A House vote on a resolution introduced by speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other leading Democrats to formally condemn anti-Semitism in response to recent statements by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has been delayed, after several progressive groups and lawmakers came to Omar’s defense – while others have pushed for the motion to be rewritten to include all forms of prejudice.
The resolution follows the second comment by Omar in two months, the first of which accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) of contributing to pro-Israel politicians, and the second – made last Wednesday during a Washington event with Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, in which Omar said “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
Omar’s comments sparked condemnation – including a formal letter of rebuke issued on February 11 by House Democratic Leadership over the AIPAC comments. Others brought up Omar’s past comments criticizing Jews for ‘hypnotizing’ the world. After her AIPAC comments, Omar issued a statement in which she “unequivocally apologized” for unintentionally invoking “anti-Semitic tropes,” though she stood behind her criticism of “the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics.”
In response to Omar’s most recent comment, the House Democrat-drafted declaration rejects “anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States,” and defines anti-Semitism as:
- The bigotry faced by Jewish people simply because they are Jews
- Entailing prejudicial attitudes or discriminatory acts toward people who are Jewish on the basis of their identity
- ‘A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews’, including blaming Jews when things go wrong, calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or extremist view of religion, or making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews
- Jewish people are subject to numerous other dangerous anti-Semitic myths as well, including that Jews control the banks, media, and the United States Government or seek world domination and that Jews are obsessed with money
- The definition further includes ‘accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations’
- 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
Meanwhile, some Democrats are asking Pelosi to pump the brakes. Both the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus – influential factions among House Democrats – wanted more time to review the situation, according to Politico. Meanwhile, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and other prominent liberal allies have joined with outside progressive groups to rally behind Omar.
Ocasio-Cortez fired off a series of tweets throughout Tuesday, criticizing what she sees as hypocrisy in Democrats’ planned reprimand of Omar. She argued that Democratic leaders should have addressed the issue privately before Omar was “called out” publicly. –Politico
In response to the pushback, Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said on Tuesday that the draft resolution would be updated to include additional language rejecting anti-Muslim bias with a vote likely on Thursday, however according to Politico some Democrats believe an entirely new document may be crafted.
“We’re still discussing it,” said Hoyer on Tuesday. “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,” Hoyer added.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries said “People are working through the draft. Not everyone has seen the draft,” adding “I support the notion that we need to respond, and we’re figuring out the appropriate way to respond.”
The resolution is being taken up after senior Democrats, including some prominent Jewish lawmakers like New York Reps. Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey, have publicly criticized Omar and demanded she apologize.
“I condemn all forms of hatred,” said Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a panel that Omar joined in January. “We’re talking about anti-Semitism because my colleague said some very hurtful things. But I think we need to be aware all attempts to demean any group of people, whether it’s Muslims or LGBT people. We have to be very strong and forceful in condemning it.”
Engel did not endorse kicking Omar off the Foreign Affairs Committee, as Republicans have demanded.
“I don’t think the Foreign Affairs Committee should be used as punishment for anybody,” Engel told reporters. “But I do think [Omar] needs to understand what she said is very hurtful. Whether she is on the committee or not is not the issue.” –Politico
Other progressives who have come to Omar’s defense include Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, who writes that the rebuke of Omar is “a fraud for many reasons,” arguing that much of what Omar said was in fact true.
THERE ARE SO MANY POINTS to be made about this episode, each of which could justify its own entire article. It is, for instance, beyond dispute that what Omar is saying is true given that the very first bill passed by the U.S. Senate this year was one that allowed punishment for American citizens who boycott Israel, while U.S. citizens in 26 states are formally punished for boycotting this foreign nation, as we reported last month in the case of a Texas elementary speech pathologist who lost her job for refusing to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel (to keep her job with Texas, she’s allowed to boycott any other nation or even an American state: just not this one favored foreign nation).
Thus far, the two federal courts to rule on such laws have struck them down as unconstitutional violations of the free speech rights of American citizens on behalf of Israel.
How can anyone possibly pretend that it’s invalid or offensive to observe, as Congresswoman Omar did, that some in America demand allegiance to a foreign nation when American citizens are allowed to boycott American states but are punished for boycotting this one specific foreign nation?
Then there’s the fact that so many prominent American Jews have themselves explicitly and proudly acknowledged both their political activism in the U.S. is shaped by a devotion to Israel. Indeed, the leading billionaire funder of both the Democratic Party and the Clintons, Haim Saban, has previously described himself this way to the New York Times: “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel.” –The Intercept
Greenwald also notes that in 2007, Hillary Clinton’s key political consultant for her 2008 presidential run – Hank Sheinkopf, said when asked hy Democratic presidential candidates who were otherwise anti-war were so hawkish when it came to Iran: “New York is the ATM for American politicians. Large amounts of money come from the Jewish community. If you’re running for president and you want dollars from that group, you need to show that you’re interested in the issue that matters most to them.”
That AIPAC – along with the NRA, Wall Street and Silicon Valley – is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, and works to ensure that members of Congress act favorably toward Israel, is so obviously true that no person in good faith could dispute it. A film about the Israel lobby produced by Al Jazeera but subsequently self-censored was leaked to Electronic Intifada and it contains multiple scenes of AIPAC and other pro-Israel activists boasting of how they use money and lobbying power to force Congress to serve Israeli interests.
None of this is remotely controversial to anyone who knows how Washington works – which includes, first and foremost, all the cowards in the House about to formally denounce Omar, yet again, for the crime of telling this truth.
Indeed, countless prominent Jewish writers, including supporters of Israel, have long said exactly what Omar is accused of having said: that the key goal of the Israel Lobby is to indue, cajole and force U.S. politicians to maintain loyalty to this foreign country. Long-time Israel supporter and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote in 2011 something far more extreme than anything Congresswoman Omar has ever said: a standing ovation for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the U.S. Congress, Friedman wrote, was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Friedman mocked Mitt Romney’s views on Israel by writing: “America’s role is to just applaud whatever Israel does, serve as its A.T.M. and shut up. We have no interests of our own. ” –The Intercept
Greenwald’s “most important point” about the House Democrats’ “rebuke” of Omar is that it includes language that condemns language she never used.
Another point Greenwald makes is that Omar has also criticized Saudi influence in American politics on several occasions:
Once again, our President proves that you can’t buy a moral compass.
And Saudi Arabia proves that you can, on the other hand, buy a President. https://t.co/NC3X7umsGG
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 20, 2018
We need to investigate how foreign governments and their lobbyists have violated our laws. And we need to reign in arms sales to human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia.
We have our work cutout for us 💪🏽
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 17, 2019
Read the resolution below: