The deep divisions among Michigan Democrats about the war between Israel and Hamas, Gaza’s governing entity, have prompted the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to so far block action on resolutions offering symbolic support to Israel in the wake of Hamas’ attack on Israeli settlements near the Gaza borders.
In the House, Democrats rejected a motion from Republicans to discharge HR 146 from the House Government Operations Committee, where it was sent Wednesday. That was followed by a tense exchange between Democratic and Republican members in front of reporters on the House floor.
In the Senate, SR 76 remains on the Senate floor with Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) planning to refer it to the Senate Government Operations Committee.
Government Operations, in both houses, is generally where speakers and majority leaders send bills and resolutions to die, never to be taken up.
Democrats have members who support Israel and others who are supportive of the Palestinians. They have Jewish members and non-Jewish members who have decried the “brutality” of the Hamas incursion into Israel. They also have Arab American and non-Arab American members supportive of the Palestinian cause who, while critical of Hamas’ actions, have also said Israel also deserves criticism for its treatment of the occupied territories where the Palestinians live and the deaths of Palestinians as a result of Israeli military action.
The Republicans who sponsored the resolutions in each chamber urged Democrats to show support for Israel following the deadliest attack it has seen in its history.
“They wouldn’t even bring it up for a vote,” Rep. Bill Schuette (R-Midland) told reporters on the House floor. “That’s disrespectful to the elected representatives here. I think we should give an opportunity to have the elected representatives, this body speak on an issue that’s very important.”
The House’s two Jewish members, Rep. Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield) and Rep. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills), are co-sponsors of the Schuette resolution. So are Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi), Rep. Natalie Price (D-Berkley), Rep. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo) and Rep. Carrie Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor).
“The fact that leadership has decided to not allow this to even come up for a vote, that is an abdication of the moral duty of this body,” Schuette said. “It’s very disappointing.”
Right next to Schuette in front of the press benches on the House floor were House Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), Arbit and Steckloff.
Aiyash, in a back and forth with Schuette, said there were three resolutions in the previous legislative term offering support for Israel when Republicans were in control and none made it out of committee. All were general statements of support and not done in reaction to an attack. Schuette noted none had as many cosponsors as his, but Aiyash called that irrelevant.
Aiyash also questioned the sincerity of the Republican criticism, questioning why they did not support the hate crimes bills that passed the House earlier this year.
“If my Republican colleagues are serious and want to stand morally upright and say they are against hate and violence, they had an opportunity to do so earlier this term, and a majority of their caucus refused to do so,” he said. “So again, if they are serious about this, when the Senate brings them back to the House, I will appreciate a unanimous vote on (that) legislation. Otherwise, this is nothing more than a political cheap shot by the minority party.”
Schuette told Aiyash he was changing the subject and said it was important for the House to speak as a body about what happened to Israel.
At that point, Aiyash excoriated Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
“It is important that we also acknowledge the injustice of the Palestinian people, the bombardment in Gaza, the blockade they have endured,” Aiyash said. “There’s an occupation.
“There are people that are subjugated right now as we speak in Gaza, in the West Bank. So, if he wants to talk about violence and protecting innocent civilians, then let’s have that full conversation; and that includes the conversation around the occupation and the death of Palestinian civilians in this process.
“If this is only to try to score political points by only highlighting Israel, then again, I would ask my colleague, if he really cares about the Jewish community right here in Michigan, he has an opportunity to encourage his caucus to unanimously vote for the institutional
desecration act and the hate crimes act,” Aiyash added. “Otherwise, I want to repeat this once again, this is nothing more than a political cheap shot.”
“This isn’t political,” Schuette retorted. “It shouldn’t be complicated to condemn terror.”
“And if we’re going to condemn terror, we must condemn the terror and the violence that the Palestinian people have endured for decades and decades and decades,” Aiyash said. “We have to call out and condemn the apartheid regime. We have to call out and condemn the violence. We have to call out and condemn the occupation.”