Congressional resolutions honor and commemorate, condemn, and even bluster. Rarely do they endorse a false conception of history as a means of conducting political warfare against an American ally.
House Resolution 1123, introduced by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), does just that. It also serves as an ominous warning about the future of the wider Democratic Party as its progressive wing organizes and grows in anticipation of a changing of the guard.
Another such warning came a week after Tlaib's resolution, when on May 23, Jewish Insider revealed that the office of Jamaal Bowman (D), a "Squad"-aligned New York congressman, had been groveling to the Democratic Socialists of America to win back its favor. Specifically, the DSA believed Bowman's increasingly heated attacks on Israel were not extreme enough to make him a good socialist. A staffer wrote of the list of "demands" the DSA had presented Bowman with and explained that the congressman was complying, first by opposing a resolution supporting peace between Israel and its neighbors and then promising that "the next time we have something like a standalone Iron Dome vote" on funding for Israel's ability to defend its civilians from air attacks, "you will see Rep. Bowman vote no."
The muted response to these stories is further evidence that the aging Democratic Party leadership has been sufficiently cowed by the generation of Bernie Sanders acolytes preparing to replace them. Both stories, in fact, deserved attention.
Take Tlaib's resolution, which was co-sponsored by Bowman as well as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others, "Recognizing the Nakba and Palestinian refugees' rights." The "nakba" is Palestinians' term for the "catastrophe" of 1948, when Palestinians and Arab nations failed to prevent the establishment of the state of Israel.
Predictably, the resolution makes no mention that Jews originated and resided in the Holy Land for thousands of years, long before the advent of Arabs or Islam. That deletion allows the resolution's authors and sponsors to call on the U.S. government to officially adopt an anti-Jewish calumny that has consistently been used to fuel eliminationist violence against Jews. The authors complain that the "United Nations General Assembly recommended on November 29, 1947, to partition Palestine into two states against the wishes of Palestine's majority indigenous inhabitants" — a sentence that erases the land's indigenous population entirely, simply because they are Jews.
The resolution then turns to its other purpose: the attempt to reverse the "nakba" by endorsing the destruction of the state of Israel euphemistically referred to as the right of return of everyone Palestinians deem to be a "refugee" and the descendants of those "refugees."
Israel was invaded by Arab armies on May 15, 1948, which then lost what one Arab leader, the secretary-general of the Arab League, proclaimed would be "a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades."
The resolution cites various numbers for refugees, most of whom moved a few tens of miles in anticipation of a quick return after a promised Arab victory, but these figures, too, are a much-debated question. All this is prelude to the final pillar of official Palestinian identity, the "right of return." The House resolution cites U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 of Dec. 11, 1948, which states that Palestinian "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible."
Once again, the background of why Palestinians did not return is a major historical problem, as is why they were forbidden from becoming citizens of Arab states except for Jordan. But to suggest "return" as a practical solution today is simply code for proposing to destroy Israel.
With its elisions, manipulations, and tendentiousness, Rep. Tlaib's House resolution reads as if it was written by a Palestinian propagandist from the 1950s or 1960s. But what is truly new and pernicious is the resolution's demand that the U.S. government "reject efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the United States Government with denial of the Nakba."
Invoking "denial" is simply a rhetorical device to equate the nakba with the Holocaust in a U.S. government document. This has long been a strategy of Palestinian propagandists (not a few of whom are Holocaust deniers), to equate the mass murder of Jews with the fate of the Palestinians.
Tlaib's resolution has little chance of passing, but the very fact that Palestinian political warfare has reached into the House of Representatives, and with the explicit backing of someone of Ocasio-Cortez's stature and popularity and influence, is telling. Through sheer gall, it pushes aside history to endorse a vision of the past and future that guarantees peace between Palestinians and Israelis becomes impossible.
But Tlaib's resolution is yet another sign of the extent to which the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is in thrall to the Palestinian cause. Reactions to the tragic death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, killed in the midst of a firefight between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli security forces, also displayed the instant, unthinking acceptance of Palestinian narratives.
Which side caused Abu Akleh's death remains unresolved thanks to the Palestinian Authority's refusal to allow Israeli authorities to examine the bullet that killed her. But this did not prevent Ocasio-Cortez from taking to Instagram Live to declare Abu Akleh "was killed by Israeli forces."
Not content with laying blame on Israel, AOC implicated the United States, saying, "We can't allow this stuff to be happening with our resources," because "our tax dollars are a part of this. Our resources are a part of this. We can't even get healthcare in the United States, and we're funding this."
In her world, America pays money to Israel to kill Palestinians that would otherwise provide "healthcare" at home. This comes uncomfortably close to being straightforward blood libel if not actual incitement.
But it is a mistake to see Ocasio-Cortez's remarks as the knee-jerk reactions of a peculiarly ignorant politician. For one thing, she has proven to be a bellwether for a younger generation of politicians who prize the passionate embrace of causes using a cartoonlike worldview of heroes and villains.
Despite their paper-thin knowledge and foolish analogies, the real or perceived influence of the Squad and their ilk has shifted Democratic Party politics as a whole. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly professed "ironclad" support for Israel but has been notoriously reluctant to criticize the Squad directly. But with the party's working-class credibility shot and collapsing midterm prospects, Israel and its nefarious supporters continue to be the center of attention for the younger cohort.
Also telling is the embrace of older Democratic politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders, not simply of the Palestinian narrative but its conspiratorial details. Suddenly, Jews and Jewish money in politics are suspect, if not uniquely evil. Stung by the poor performance of J Street-funded progressive candidates in House primaries, Sanders and other progressives, especially from his Justice Democrats proxy, have accused AIPAC's new super PAC of "secretly funding" candidates "opposed to Palestinian rights."
Sanders's war against AIPAC is not new. It is, in his words, "a war for the future of the Democratic Party."
In this new war, as usual, American Jews are demanded to take sides. The litmus tests for American Jews to be admitted to the Left, and increasingly to the party that they have largely called home for nearly a century, include demands to condemn Israel for perceived misdeeds, as well as various unrelated matters.
These are well-documented on college campuses, where being a Zionist can be cause for social excommunication or worse. But demands that the Jews get in line are everywhere. For example, Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii contended that "it would be great, if not a huge accomplishment, for everyone in the American Jewish community to jointly condemn the right-wing antisemitic conference held in Hungary, and if there are American Jewish organizations who decline to condemn the conference, they should explain why."
These demands bode poorly for American political life, which relies on robust competition between political parties that address people of all backgrounds. It bodes particularly badly for American Jews. Huge increases in street violence against American Jews can only be attributed to the atmosphere created by American politicians and educational institutions.
For its part, the City University of New York School of Law's commencement speaker, Nerdeen Kiswani, organized protests against New York Jewish institutions and celebrated violence against Israelis on social media and at "globalize the Intifada" rallies. Her commencement speech alleged "a campaign of Zionist harassment by well-funded organizations with ties to the Israeli government and military."
Unfortunately, Western political parties have been down this path before. The fate of the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn is instructive. Labour had long been the traditional supporter of the Zionist cause and then of Israel, and as the working-class party, it was the natural home for British Jews. But by the 21st century, communist and socialist streams within Labour had transformed the party. Corbyn brought avowed Israel-haters to the forefront until scandals over antisemitic harassment of Jews and their allies could no longer be covered up.
These same parameters apply to today's Democratic Party. The Democrats' looming electoral collapse will likely both strengthen centrist voices and unleash still more hatred from Tlaib and her allies. But House Resolution 1123 is a sign that once Palestinian political warfare takes root in a society, its politics will never be the same.
Alex Joffe is a senior nonresident fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Asaf Romirowsky is the executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. They are the authors of Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief (2013).