WASHINGTON – With the full House set to vote Thursday on whether to strip Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee spots, Jewish Democratic lawmakers fiercely rejected GOP attempts to equate the congresswoman’s amplification of antisemitic conspiracy theories with previous comments by Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Greene has been at the center of numerous controversies since being elected to Congress last November. The latest came last week when an old social media post resurfaced in which she accused “Rothschild Inc.” of starting a deadly forest fire in California using space lasers.
As the Democratic leadership moved to remove the Georgia representative from her House committee assignments, a number of Republican lawmakers were reportedly looking to do the same to Omar, “in light of conduct she has exhibited.”
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy echoed these comments Wednesday, saying: “While Democrats pursue a resolution on Congresswoman Greene, they continue to do nothing about Democrats serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee who have spread antisemitic tropes.”
His comment was a reference to Omar, who tweeted in February 2019 that support for Israel among U.S. lawmakers was “all about the Benjamins.” Following strong condemnations from both sides of the political aisle, she unequivocally apologized for the remarks and acknowledged that she was learning about “the painful history of antisemitic tropes.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Democrat of Illinois) told Haaretz Wednesday that she does not believe Omar is antisemitic and deems any comparisons between the Minnesota congresswoman and Greene unfounded.
“Ilhan Omar is not antisemitic; she has apologized for remarks that she realized were inappropriate,” Schakowsky said. “She believes in inclusion and diversity within our caucus. She has friends throughout the caucus of all races and religion.
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“Soon after there were attacks on her [in 2019], I went on CNN with her. Ilhan and I are friends,” Schakowsky said. “I talked to Ilhan about a couple of things – like the idea that people are more loyal to a foreign country. I explained to her, and she heard me and personally apologized to me and publicly.
Schakowsky, who has served in Congress for 22 years, said Omar had been a productive member of the House. “To say she should be denied participation for the same reasons as Marjorie Taylor Greene is a complete misunderstanding of what this frightening woman espouses,” she said.
She also noted the ongoing debate within the Jewish community concerning the conflation of antisemitism and criticism of the Israeli government. Schakowsky said she believed the definition of antisemitism should be codified in a way that means criticism of the State of Israel is not automatically regarded as antisemitism. “This could be used as a real threat to the freedom of speech. It should not be antisemitic by definition if you criticize the policies of the State of Israel.”
She added: “It’s my right to speak out about my beliefs in a legitimate way, unlike the kinds of crazy ideas Marjorie Taylor Greene embraces.”
Greene first made headlines last year after her blog posts and videos backing QAnon – the far-right-supported group that believes a satanic cabal of pedophiles secretly rule the world, with only Donald Trump able to stand in their way. Its theories have been compared to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
“QAnon at its heart is antisemitic: the old trope that Jews want to drink the blood of children. This idea of blood libels, we’ve heard that for thousands of years as Jews,” Schakowsky said. “At the [January 6] insurrection, you saw the ‘Camp Auschwitz’ shirts. Antisemitism is at the center of the comments that Marjorie Taylor Greene made. I almost got a kick out of the ‘Jewish space lasers’ comment,” she added, referring to the latest controversy.
Greene has also stated her belief that the Sandy Hook, Las Vegas and Parkland mass shootings were all staged events, which Schakowsky labeled cruel lies. “To compare her to Ilhan Omar – they are not in the same category whatsoever,” the Illinois representative stressed.
One lawmaker Schakowsky does not hesitate to compare with Greene, however, is Rep. Mary Miller – the Illinois Republican who said “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future,’” during remarks at a pro-Trump rally prior to the Capitol riots.
“She went on to say our children were subject to manipulation and she felt responsible for making the children know the truth,” Schakowsky said. “Then look at her apology, which [basically] said you’re antisemitic unless you offer 100 percent support for Israel. I found both the statement and the apology very offensive. The groups that defended her also used antisemitic comments,” she added.
While Schakowsky is calling on the House to issue a formal censure of Miller for her remarks, she believes Greene should be expelled from Congress outright.
“She should not be in the Congress of the United States and have all the privileges to the highly classified information that members of Congress are entitled to – and she certainly should not be on the Education Committee.”
‘Insulting beyond belief’
Several other Jewish lawmakers joined Schakowsky in rejecting attempts at equivalence between Greene and Omar.
Rep. Ted Deutch’s Florida district houses the Parkland high school where 17 people were killed in the 2018 mass shooting that Greene has reportedly described as a false flag operation. He’s chairman of the House Ethics Committee, which held a hearing Wednesday to discuss the resolution stripping Greene of her committee positions.
“Ms. Greene is now a member of Congress. One who has publicly spouted racist, antisemitic and Islamophobic garbage, and has harassed survivors of mass shootings and denied their very occurrence. I have cried with the families of Parkland. I have grieved with them,” Deutch said during the hearing. “There are not words in the English language to properly describe how the remarks of Ms. Greene make these communities feel. They are still suffering. They will suffer forever, and this makes it so much worse,” he added.
Following the hearing, Deutch told Haaretz: “My Republican colleagues want to talk about anything other than the reason that we were forced to come forward with this resolution.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, the Oregon lawmaker who recently invoked his family history of fleeing Nazi Germany while discussing the Trump administration’s immigration policies, told Haaretz that “Rep. Greene has supported calls for Democrats to be executed. It is insulting beyond belief to compare her to a legislator like Rep. Omar.”
Rep. Alan Lowenthal, one of the most vocal lawmakers in Congress on human rights concerns, told Haaretz that “there is simply no comparison between Marjorie Taylor Greene and anyone else serving in Congress. She has endorsed threats of physical violence against her colleagues, harassed the victim of a school shooting, and pushed the most vile and dangerous conspiracy theories,” the California congressman said. “These behaviors would be unacceptable in any workplace, let alone the halls of government.”
He added that “antisemitism is a moral evil and a scourge which must be fought everywhere. But those trying to strip Rep. Omar of her committees are merely engaging in a smear, designed to sow distrust, division and hatred.”
Rep. Andy Levin, the Democrat from Michigan who recently said antisemitism in all its forms must be called out loudly and consistently, described any attempts to compare Greene and Omar’s comments as “ridiculous.”
“Congresswoman Greene has endorsed violence against political leaders, denied that the mass murder of American children actually happened, and spread antisemitic conspiracy theories about Jewish people. She’s shown no remorse or interest in changing course,” Levin told Haaretz.
“To compare her continued, unapologetic extremism to comments for which Congresswoman Omar apologized and took steps to learn from is ridiculous. Republicans should stop trying to distract from their members’ positions,” he said.
Omar herself rejected the reported Republican amendment as “a desperate smear rooted in racism, misogyny and Islamophobia.”
Greene has remained steadfast amid the controversy, noting both the rise in her fundraising since her comments emerged as well as her continued support from Trump.