Congressional Democrats are crafting a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, in an indirect but public rebuke of one of their own, Rep. Ilhan Omar, after the latest in a series of remarks she's made aboutIsrael and its American supporters that have generated a blitz of criticism.
Omar, who was elected alongside Rep. Rashida Tlaib as the first women Muslim members of Congress in U.S. history, continues to speak out against Israel, attracting the scorn of Republicans and Democratic colleagues alike -- and competing resolutions from both parties.
A vote on the Democratic version could occur as early as Wednesday, with the apparent approval of party leaders who have grown tired of Omar's rhetoric and signaled they will allow the resolution to receive a vote.
In February, Omar gained notoriety after she asserted that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group known as AIPAC, was using its influence to pressure Members of Congress to adopt an “allegiance to a foreign country.”
Lawmakers, including her party's leader -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- roundly condemned Omar’s comments as an anti-Semitic trope, and Republicans subsequently deployed a procedural gambit to force the House, including Omar, to vote Feb. 13 to support an amendment condemning anti-Semitism. That effort passed 424-0, with two Republicans voting present and five lawmakers skipping the vote.
The hullabaloo and media attention led to an increased profile for Omar, who just landed a spot on the cover of Rolling Stone alongside Pelosi celebrating the new Democratic majority's diversity.
But now the congresswoman says she’s facing death threats. Perhaps more shocking, the Minnesota Democrat was featured on an Islamophobic poster at the Republican-sponsored WVGOP Day at the West Virginia statehouse tying her to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Unlike before, this time Omar is not apologizing and is pushing back hard, aided by the firepower of other congressional allies like New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
I’m pretty heartbroken that there isn’t more denunciation of this outward and blatant expression of bigotry and Islamophobia by a state party.
IMO those who stood up against anti-Semitism a few weeks ago should also be calling out the Islamophobia here, too. https://t.co/LOealpLAKy— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 3, 2019
Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t alone in condemning the poster. Rep. Nita Lowey, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, offered her own condemnation of “gross islamophobic stereotypes” – before she added a dig at Omar, tweeting that “Anti-Semitic tropes that accuse Jews of dual loyalty are equally painful and must be roundly condemned.”
Then Lowey, a New York Democrat serving in her 16th term, tweeted this shot at Omar:
Lawmakers must be able to debate w/o prejudice or bigotry. I am saddened that Rep. Omar continues to mischaracterize support for Israel. I urge her to retract this statement and engage in further dialogue with the Jewish community on why these comments are so hurtful.— Nita Lowey (@NitaLowey) March 2, 2019
Omar then continued the public clash, tweeting a long thread that decried any expectation that she should “pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress.”
Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman! 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. The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest. I am sure we agree on that! https://t.co/gglAS4FVJW— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 3, 2019
Before she was a member of Congress, Omar warned in a 2012 tweet, now deleted, that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel.”
Monday night, another Democratic colleague, Rep. Juan Vargas of California, called on Omar to apologize “for her offensive comments.”
It is disturbing that Rep. Omar continues to perpetuate hurtful anti-Semitic stereotypes that misrepresent our Jewish community. Additionally, questioning support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is unacceptable. (1/2)— Rep. Juan Vargas (@RepJuanVargas) March 4, 2019
Ocasio-Cortez again dove into the fray, launching into another long thread expressing curiosity whether Vargas would “further explain his stance here that it’s unacceptable to even *question* US foreign policy.”
I remember a time when it was “unacceptable” to question the Iraq War.
All of Congress was wrong, including both GOP & Dem Party, and led my generation into a disastrous + wrong war that virtually all would come to regret, except for the one member who stood up: Barbara Lee.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 5, 2019
A draft copy of the four-page Democratic resolution text obtained by ABC News does not name Omar, but summarizes the history of anti-Semitism before rejecting anti-Semitism "as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States."
In the meantime, Republicans are enjoying the Democratic distraction, with the president even taking notice in a tweet.
Representative Ilhan Omar is again under fire for her terrible comments concerning Israel. Jewish groups have just sent a petition to Speaker Pelosi asking her to remove Omar from Foreign Relations Committee. A dark day for Israel!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2019
House Republicans are rallying around their own resolution condemning anti-Semitism, and are urging Democrats to use this bill text if/when they hold a vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism this week.
The GOP’s text specifically names Tlaib and Omar, as well as white supremacists including Richard Spencer and Robert Bowers, who killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue shooting last October in Pittsburgh.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican who is Jewish, introduced House Resolution 72 to “condemn anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred infiltrating U.S. politics, college campuses and the halls of Congress.” He’s claiming more 100 cosponsors including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican Whip Steve Scalise, and Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney.
Zeldin is urging House Democratic leaders to bring his measure to the floor for a vote this week instead – citing “the latest anti-Semitic trope of Representative Ilhan Omar.”
“Rep. Omar’s continued peddling of anti-Semitic trope underscores the urgency to take action,” Zeldin, R-New York, wrote in a statement. “I commend my colleagues who have spoken out against her unrelenting, unabashed anti-Semitic attacks. Rep. Omar knows exactly what she is saying and doing and has been hurling these attacks for years. The hatred that regularly pours out of her heart is a cause of the underlying problem with anti-Semitism in the world and absolutely not the answer to it.”
Zeldin also reiterates that he is still calling on Democratic leaders to remove Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.