Rep. Omar’s Comments Prompt House Democrats to Craft Anti-Semitism Measure

WASHINGTON (The Washington Post) -
U.S. Capitol Building.(aoc.gov)

The House will vote this week on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism prompted by comments made last week by Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, according to three people familiar with internal discussions.

Top Democrats are debating whether the resolution will specifically condemn Omar’s remarks, which include suggesting that supporters of Israel have an “allegiance to a foreign country,” or will only condemn anti-Semitism generally. But House leaders are prepared to put the measure on the floor quickly once a decision is made, according to the people familiar with the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss private deliberations. One said the vote will come as soon as Wednesday.

The remarks, made at a Washington event last Wednesday, represent the third time that Omar, a freshman Democrat from Minnesota, has forced House colleagues to react to statements carrying anti-Semitic overtones. Omar apologized in January for a 2012 tweet in which she said Israel had “hypnotized the world” and apologized again last month after suggesting on Twitter that Israel’s supporters were motivated by campaign contributions.

But Omar has not apologized for her most recent statements, instead defending them in Twitter postings Sunday.

“I am told everyday that I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel,” she wrote. “I find that to be problematic and I am not alone. I just happen to be willing to speak up on it and open myself to attacks.”

According to critics, Omar’s comments Wednesday played into a long-standing anti-Semitic attack that Jews cannot be considered loyal citizens of their home countries.

“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,” Omar said at the event.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel on Friday called it “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.”

“Her comments were outrageous and deeply hurtful, and I ask that she retract them, apologize, and commit to making her case on policy issues without resorting to attacks that have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee or the House of Representatives,” he said.

Engel is among a small group of House Democrats who worked through the weekend to craft the resolution and are pushing for passage of the measure this week, along with House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey of New York and House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, as well as Reps. Ted Deutch of Florida, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and others.

Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Monday asking for a congressional resolution rejecting anti-Semitism to “send the unambiguous message that the United States Congress is no place for hate.”

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, declined to comment.

Some Republicans have called for Omar to be removed from her seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over U.S.-Israel relations, but two people involved in the drafting of the resolution said that was not under consideration.