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, supported by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 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 U.S.-Israel relationship, and the second time in as many months that she’s drawn a stern backlash from party leaders.
Senior Democrats 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.
Meanwhile, senior Democrats went to work drafting a resolution responding to Omar’s remarks. It was still being written Monday, according to an aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss text that was not final. The resolution would be introduced on Wednesday, the aide said. It was not immediately clear whether the measure would condemn Omar’s remarks specifically or anti-Semitism generally.
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But Democrats were unmistakably weary of dealing with Omar’s habit of inflaming what had long been a divide in the party over the U.S. relationship with Israel. 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 U.S. 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 U.S.-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 on Sunday. “I just happen to be willing to speak up on it and open myself to attacks.”