In an address to the US Congress today, Israeli President Isaac Herzog boldly called out “antisemitism” within the House, a remark viewed by many as a sharp rebuke towards members of the progressive “Squad” Democrats.
“I’m not oblivious to criticism among friends, including some expressed by respected members of this House. I respect criticism, especially from friends, although one does not always have to accept it,” Herzog began, setting the tone for the intense exchange that followed.
“Criticism of Israel must not cross the line into negation of the State of Israel’s right to self-determination. That is not legitimate diplomacy, it is anti-Semitism,” he declared, to the applause of several members of the house. “Vilifying and attacking Jews, whether in Israel, in the United States, or anywhere else in the world is anti-Semitism,” he stated, reaffirming Israel’s stance on the subject.
“Anti-Semitism is a disgrace in every form,” Herzog concluded, his words echoed by applause in the Congressional chamber.
The direct and forthright address by President Herzog has shown the growing tensions within US politics regarding Israel, its policies, and the larger question of antisemitism. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), along with other members of the “squad,” chose to abstain from the speech Herzog presented to Congress.
This move reflected the internal disparity among Democrats concerning their stance on Israel. In the midst of the furor over Pramila Jayapal, Chair of the Progressive Caucus, labeling Israel as a “racist state,” a comment she later partially withdrew, Herzog’s speech commemorated the 75th year since the establishment of Israel.
As a result, Republicans initiated a vote on a declaration that Israel is neither a racist nor an apartheid state, which saw nearly unanimous support from Democrats, with the exception of ten.
Among those who opposed the resolution was Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Congress’ sole Palestinian-American member.
Omar was the first to declare her absence from Herzog’s speech among the “squad” members, with Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) following suit. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) also announced his boycott, stressing the importance of keeping allies responsible for human rights abuses. GOP legislators, however, dismissed these criticisms and labeled the Democrats who boycotted as antisemitic.