House Democratic leaders on Wednesday delayed action against recent controversial remarks by Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar on U.S. support for Israel, rebuking the freshman Democrat in a biting four-page resolution.
According to POLITICO, senior Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) drafted the resolution this week in response to Omar’s comments, which some leaders have called blatantly anti-Semitic and offensive to the Jewish community. However, progressives and the general public swiftly pushed back, many using the hashtag #IStandWithIIhan to voice their concern. It was enough to force House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to inform POLITICO that changes to the resolution are being made.
“We’re still discussing it. The sentiment is that it ought to be broad-based. What we’re against is hate, prejudice, bigotry, white supremacy, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism.”
“Yes, we’re strongly against anti-Semitism, but we’re strongly against prejudice directed at any group,” he added.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was a boisterous critic. On Tuesday, Mar 5, she tweeted, “It’s not my position to tell people how to feel, or that their hurt is invalid,” she wrote. “But incidents like these do beg the question: where are the resolutions against homophobic statements? For anti-blackness? For xenophobia? For a member saying he’ll ‘send Obama home to Kenya?’”
Another tweet read, “In this administration + all others, we should actively check antisemitism, anti-blackness, homophobia, racism, and all other forms of bigotry. And the most productive end goal when we see it is to educate and heal. It’s the difference btwn “calling in” before “calling out.”
The document began circulating among members on Monday after the controversy reached a fever pitch over the weekend following a social media spat between Omar and fellow Dem Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who’s Jewish. Lowery and others blasted the congresswoman for her latest remarks about pro-Israel advocates’ alleged “allegiance to a foreign country.”
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” she stated during a discussion at a Washington bookstore last week.
The resolution doesn’t name Omar specifically but instead details the history and rise of anti-Jewish sentiments in the United States.
In it, House leaders condemn the trope of “dual loyalty,” arguing that “accusing Jews of dual loyalty because they support Israel, whether out of a religious connection, a commitment to Jewish self-determination after millennia of persecution or an appreciation for shared values and interests, suggests that Jews cannot be patriotic Americans and trusted neighbors, when Jews have served our nation since its founding, whether in public life or military service.”
If the resolution had gone through in its original form, it would have been an unprecedented public rebuff of Omar, who has caught heat for her criticism of Israel in the past. Despite the add to broaden the scope of the resolution, House Republicans appear to be more concerned about specifically targeting Omar. Repubs feel the resolution doesn’t go far enough and are now pushing for tougher punishments.
Citing GOP sources, POLITICO reports that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and others are considering a motion to censure Ms. Omar. Republicans may also call on the Democrats to strip Omar of her seat of the Foreign affairs committee, however, Pelosi and other Dems said they aren’t willing to go that far just yet.
The growing controversy surrounding the Somali-American lawmaker has seemingly pitted veteran Democratic supporters of Israel against younger lawmakers, like Omar, who are critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestine. If Not Now, a Jewish-led social justice movement to end Israeli occupation of the West Bank, has come out against critics looking to condemn Omar for her views.
“Our generation refuses to ignore the shameful role the out-of-touch leaders in our community have played in elevating the attack on Ilhan,” the group said in a statement to The New York Times. “Instead of combating the most severe dangers against Jews and all marginalized people, our Jewish and political leaders are attacking one of the first Muslim women in Congress.”
Omar’s views have drawn sharp criticism from folks on both sides of the political aisle and have gained her more enemies than friends. Last week, she was the target of an Islamaphobic display in the West Virginia State Capitol that likened her to a Muslim terrorist, and she was forced to defended herself in a string of tweets on Sunday night after Lowey urged her to retract her “hurtful” comments on Israel.
“Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman!,” Omar wrote. “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. The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest. I am sure we agree on that!”
In a follow-up tweet, she argued that “being opposed to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the occupation is not the same as being anti-Semitic,” and said she was thankful for the many Jewish allies who shared her views on the issue.
That hasn’t stopped the hate, however. According to the New York Post, the FBI is now investigating an assassination threat against the lawmaker found written in a restroom stall in Minnesota. A photo of the ominous graffito was posted to Instagram last month and reads “Assassinate Ilhan Omar” in black ink.
“We are aware of that piece of graffiti at the convenience store and are looking into it with some of our law enforcement partners,” an agency spokesman told twincities.com.