House Democrats drafting resolution on anti-Semitism after fresh Omar comments

House Democrats drafting resolution on anti-Semitism after fresh Omar comments

Unclear whether measure will specifically address latest remarks by controversial freshman lawmaker suggesting Israel supporters have dual loyalties

Ilhan Omar speaks at an election night results party in Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 6, 2018. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Ilhan Omar speaks at an election night results party in Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 6, 2018. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Democrats in the US House of Representatives will put forward a resolution Wednesday condemning anti-Semitism, in response to remarks by freshman Representative Ilhan Omar implying supporters of Israel in Congress hold allegiance to a foreign country.

The declaration, supported by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, comes after Omar’s latest comments on Israel were decried by critics as anti-Semitic.

Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, has been accused of employing anti-Semitic tropes since taking office over her criticism of Israel and the role of the Jewish state’s backers in Washington. Last month, she apologized after facing widespread bipartisan condemnation for a tweet suggesting Jewish money was behind congressional support for Israel.

Omar stirred up a fresh storm last week for saying, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” She later defended her remarks when criticized by top Jewish Democrats in the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., second from left, poses during a ceremonial swearing-in with Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., second from right, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 3, 2019, during the opening session of the 116th Congress. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The Anti-Defamation League demanded that House Democrats offer a resolution that makes clear every member of Congress opposes anti-Semitism.

Democrats over the weekend drafted a resolution with that message, according to a Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the document had not been released. Its text was not final as of Monday afternoon.

Earlier Monday, ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt sent a letter to Pelosi pushing for the passage of such a resolution in the wake of Omar’s comments.

“Accusing Jews of having allegiance to a foreign government has long been a vile anti-Semitic slur that has been used to harass, marginalize, and persecute the Jewish people for centuries,” he wrote.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks at the ADL Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, on November 6, 2014. (courtesy, ADL)

“Sometimes referred to as the ‘dual loyalty’ charge, it alleges that Jews should be suspected of being disloyal neighbors or citizens because their true allegiance is to their co-religionists around the world or to a secret and immoral Jewish agenda,” he added.

Greenblatt noted that Omar, who is Muslim, had herself recently been the subject of a smear linking her to the 9/11 attacks, but stressed “that offense cannot excuse or rationalize anti-Semitism.”

“If anything, it should remind someone how hurtful such hateful stereotypes can be,” he said.

He also warned in his letter against what he said was the use of anti-Semitism by both parties for political gain and urged congressional leaders to reject “such cynical ploys.”

Greenblatt’s letter came after a number of prominent Democratic lawmakers called out Omar over her latest remarks, among them Democratic Representative Nita Lowey of New York, the chairwoman of the US House of Representatives powerful Appropriations Committee.

“Anti-Semitic tropes that accuse Jews of dual loyalty are equally painful and must also be roundly condemned,” Lowey tweeted Sunday. “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.”

Eliot Engel of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, where Omar has a seat; Jerry Nadler of New York, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee; and Max Rose of New York, a freshman like Omar, all fired back in statements to Jewish Insider.

Representative Ilhan Omar votes for Nancy Pelosi to be speaker of the House of Representatives on the first day of the 116th Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, January 3, 2019. To the left of Omar is Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

On Friday, Engel called on Omar to apologize for her “vile anti-Semitic slur.”

Responding to Lowey, Omar doubled down. “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.”

Lowey responded in kind. “No member of Congress is asked to swear allegiance to another country,” she said. “Throughout history, Jews have been accused of dual loyalty, leading to discrimination and violence, which is why these accusations are so hurtful.”

Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, a former Democratic Party chairwoman, also weighed in: “Dialogue leads to understanding. @IlhanMN, repeated misunderstandings would seem to require dialogue to avoid repetitive harm.”

In previous incidents, for which Omar apologized, she suggested that Israel had “hypnotized” the world and that the pro-Israel lobbying had bought its influence on Capitol Hill. Her supporters say she is merely criticizing Israel and that her comments are being taken out of context in order to discredit her.

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