Leading House Democrats will offer a resolution Wednesday condemning anti-Semitism in response to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s latest remarks on Israel, a senior Democratic aide said.
The declaration, written by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, comes after Omar’s new remarks suggesting American supporters of Israel are pushing people to have “allegiance to a foreign country.” It’s at least the third time the Minnesota Democrat’s words have put her colleagues in a more delicate spot than usual on the US-Israel relationship, and the second time in two months that she’s drawn a stern backlash from party leaders.
A draft of the resolution does not rebuke Omar, a Somali-American and one of two Muslim women in Congress. But it sets out the history of anti-Semitism and bigotry in America, including anti-Jewish tropes about divided loyalties. The document also rejects bigotry directed against Muslims after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
It says the House “rejects anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”
The document is the written embodiment of the bind in which Omar has repeatedly put Democrats who have celebrated her election as part of the history-making class that helped flip control of the House in the November elections. The March edition of Rolling Stone magazine is covered by a photo of Pelosi and the next generation of House women, including Omar.
Omar didn’t start the internal Democratic chafing over Israel, and she’s not unfamiliar with bigotry. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are looking into a report of a threatening graffiti message directed at her. She also was the target of an anti-Muslim poster that appeared last week at the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, with her picture over an image of the World Trade Center’s burning towers.
Omar says she’s questioning the US relationship with Israel and the influence game in Washington.
Still, senior Democrats were unmistakably wary of dealing with Omar’s habit of inflaming a divide in the party over US-Israel relations. Some demanded a retraction and apology from Omar, with one House chairman saying she invoked a “vile, anti-Semitic slur” and another congressional veteran tweeting that Omar “continues to mischaracterize support for Israel.”
“I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee,” Omar tweeted back.
Last month, Omar ignited a bipartisan uproar in Washington and Minnesota when she suggested on Twitter that members of Congress are paid by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to support Israel. AIPAC is a nonprofit organization that works to influence US policy.
Many Jewish leaders denounced her remarks as reviving old stereotypes about Jews, money and power. She soon apologized and said, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”
Many progressive Jews rushed to her defense, however, saying it’s not inherently anti-Semitic to criticize Israeli government policies or AIPAC. Omar’s spokesman, Jeremy Slevin, said she is not criticizing American Jews or their faith, only offering a “fair critique” of Israel’s powerful lobby.
That episode came after Omar apologized for a 2012 tweet in which she said, “Israel has hypnotized the world.”
Some have suggested that Omar be stripped of her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a move Pelosi and Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. have so far resisted. But Engel’s statement on Friday mentioned his panel and conduct becoming a member of the House.
“It’s unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the US-Israel relationship,” Engel said in a statement that also suggested she apologize.
Unlike the previous two incidents, Omar did not apologize this time.
“I am told every day that I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel. I find that to be problematic and I am not alone,” Omar tweeted Sunday. “I just happen to be willing to speak up on it and open myself to attacks.”