members passed a watered-down resolution calling out out all hatred. While that message was unobjectionable, it was also totally non-responsive to the historical moment.
By contrast, Sens. Ted Cruz and Tim Kaine led the Senate in embracing a resolution yesterday that squarely condemns anti-Semitism in all of its forms. The Senate resolution offers a sweeping historical view of anti-Semitism across borders and millennia. It recognizes that the virus of anti-Semitism is different than other forms of hatred, has occurred both overseas and domestically, and that it requires a unique, targeted condemnation.
In addition to citing pogroms, forced conversions, and the Holocaust, the resolution mentions that Jews retain the dubious honor of being the most targeted religious group for hate crimes. While Omar isn’t named, the resolution alludes to her poisonous remarks, noting that “Jews have faced, and continue to face, false accusations of divided loyalty between the United States and Israel, [and] false claims that they purchase political power with money.” Given the struggle to pass anti-anti-boycott legislation on the Hill this year, the resolution also crucially castigates those who would “boycott, confiscate or destroy Jewish businesses.”
Asked about the resolution, Cruz told The Federalist, “I’m proud the Senate was able to come together and condemn anti-Semitism with one voice. Antisemitism is a unique prejudice with a unique history that’s given rise to unique horrors, and so it was important to condemn it on those terms.”
Contrast all of this with what’s happened in the United Kingdom. Joan Ryan, a British member of Parliament who left the Labour Party over anti-Semitism earlier this year, recently spoke about her experience at the American Jewish Committee’s 2019 Global Forum.
Asked what lessons she’d offer Americans about arresting (any or all) political parties’ slide toward anti-Semitism, Ryan replied, “It is important that others in different parts of the world look at what’s happened to us because it happened so fast and it’s gone so deep, that really it is quite unbelievable. So, I think you have to be ever vigilant.”
She advised, “You call out anti-Semitism wherever, whenever you come across it, and you do it right from the beginning. You don’t wait. It’s like a virus, and if you don’t do that right from day one, right from the first instance, then it will take ahold.”
So, kudos to the U.S. Senate for taking a hugely important first step to stop what Michael O’Flaherty, director of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency, considers “a test of our civilizations.”
While this resolution has no legal force, it is symbolically significant. It was shepherded through the world’s greatest deliberative body by one senator who performed well in 2016’s Republican primaries and another who was his party’s 2016 nominee for vice president. It had 56 co-sponsors of all political stripes, a list that notably includes Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has previously defended boycotts of the world’s only Jewish state on free speech grounds. I’m pleasantly surprised by Sanders here.
Too often, our leaders can underwhelm or even disappoint. But this week, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to condemn the full spectrum of vile attacks on Jews both here and elsewhere. If we’re to effectively learn the lessons not only of history, but also of Europe’s resurgent anti-Semitism and avoid repeating them, this is the perfect place for our elected officials to start.