WASHINGTON – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Thursday became the first Democratic presidential contender to release a statement directly criticizing Rep. Ilhan Omar's comments on Israel and its supporters in the United States.
Gillibrand, in a statement that also denounced Republicans for failing to criticize anti-Semitism among their own ranks, wrote that "those with critical views of Israel, such as Congresswoman Omar, should be able to express their views without employing anti-Semitic tropes about money or influence."
The New York senator added that "those critical of Congresswoman Omar should not be using Islamophobic language and imagery that incites violence," such as what Republicans in West Virginia recently did.
Minnesota Democratic Rep. Omar was denounced by Republicans and some Democrats in recent days for saying supporters of Israel in the United States demand "allegiance to a foreign country" — a statement that some Jewish organizations and politicians viewed as anti-Semitic, or at the very least echoing an anti-Semitic trope.
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Gillibrand has criticized the Netanyahu government for its right-wing policies and objected to a recent bill against the BDS movement because of concerns that it violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Her statement added that "many Republicans have taken offense to Congresswoman Omar's remarks and condemned her in the harshest terms, but said little or nothing when President [Donald] Trump defended white supremacists at Charlottesville or when Republican [House Minority] Leader Kevin McCarthy promoted a conspiracy theory about Jewish donors buying elections."
The scandal around Omar's words has erupted into an internal battle within the Democratic Party. On Wednesday, three presidential contenders defended her: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two of the more left-wing candidates in the upcoming Democratic primaries; and California Sen. Kamala Harris,
The Democrats were scheduled to table a resolution on anti-Semitism on Wednesday, but it was postponed when lawmakers reportedly differed over the contents of the resolution, some wanting to widen it to include other forms of hate. It is currently scheduled to take place on Thursday.
Trump also commented on the issue Wednesday, tweeting: "It is shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference. Anti-Semitism has fueled atrocities throughout history and it’s inconceivable they will not act to condemn it!"