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Departing US Congress, Elaine Luria accuses colleagues of peddling antisemitic trope

Jewish lawmaker from Virginia rails at ‘claims of dual loyalty’ leveled at supporters of Israel, in apparent shot at fellow Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib

Democratic Representative Elaine Luria of Virginia speaks as the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington on July 21, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Democratic Representative Elaine Luria of Virginia speaks as the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington on July 21, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — In her farewell speech to Congress, US Representative Elaine Luria, the Virginia Jewish Democrat, called out colleagues in the House of Representatives who she said insinuated the antisemitic dual loyalty trope about Israel.

“The first time I stood in this very place to speak on the floor of the House I rose as a Jewish woman to speak out against antisemitism, which has seen a rapid and alarming rise and has even reared its head among our colleagues in our own chamber, in the forms of claims of dual loyalty to those who show support for Israel, our strongest ally in the Middle East,” Luria said Wednesday.

Luria appeared to be referring to fellow Democratic Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. In 2019, Tlaib attacked Republicans who backed a bill targeting the Israel boycott movement, saying in a tweet “They forgot what country they represent.”

Omar the same year accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerhouse pro-Israel lobby, of buying influence. She apologized, but not long after, she said she should not be silenced for exposing the actions of a “powerful lobbying group” and for arguing against those who say “it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Luria, elected in 2018 among a class of women politicians who rode a wave of anger at former President Donald Trump, has been among the Democrats most closely allied with the traditional pro-Israel lobby. Last year she joined three other Democrats in a letter that effectively accused Omar and Tlaib of making antisemitic comments. A number of Jewish progressives have consistently defended Omar, saying accusing her of antisemitism is unwarranted.

The accusation that Jews have loyalties to countries outside of where they live and therefore cannot be trusted dates back thousands of years before the creation of the state of Israel, but American Jews’ ties to Israel have become fodder for criticism in antisemitic discourse in the decades since 1948. Former US president Donald Trump has on multiple occasions, including while in the Oval Office in 2019, invoked the idea that American Jews are disloyal if they do not wholly support Israel.

Illustrative: In this July 15, 2019, file photo, US Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, right, speaks as US Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, listens during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

A former Navy commander, Luria won twice in a district heavy with Navy veterans that trends Republican. She took a leading role in investigating alleged wrongdoing by Trump, despite knowing that it could backfire on her in her district. In an ad explaining why she voted to impeach Trump, she spoke of the oath she took to the Constitution and held up a weathered Hebrew bible. She lost by a few percentage points in Virginia’s 2nd District in November at the end of her second term.

In her floor speech Wednesday, Luria also noted the broader rise of antisemitism and its dangers.

“I look back on that first speech I made as a member of Congress and I am even more concerned today about the rising frequency and pervasiveness of antisemitism,” she said. “I implore my colleagues to continue their quest to root out the scourge of vile and pernicious antisemitism.”

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