Madihan Wilson-Anton debates

Passionate House debates focus on Israel, Gaza conflict

Betsy PriceGovernment, Headlines

Madihan Wilson-Anton debates

Madinah Wilson-Anton stands to make a point during debates about the nature and outcomes oif the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

Dueling resolutions about the Hamas attacks in Israel and that nation’s invasion of Gaza drew intense — but civil — reaction on the first day of the 2024 session of the Delaware House of Representatives Tuesday.

First up was House Concurrent Resolution No. 80, which noted that the attacks and invasion “resulted in catastrophic and heartbreaking losses of human life. ” 

Delaware’s hearts go out to all who are suffering in Delaware and across the world, HR80 said.

The resolution called on the General Assembly to recognize that Delaware is “a state of neighbors bound together by empathy, compassion and a sense that we’re all stronger together.

Majority Leader Melissa Minor-Brown, D-New Castle, said her resolutions “affirms that there is no place for hate in our state.”

Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, D-Newark Israel

Madinah Wilson-Anton

Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, D-Newark, who gained national attention for heckling Vice President Kamala Harris during a speech at a holiday party and demanding a ceasefire, argued that the bill used sanitizing language.

“We’re whitewashing what’s actually happening,” she said, starting nearly an hour of debates.

More than 1,200 Israelis were killed on Oct. 7, she said. Since then, more than 23,000 Palestinians have been, and probably more hidden by the rubble of bombing by the “apartheid state of Israel.”

Palestinians were not even mentioned in the resolution, she pointed out.

“This is not a religious conflict. It’s a situation of settler colonialism,” she said. “Palestinians come from all walks of life, including they’re also Jewish Palestinians. So to simplify this situation to one in which it’s a Muslim-Jewish thing is disingenuous. It’s misleading. And it leads to a conversation where we don’t talk about human rights. We talk about interfaith, or we talk about all of us just getting to know each other and understand each other. It’s not about a religious conflict at all.”

She noted that Minor-Brown did not have a Muslim leader appear before the House, as she did Jewish and other interfaith leaders.

“I don’t know if it was that they were not invited or if it was that they were invited and they were not interested in a charade like this,” Wilson-Anton said.

“The word Palestinian is not even mentioned in this resolution.,” she said. “The word genocide is not mentioned.”

Even so, she said, she planned to vote for the resolution.

“It doesn’t say anything. It doesn’t call us to anything other than to continue to do our jobs, which is to recognize all Delawareans,” she said. “You don’t need a resolution to continue to do that.”

State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, who is Jewish, took the floor. However, the House has new wireless microphones and Spiegelman didn’t turn his on — that time — so online listeners have no idea what he said.

The resolution passed unanimously, with one member absent, and Wilson Anton rose to introduce her House Resolution 26, co-sponsored by Rep. Eric Morrison, D-Glasgow.

Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton rent tenant landlord

Jeff Spiegelman

It recognized the genocide and humanitarian crisis in Gaza and called on the Biden administration and federal delegation from Delaware to support a permanent and lasting ceasefire.

“I think I can say that all of us were horrified by the attacks on Oct. 7,” Wilson-Anton said. “It’s unfortunate that in the aftermath of the terrible attacks, the way that the Israeli government has responded has included indiscriminate bombing of innocent civilians. “

Many are displaced, living without shelter, food, water and electricity, she said. Her social media feeds are filled with photos of injured children, including some said to have undergone amputations without anesthetics.

“I mentioned the word genocide because that’s what this is. We know that because we’ve heard Israeli officials share their intent to turn the Gaza strip into a parking lot,” she said.

Polls say 65% of U.S. citizens want a ceasefire, she said.

“As an elected official, I and we have the responsibility to do more than just watch and cry silent tears and send petitions.,” she said.

But, she also said, she was not optimistic about anyone supporting her resolution.

Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach and former speaker of the house, rose quickly to speak as soon as Wilson-Anton yielded the floor.

“It has been standing policy in the House that we will not entertain any resolutions requesting Congress or the President to do anything,” he instructed the room. “I understand what’s going on today. I get it. But I will not be supporting the resolution as it goes against long-standing House policy. And I ask my colleagues to do the same.”

Spiegelman rose again, and this time turned on his microphone.

He noted that Israel has supported a two-state plan for decades, but Palestinians will not, because recognizing Israel’s right to exist is a non-starter.

Israel has created a society ranked significantly higher than the rest of the countries in the region and on par with most European countries for gender equality, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights  and democratic values.

“But somehow you are the oppressive nation,” he said.

Intense debates

Many reports about atrocities happening to Jewish people always come with a but, a comma or some other qualifying statement, he said.

“Tell me, for example, when a Palestinian American child was stabbed to death, it was collectively said to be disgusting, horrible, despicable — and it was, period.

“On Oct. 7, 40 infants in Israel were found burned and beheaded for the crime of being Jewish infants in Israel, comma, however, we don’t have independent verification of whether or not the beheadings were done by hand before or after the death of the incident,” Spiegelman said. “That’s an actual news quote, as if that’s the important part of 40 dead beheaded infants.

“You see the difference between a period and a comma?”

Some said what Hamas did was horrible, but also immediately say that the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) does terrible things, too, Spiegelman said.

“There’s not a documented case of the IDF gang raping women, dragging their bodies in the streets or beheading them,” he said. “Could you imagine the international outcry? So where’s the single standard here in America, or even in the United Nations? Again, you see the difference between a period and a comma.”

Some people have described the Hamas attackers as freedom fighters, as if that excuses what they did.

“They get a comma. They get a but. They get a however. They get a must be understood in context,” he said.

“We are the only people treated this way. The only people who have to ask this question, which means for the first time since 1945, I as a Jew might be somehow lesser,” Spiegelman said. “For years we have been saying in this room, never again. As a historian, I’m shocked by how never again is starting to look like right now.”

Morrison rose to say that he had first become aware of Palestinian issues when he was assigned the Palestinian Liberation Organization as part of a Mock United Nations event. He’s spent hours learning more about it, he said.

One of the problems, he believes, is that most people don’t understand the complicated history and relationships.

The bombs raining down on Gaza are made in the United States, he said.

“How do you think that makes so many folks in the Middle East feel?” he said. “We have not learned anything in America time and time and time again. Just like with the Iraq war, we go in, we do things that breed a new generation of terrorists and new groups of terrorists.

“We should at least realize all these decades later that we are actually by doing this by funding this, by supporting it, by refusing to call for a ceasefire,” Morrison said. “We are actually putting Americans at much greater risk of terrorism.”

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Minority Whip Kerri Evelyn Harris, D-Dover, Magnolia, said she had seen war and famine and came away believing there’s no reason to send people to war. It destroys everything around it, and the people who pay the cost are not the fighters, but the civilians.

“I promise you whether it’s the people of Palestine, the people of Israel, the people in the United States, the people in Congo, in Yemen, in Ukraine, people will continue to die until we truly recognize each other’s reality, not on a piece of paper but every single day,” she said.

The problem won’t be fixed, she said, until “we give each other grace and we keep pushing and we push each other and we hold each other’s eyes to the problem.”

Wilson-Anton said she agreed with Harris and thought what she was really describing was a cease-fire.

“I heard a lot of propaganda from my colleague over here. Mr. Spiegelman, I don’t want to spend time here refuting every last point,” she said. “But I think the point has been made earlier that there’s a lot to this conflict. I’m more than happy to have conversations one on one or group conversation about the history of the conflict, which I studied in college.”

She then asked to table her resolution, meaning no vote would be taken.



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