Democratic resolution condemning Omar sparks defence for embattled congresswoman
As Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives move to reprimand Congresswoman Ilhan Omar once again for alleged “anti-Semitic” comments made last week, several commentators, experts and journalists – both Jewish and non-Jewish – have rallied to defend the embattled lawmaker.
Democratic Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Elliot Engel, the chair of the Foreign Relations committee, of which Omar is a member, said on Monday that they will introduce a resolution mid-week that rebukes anti-Semitism but does not mention Omar by name.
The proposed resolution lays out a number of stipulations defined as anti-Semitism, including “hateful expressions of intolerance”, “bigotry faced by Jewish people”, and “the myth of dual loyalty” to the US and Israel.
Critics of the congresswoman say that at a town hall event in Washington DC last week, Omar suggested that pro-Israel groups are pushing "allegiance to a foreign country".
"I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country," she said.
When news of the proposed resolution broke on Monday, several experts and journalists took to social media to defend and criticise Omar.
Peter Daou, a Democratic strategist who advised both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, called into question whether Omar’s comments were actually anti-Semitic.
Can someone please separate truth from spin here: What specifically has @IlhanMN said or done that is anti-Semitic? Aside from the tweet she apologized for. Accusations are flying around, but there's no distinction being made between criticizing Israel vs. being anti-Semitic.
— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) March 5, 2019
Glenn Greenwald, a journalist for the Intercept, called the resolution “utterly preposterous” on Twitter.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 4, 2019
Jamil Smith, a senior reporter for Rolling Stone, said: “I don’t know what the House Democrats believe that they are accomplishing here”.
I don’t know what the House Democrats believe that they are accomplishing here. Whatever @IlhanMN may have to learn won’t be taught by an action like this, taken right as she is targeted by false and racist propaganda by Republicans. This is how you lose. https://t.co/ofWVhGpXec
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) March 4, 2019
Dave Zirin, a journalist for the leftist outlet The Nation, defended Omar in response to another writer who falsely criticised the lawmaker for not going after Saudi Arabia with the same tenacity.
Please speak for yourself. I’m Jewish and know many Jews who #StandWithIlhan because she actually sees Palestinians as human beings and not as invisible actors. You, embarrassingly, assumed she said nothing about Saudi Arabia and then had to delete your tweet. That says so much.
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) March 4, 2019
On Facebook and Twitter, political analyst Omar Baddar said: “The Israel lobby is NOT the American Jewish community. The American Jewish community is diverse, and includes huge constituencies for liberal centrist 'J street' & progressive 'Jewish Voice for Peace' & 'If Not Now', all of whom object to varying degrees to Israel's brutal military occupation of Palestine.”
Congresswoman Omar’s detractors include fellow Democratic Congressman Juan Vargas, who said on Twitter that “questioning support for the US-Israel relationship is unacceptable”.
It is disturbing that Rep. Omar continues to perpetuate hurtful anti-Semitic stereotypes that misrepresent our Jewish community. Additionally, questioning support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is unacceptable. (1/2)
— Rep. Juan Vargas (@RepJuanVargas) March 4, 2019
Jews and non-Jews alike roundly criticised his comments, with the consensus being that it’s possible to criticise Israel without being anti-Semitic.
Other commentators have claimed a double standard for not addressing Islamophobic rhetoric directed at Omar in the past.
This is spineless, and further highlights the corruption of the party. Not a condemnation of the Islamophobic threats on her life or the frequent antisemitism of GOP folks, but this. Remember these politicians when they come to you for votes next time. #IStandWithIlhan https://t.co/B9bsiwg5hs
— Omar Suleiman (@omarsuleiman504) March 4, 2019
Omar’s office has not made an official response to the allegations of anti-Semitism.
Omar, a former Somali-American state legislator in Minnesota who came to the United States as a refugee, was sworn in as the first Muslim woman in Congress earlier this month, along with Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.
Omar and Tlaib are part of a wave of progressive women of colour who won Democratic seats in November's mid-term elections.