Update on Congressional Action Regarding Middle East Conflict: A Message from Rep. Huffman
**Updated Monday, 11/6/2023**
The tragic conflict ignited by Hamas’ terrorist attacks has unfortunately spawned a spike in vile antisemitism in many of our communities, including on college campuses. I have always denounced this hateful scourge in all its forms and locations. I’m proud to cosponsor H.Res. 839 which categorically condemns antisemitism on college campuses, full stop.
To my friends in the Jewish Community:
I want to apologize for my ill-considered vote on H. Res. 798 which has caused pain and confusion in the Jewish Community, including among many people I regard as dear friends and allies. Bottom line: I should have voted the other way. In the moment, without adequate reflection, I assumed that my longstanding opposition to BDS and other forms of antisemitism would speak for itself and that I could base my decision on the technical merits of the measure (which did include some factual errors and mischaracterizations). In doing that, I missed the forest through the trees.
I should have focused on the fact that this vote, despite the measure’s imperfections, was taking place in a moment when the Jewish community is feeling an unprecedented amount of fear, trauma and abandonment. It was seen by many in the Jewish Community as a test of where members of Congress stand on growing scourge of college antisemitism. I know what a scary and traumatic time this is for many in the Jewish Community because I’ve spoken to countless friends and constituents about it, including specific conversations about college antisemitism. I want to show empathy, solidarity and support for the Jewish community especially at this time. That’s why I am so disappointed in myself for approaching the H.Res. 798 vote technically and without enough circumspection. I unintentionally conveyed indifference to a problem I actually care a lot about.
I’ve cast thousands of votes in my 11 years in Congress. Many have been controversial and some have been unpopular. But this is the first time I’ve come to regret a vote within hours of casting it – and the first time I felt compelled to apologize. I screwed up folks. I hope that by owning my error and issuing this apology I can somehow lessen the pain and confusion my vote has caused.
I stand firmly and unequivocally against antisemitism in all its forms and locations. This has always been a core value for me, and I will do everything I can to make that more clear going forward. Please stay in touch with your thoughts and input, and feel free to share this with others. Input is always welcome at Huffman.house.gov.
Rep. Jared Huffman
As the tragic conflict in the Middle East evolves, I want to stay in touch with you about the situation and my votes in the House of Representatives, especially since some of the items I am voting on are infused with political agendas and often accompanied by misinformation.
While there is complexity, nuance, and room for debate on many aspects of Israel-Palestinian relations, I believe it is critical to have factual and moral clarity on Hamas, a brutal terrorist group whose longstanding goal is not only elimination of Israel but also the killing of Jews around the world. What Hamas did in savagely attacking and killing more than 1,400 innocent Israelis (including helpless families and children) was a terrorist act and an atrocity that cannot be justified or rationalized. This attack is what ignited the current conflict and exposed over a million innocent Palestinians to grave harm and a worsening humanitarian crisis.
In the days since the October 7th attack, I have consistently affirmed the United States support for Israel’s right to respond militarily against Hamas, while also emphasizing that all efforts must be made to protect innocent Palestinian civilians, secure the release of hostages, and deliver urgent humanitarian aid. I believe the Biden administration – in both the tone it has struck and the substantive positions it has taken on these matters – has gotten it right. I specifically appreciate the President’s recent call for a humanitarian pause in hostilities, for which I have also been advocating.
As these events continue to unfold, we are seeing a surge in both antisemitism and Islamophobia in the United States, including hate crimes. Whether it is physical assaults, vandalism, intimidation, or incitement, I have always condemned such vile hatefulness and I will continue to do so. How we confront this scourge matters. I believe it is important to acknowledge that hateful threats and incidents are causing fear and harm in both Jewish and Muslim communities. Focusing our outrage on just one of these communities to the exclusion of the other could be perceived as indifference or worse, which could inflame a combustible situation.
Unfortunately, instead of passing thoughtful and constructive measures to respond to the complex issues, House Republicans have chosen to play politics and stoke division. Many of their bills and resolutions contain poison pill language and substantive problems that could have been resolved if they had simply worked in good faith with Democrats. In some cases, what their bills actually do bears little resemblance to what they purport to do. Because there is so much more than meets the eye – and certainly more than some media outlets chose to cover – I am writing to clarify and set the record straight on several recent votes.
Emergency Military Support for Israel:
- I joined most Democrats in voting against H.R. 6126, the GOP’s emergency supplemental spending proposal, because it focuses only on military aid for Israel while conditioning that aid (for the first time our long history of supporting Israel) on a gimmicky partisan proposal to shield wealthy taxpayers from audits by cutting funding to the IRS. There’s a reason why both the Senate and the Biden administration pronounced this bill a nonstarter: it ignores other urgent national security needs, including assistance to Ukraine in that country’s existential defense against Russia’s invasion; and it leaves out any humanitarian assistance to innocent people in Gaza who desperately need food, water, medicine and other support. While I have a long history of supporting foreign assistance to Israel, I cannot go along with efforts to terminate military support for our Ukrainian allies at this critical moment, and I cannot ignore the urgent humanitarian needs in Gaza. Thankfully, a responsible, comprehensive emergency funding bill will soon pass the Senate. I look forward to supporting that bipartisan legislation and call on my Republican colleagues to stop playing political games with these vital issues and bring the Senate bill to a vote in the House.
Condemning and Sanctioning Hamas:
- Some in the media have suggested that H.R. 340, the Hamas International Financing Prevention Act, was a litmus test for whether members of Congress support or oppose Hamas. This bill, and my vote against it, are anything but that. I've been as clear as anyone in Congress about Hamas’ terrorist identity and its culpability for the current conflict in Gaza, in addition to supporting Israel's right and obligation to defend itself against Hamas. Unfortunately, while focusing on doing more to cut off financing of Hamas, the author of this bill chose to specifically remove a provision to ensure humanitarian aid reaches innocent Palestinian civilians. This deliberate omission became even more glaring when the author argued on the House floor that essentially there are no innocent Palestinians and likened them to Nazi citizens during WWII who deserved to be punished. Because the bill tries to choke off humanitarian aid to innocent civilians, I could not support it even though I do support tightening of sanctions against Hamas.
- Any question about where I stand on Hamas and sanctions is answered by my cosponsorship and vote for H.Res. 771, a bipartisan resolution that passed the House last week. That legislation clearly condemns Hamas as a terrorist group, expresses strong support for Israel as it defends itself against Hamas, and further calls for the increasing sanctions on Hamas.
- Antisemitism is a growing problem not just on liberal college campuses as the rightwing media constantly discusses, but in many other places including rural and urban communities around the country and the extreme fringes of some conservative and liberal political groups. So is Islamophobia. Unfortunately, the GOP’s H. Res. 798 ignores these realities and suggests the problem is about liberal college campuses. Moreover, the resolution inaccurately describes several incidents as having been ignored or condoned by colleges (e.g., Brandeis) when in fact these colleges did seriously confront the incidents. And it is silent on Islamophobia even as the Council on American Islamic Relations reports a spike in problematic incidents. The misleading characterizations and incomplete narrative in this resolution is why the progressive pro-Israel group J-Street opposed it, and why I voted against it, as well. Let me be clear: antisemitism has no place in America. It is a problem on many college campuses – but also in other parts of our country. The same can and should be said of Islamophobia.
Sanctioning and Preventing Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons:
- H.Res. 559 was tantamount to a preemptive authorization of military force against Iran at a time when de-escalation is urgently needed. It falsely implied the Biden administration was not working to prevent nuclear weapons in Iran. I strongly supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which did prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons and which Trump unfortunately rescinded. This resolution also had the potential to encourage reckless Israeli strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities that go beyond the wishes of U.S. officials and provoke broader conflict
- Finally, H.R. 3774 was a partisan Republican bill entitled the “Stop Harboring Iranian Petroleum (SHIP) Act of 2023. The bill mandates sanctions on any shipping company that uses a port or refinery that has serviced an Iranian tanker to that entity. If this bill were enacted, U.S. companies would be prohibited from doing any business, including transferring goods, at many of the world’s biggest ports, including in some of our largest allies and economic partners. It would disrupt global trade, supply chains, and damage our relations with important allies and partners. This poorly drafted bill overreaches to the point of having extreme unintended economic and geopolitical consequences, and would do nothing to stop Hamas or hold it accountable for the October 7th attack on Israel.
I hope this information clarifies my positions and the reasons for my votes. I also hope it sheds some light on how Congress and others can engage constructively and responsibly on these complex matters. The people of California’s 2nd District are the most important voices I listen to while serving in Congress. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you in the future.
Member of Congress
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