In an extraordinary scene that included dozens of lawmakers turning their backs on the proposal’s sponsor, the Florida House on Tuesday rejected a resolution that would have called for an “immediate de-escalation and cease-fire” in the war between Israel and Hamas.
Republicans and Democrats assailed the proposal, sponsored by Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville, in an emotional debate that included allegations of anti-Semitism.
“If you vote for this, you’re an anti-Semite,” Rep. Randy Fine, a Brevard County Republican who is Jewish, said.
But Nixon refused to back down, saying that caring “about thousands of innocent lives lost makes nobody anti-Semitic.” She said the resolution is about Israeli and Palestinian “babies.”
“Continued attacks will only lead to more suffering and more death,” Nixon said. “We must take immediate steps to help those in danger right now. That means restoring resources and providing humanitarian aid, but we must prevent more casualties so that they’re actually around to get and benefit from that aid.”
The House voted 104-2 to reject the resolution (HR 31C), with only Nixon and Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, supporting it.
The vote came on the second day of a special legislative session. Before the debate about the Nixon proposal, the Republican-dominated House passed two other resolutions supporting Israel; a bill to tighten state sanctions against Iran, a key backer of Hamas; and a bill that would provide money to boost security at Jewish day schools and preschools.
The scene was extraordinary not because Nixon’s resolution was rejected — Democratic proposals regularly are rejected in the House.
But the debate was unusually raw and personal, as Republicans and Democrats voiced support for Israel in the war that started when Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that has controlled Gaza, attacked Israel on Oct. 7. Israel has retaliated, in part, by launching air strikes on Gaza.
The rawness was exemplified by numerous House members turning their backs to Nixon and facing the front of the House chamber as she spoke near the end of the debate.
The proposed resolution cited deaths of Palestinians and Israelis and said, in part, that “millions of lives are at imminent risk if a cease-fire is not achieved and humanitarian aid is not delivered without delay.”
It sought to urge the Biden administration “to immediately call for and facilitate de-escalation and a cease-fire to promptly end the current violence in the State of Israel and occupied Palestine, and to promptly send and facilitate the entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza.”
But Rep. Hillary Cassel, a Dania Beach Democrat who said she converted to Judaism, said Hamas wants to “annihilate” Jews. She and other opponents of the resolution said a cease fire existed on Oct. 6, the day before the attack, and that Hamas was to blame for the war.
“We are not dealing with rational people,” Cassel said. “We are not dealing with equality and equal sides of this issue. We are dealing with an absolute attempt to massacre an entire group of people, and we are fighting back.”
Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, said there “will be no peace until that evil is destroyed.”
But Nixon asked “what type of moral compass are we following if we are OK with entire bloodlines being eradicated on both sides? All I keep thinking about is the babies. I have a 3-year-old, the innocent babies.”
“We are at 10,000 dead Palestinians,” Nixon said. “How many will be enough? … One of my colleagues just said, ‘All of them.’ Wow. One of my colleagues said, ‘All of them.’”
Nixon clearly angered some other Democrats by filing the proposal.
“There was an opportunity to not have to deal with this today, and the responsibility for having to deal with this today falls on the shoulders of one person, the person who filed this bill,” said Rep. Mike Gottlieb, a Davie Democrat who described himself as “99.9 percent Ashkenazi Jew.”
After the vote, House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, acknowledged that she had asked Nixon to withdraw the proposal.
“Again, like I said, I had my thoughts on how things should go today,” Driskell said. “She is her own member. She made the decision to bring that resolution, and ultimately that was her decision.”
But Nixon said after the vote that she could “stand firm in my convictions.”
“I care about all lives,” Nixon said. “I’m heartbroken, especially for the Muslim community and the Palestinian community. They have been demonized, and it’s not right.”
— News Service Assignment Manager Tom Urban and staff writer Ryan Dailey contributed to this report.
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