Lawmakers also rap Rep. Taylor-Greene for Holocaust comments

Jewish Democrats accuse colleagues of antisemitism over Israel criticism

Hawkish lawmakers pen letter to Biden expressing alarm after Squad members allege that Jewish state guilty of ‘apartheid’ and ‘terrorism’

Rep. Dean Phillips (R) and Rep. Ilhan Omar in Washington.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via JTA)
Rep. Dean Phillips (R) and Rep. Ilhan Omar in Washington. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via JTA)

Four Jewish House Democrats on Tuesday made an accusation of antisemitism against party colleagues who have alleged that Israel has committed “apartheid” and “terrorism” against the Palestinians.

Their rebuke was part of a letter to US President Joe Biden condemning the rising antisemitism sparked by the Israel-Hamas war earlier this month.

One congressman who signed the letter, Dean Phillips of Minnesota, was chastising a fellow Democrat, Ilhan Omar, in a neighboring district, though Phillips did not use her name.

“Elected officials have used reckless, irresponsible antisemitic rhetoric,” said the letter sent Tuesday.

Along with Phillips, the other signatories were fellow hawkish Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Elaine Luria of Virginia and Kathy Manning of North Carolina. They did not name their colleagues, but included direct quotes of their controversial comments.

The Jewish Democrats also called out a Republican lawmaker who likened a mask mandate in Congress to the Nazi yellow star.

“These include repeated, unacceptable and blatantly antisemitic statements made by a Member of Congress comparing face-masks and other COVID-19 public health measures to ‘what happened in Nazi Germany’ during the Holocaust,” the letter said, referring to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who has drawn condemnations from leaders of her own party for her remarks.

In this Feb. 5, 2021 file photo, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

“We also reject comments from Members of Congress accusing Israel of being an ‘apartheid state’ and committing ‘act[s]’ of terrorism,” the letter said. “These statements are antisemitic at their core and contribute to a climate that is hostile to many Jews. We must never forget that less than eighty years ago, within the lifetime of our parents and grandparents, six million people were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust because they were Jews. Israel has long provided the Jewish people with a homeland in which they can be safe after facing centuries of persecution.”

Omar and Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Cori Bush of Missouri have accused Israel of apartheid, and Omar has said “Israeli airstrikes killing civilians in Gaza is an act of terrorism.”

Phillips’ district covers the suburbs of Minneapolis, while Omar’s includes part of Minneapolis. Phillips has criticized Omar in the past for her Israel statements, but has also defended her.

President Joe Biden speaks with Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich, right, as he arrives at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Detroit, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Hours after the letter was published, Omar tweeted her own condemnation of the recent rise in antisemitic attacks, calling it “appalling.”

“We must be clear and unequivocal: antisemitism is unacceptable and has no place in any movement,” she continued. “Fighting bigotry of any kind means fighting bigotry of every kind.”

But Omar also made a point to implicitly call out those attacking her, without mentioning the letter by name.

“We cannot equate legitimate criticism of the Israeli government, its policy, and its military occupation with antisemitism. Connecting the actions of a foreign country’s government and military with an entire faith does nothing to keep the Jewish people safer,” she wrote.

There are 25 Jewish Democrats in the House. The letter comes as Republican leaders who have criticized Greene have lambasted Democratic leaders for sparing Omar, Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez.

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