Georgia Senate adopts pro-Israel resolution

State Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, speaks at the Georgia State Capitol during a special session to redraw district maps for Congressional seats on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (Natrice Miller/Natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

State Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, speaks at the Georgia State Capitol during a special session to redraw district maps for Congressional seats on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (Natrice Miller/Natrice.miller@ajc.com)

The Georgia Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to condemn the deadly Hamas attack against Israel and the spate of antisemitic incidents targeting Jewish people in its aftermath.

The resolution introduced by Senate Republican leaders also denounced “hateful, ignorant and dangerous rhetoric in the U.S. and abroad that suggests Israel bears responsibility” for the Oct. 7 attack that left 1,200 Israelis dead and more than 200 taken hostage. A similar proposal is pending in the House.

It was brought by Republicans who aim to demonstrate GOP unity with Israel — and try to highlight divisions among Democrats. Republican state Sen. Matt Brass, who introduced the measure, called it a “small gesture honoring our alliance with Israel.”

The resolution made no mention of the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip that worsened amid Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes and ground invasion. The United Nations said the fighting has displaced most of Gaza’s 2.2 million residents, and Hamas says more than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed.

A fragile cease-fire is underway after negotiators struck a deal to release more than 60 Israelis seized in the Hamas raid in exchange for 180 Palestinian prisoners, though it’s uncertain how long the hostilities will be on hold.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released this month highlighted the growing political rift over Israel. It found that two-thirds of Georgians say supporting Israel should be a U.S. national security priority, including more than 80% of Republicans.

But Democrats are torn over the U.S. alliance with the Jewish state, with 40% opposed to the idea that “supporting Israel is in the national interest.” The poll showed the divide is more distinct among younger, more diverse and poorer voters.

As the fighting in the Middle East escalated, some of the state’s leading Republicans are taking new steps to burnish their support for Israel.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who leads the Senate, on Wednesday renewed his support for a bill to combat antisemitism that passed the House this year but stalled in the Senate, saying that “hatred and hostile way of thinking will not be tolerated, especially in our universities and places of learning.”

Gov. Brian Kemp and first lady Marty Kemp meet with an Israeli delegation at the Georgia Capitol in October. (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC

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Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC

Gov. Brian Kemp has positioned himself as an unwavering supporter of Israel in its battle with Hamas, which he has condemned as an “evil” organization bent on destroying the Jewish state.

And House Speaker Jon Burns, who accompanied Kemp on a May trip to Israel, is promoting a similar resolution in his chamber.

The Senate resolution singled out antisemitic remarks by university professors and praised campus administrators who have punished faculty, staff and students for promoting “hateful rhetoric” against Jews.

It also held “that Israel has the right to exist and defend itself and that the Jewish people have the right to live in peace and safety in their homes and communities and whatever country they reside.”

The resolution was quickly approved on the first day of a special legislative session that Kemp called after a federal judge tossed Georgia’s political maps because they diluted Black voting power.

No Senate Democrat spoke out against the measure, though party leaders backed an effort to avoid a roll-call vote that was rejected by Republicans. The measure passed 46-0, with several Democrats marked as “excused” or who abstained from the vote.

State Rep. Ruwa Romman, the lone Palestinian American in the Legislature, said many Palestinian Georgians have lost family members to Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. She also noted the recent shootings of three Palestinian college students in Vermont and the stabbing death of a 6-year-old Palestinian American near Chicago.

“It’s unconscionable that Republicans not only refuse to mention them in their resolution,” she said, “but are also using this moment to score political points and foment further division at the expense of Georgians grieving during this difficult time.”

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