US House calls for tougher fight against anti-Semitism

Resolution pans global upsurge in hatred of Jews while calling on Kerry to use influence to combat phenomenon

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Illustrative photo of anti-Semitic graffiti in Europe (CC BY-SA Beny Shlevich/Flickr)
Illustrative photo of anti-Semitic graffiti in Europe (CC BY-SA Beny Shlevich/Flickr)

WASHINGTON — Noting a “clear and troubling pattern of increased violence against Jewish persons and their property,” the US House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution Thursday evening condemning anti-Semitism and calling on US Secretary of State John Kerry to take additional steps to curb the international tide of anti-Jewish incidents.

The resolution was authored by Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Kay Granger (R-TX) to condemn what they described as “the rising tide of anti-Semitism abroad.”

“Today’s unanimous passage of our resolution sends a clear and strong message that we condemn the rising tide of anti-Semitism throughout the world and that we will do all we can to prevent its spread,” the four wrote in a statement shortly after the resolution’s passage. “We must ensure the world views such actions for what they are, the vile and hate-fueled persecution of an entire people, rather than an acceptable expression of frustration with political events in the Middle East or anywhere else. The United States must continue to play an essential role in shining a spotlight on the ugly resurgence of anti-Semitism, as well as all forms of religious discrimination.”

The wording of the resolution included an “unequivocal” condemnation of anti-Semitism, noting that the House “rejects attempts to justify anti-Jewish hatred or violent attacks as an acceptable expression of disapproval or frustration over political events in the Middle East or elsewhere.” The resolution goes on to “decry and condemn” the comparison of Israel to Nazis, describing it as “an insult to the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust and an affront to those who survived and their children and grand-children, the righteous gentiles who saved Jewish lives at peril to their own lives and to those who bravely fought to defeat the Nazis.”

The resolution also calls on Kerry to take a number of steps to combat anti-Semitism in the international arena, including ensuring “that the instruments of United States public diplomacy, including the United States Representative to the Organization of Islamic Conference, are utilized to effectively combat anti-Semitism.”

It also suggests that US embassy personnel be trained to “analyze and report on anti-Semitic violence against persons and property as well as the response of governments to those incidents.”

The authors noted that in 2014, there have been increased incidents of murder at Jewish sites, violent attacks and death threats against Jews, as well as violence, arson, graffiti, and other instances of vandalism at Jewish places of worship.

The resolution was a popular one, with cosponsors in the House of Representatives including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), Middle East Subcommittee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ranking Member Ted Deutch (D-FL).

An unusually wide coalition of groups supported the resolution, ranging from the Zionist Organization of America to J Street and also including the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies, Christians United for Israel, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Federations of North America, the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry.

“Tonight, Congress sent a resounding message to the world about America’s resolve to confront this ugly and dangerous hatred,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman wrote in a statement, commending the resolution’s four sponsors. “We hope world leaders will echo Congress’s call and will demonstrate the will to ensure that anti-Semitism has no place in their country and that Jews have the right to live in security and free of harassment and the fear of violence solely because they are Jewish.”

William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy and the director of the Washington office for Jewish Federations said that “in passing this resolution unanimously, the House of Representatives has made clear that hatred and bigotry have no place in our society.”

“Through our work with Holocaust survivors and other vulnerable populations, we at Jewish Federations have seen firsthand the importance of fighting against anti-Semitism in our communities, as well as the need to protect and be vigilant against anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish communities in the US and around the world,” Daroff continued.

National Jewish Democratic Committee Executive Director Rabbi Jack Moline also highlighted the bipartisan effort invested to pass the resolution, writing in a statement that “at a time like this, it is more important than ever to know that we stand together as one people, united against those who would sow hatred and fear in our communities.” Moline said that he was “proud to see that the entirety of the House of Representatives stood together in support of this resolution, demonstrating that we are a people who reject bigotry and support peace and tolerance.”

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) also hailed the House of Representatives’ bipartisan work. JCPA Chair Susan W. Turnbill noted that “our elected leaders have spoken clearly for themselves and for our nation that anti-Semitism is anathema to our values and will not be tolerated.”

JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow added that he was “pleased that the House of Representatives has sent a clear message that there are no justifications for anti-Semitic acts and that these events will not be tolerated. There are acceptable ways to express disapproval or frustration over political events; violence and hatred are not among them.”

Rabbinical Assembly President Rabbi William Gershon sounded a similar note, emphasizing that the resolution demonstrates to the Jewish community “that we have strong allies in government and that they reject attempts to justify anti-Jewish hatred or violent attacks as an acceptable expression of disapproval or frustration over political events in the Middle East or elsewhere.”

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