Growing chorus of leaders calls for punitive action against Omar for continued anti-Semitic tropes
February 22, 2019
(JNS)—In response to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s latest anti-Semitic tweets, some groups have already called for official action against her by the U.S. House of Representatives, similar to that against Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) over his remarks on white nationalism.
On Sunday, Omar accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest pro-Israel lobbying organization, of paying members of Congress to back Israel.
“Anti-Semitism in any form is unacceptable, and it’s shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of ‘Jewish money,’” said Rep. Elliot Engel, in a statement Monday. Engel is also the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which Omar sits on.
Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Elaine Luria (D-Va.) called on House Democratic leadership to condemn Omar.
“As Members of Congress, we are deeply alarmed by recent rhetoric from certain members within our Caucus, including just last night, that has disparaged some members and called into question their loyalty to our nation,” they said in a letter. “We urge you to join us in calling on each member of our Caucus to unite against anti-Semitism and hateful tropes and stereotypes.”
“In recent weeks, we have had conversations with multiple members of our Caucus who share our concerns about this rhetoric; we have also raised these concerns with Democratic leadership,” they added. “We must speak out when any Member—Democrat or Republican—uses harmful tropes and stereotypes, levels accusations of dual loyalty, or makes reckless statements like those yesterday.”
House Democratic leadership responded and labeled Omar’s “anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters” as “deeply offensive” and called on her to “immediately apologize for these hurtful comments,” but fell short of calling for her to be censured.
“Anti-Semitism must be called out, confronted and condemned whenever it is encountered, without exception,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip James Clyburn, Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján, Caucus chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Caucus vice chair Katherine Clark in a statement.
“We are and will always be strong supporters of Israel in Congress because we understand that our support is based on shared values and strategic interests,” they continued. “Legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share.”
“As Democrats and as Americans, the entire Congress must be fully engaged in denouncing and rejecting all forms of hatred, racism, prejudice and discrimination wherever they are encountered,” they added.
Groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, Democratic Majority for Israel, the Jewish Democratic Council of America, the Zionist Organization of America and B’nai B’rith condemned Omar’s latest anti-Semitic remarks.
“We call on the House leadership to take immediate action, so that the message is clear: Anti-Semitism will not be tolerated,” said ADL CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt.
“Unfortunately, making insensitive statements toward the Jewish community is not new for Rep. Omar,” he continued. “These tweets are part of a disturbing pattern of behavior that must end. The congresswoman needs to understand that these comments promote dangerous stereotypes and are hurtful to her Jewish constituents and Jewish Americans throughout the country.”
The ZOA called for punitive action against Omar.
“These tweets below from Rep. Ilhan Omar, along with several comments that she has made over the years, are pure, unadulterated, evil, frighteningly dangerous anti-Semitism,” said ZOA national president Mort Klein.
“The Zionist Organization of America calls on House Democrat leadership to (i) immediately remove Rep. Omar from her committee assignments; and (ii) call an immediate vote on Rep. Lee Zeldin’s H.Res 72, rejecting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred in the United States and around the world,” he continued.
“We call on the House leadership to publicly rebuke Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for her anti-Semitic tweets implying pro-Israel lawmakers are paid by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,” said B’nai B’rith international president Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Dan Mariaschin. “Members of Congress are pro-Israel because the constituents they represent, like Americans across the country, overwhelmingly support the Jewish state.”
“Her anti-Israel stance is merely political cover for her anti-Semitic beliefs,” they added.
Mark Mellman, president and CEO of Democratic Majority for Israel, said: “Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s recent statement reveals both woeful ignorance and flagrant bigotry. America’s long-standing support for Israel reflects shared interests, shared values and the wishes of the majority the American people.”
He added that “by suggesting pro-Israel views are paid for, Congresswoman Omar has driven headlong into the gutter, slandering America’s pro-Israel community and the vast majority of her colleagues of both parties, in the House and the Senate, who back a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.”
“Rep. Ilhan Omar’s decision to publicly repeat an anti-Semitic trope suggesting that Jewish money is directly correlated with political influence is deeply offensive and painful,” said JDCA executive director Halie Soifer. “At a time when anti-Semitism is increasing at home and abroad, it is vital that members of Congress speak out against bigotry in all its forms, and not repeat hateful conspiracy theories and tropes targeting any one religious or ethnic group. We have repeatedly condemned [U.S. President] Donald Trump and other Republicans for condoning and encouraging anti-Semitism, as well as other forms of discrimination, and we hold all public officials to the same standard.”
On Monday afternoon, Omar apologized: “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.”
“We have to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity,” she continued. “This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
“At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry,” added the congresswoman. “It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”