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House DEMOCRATS Respond To Accused ANTISEMITISM

by | Feb 11, 2019 | Current Events, Government, News, Politics | 0 comments

House Democratic leaders released a joint statement condemning one of the two first Muslim women to serve in Congress for comments on social media widely condemned as anti-Semitic.

“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. Legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share,” said the statement led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., “But Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive. We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.”

The statement was issued jointly with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip James Clyburn, Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján, Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark.

The leadership statement comes after two Jewish House Democrats began circulating a letter Monday to their colleagues asking them to join in asking party leadership to condemn anti-Semitism citing “recent rhetoric from certain members within our Caucus.”

The letter, by Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Elaine Luria of Virginia, does not name lawmakers but it is clearly a reference to freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who is the target of recent criticism on the left and right for comments seen as both overt and subtly anti-Semitic.

Meanwhile, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement that the GOP will “take action this week to ensure the House speaks out against this hatred and stands with Israel and the Jewish people.” McCarthy did not offer specifics, but Republicans are considering options that include trying to force a vote on a resolution led Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., that condemns anti-Semitism broadly and specifically calls out Omar.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., sparked backlash Sunday evening from members of both parties, including former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, after she accused a prominent lobbying group of paying members of Congress to support Israel.

Omar, who became the first Somali-American woman elected to Congress in November, responded to a Twitter post by journalist Glenn Greenwald criticizing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for threatening to take action against Omar and another freshman lawmaker, Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., over allegedly anti-Semitic remarks.

“There’s situations in our conference where a member does something that is wrong — I think you’ve seen from my own actions that I take action about it,” McCarthy told reporters Friday, making an apparent reference to Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa. “I think when they stay silent, they are just as guilty … I think this will not be the end of this, and if they do not take action then I think you will see action from myself. It’s unacceptable in this country, especially when you sit back and think about and listen to what this country went through in World War II.”

Omar is one of the two first Muslim women to serve in Congress; the other is fellow freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.

For weeks, congressional Republicans have criticized both women for what they see as anti-Semitic rhetoric in their past, and Omar’s placement on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but the letter is the first official act by some of their own Democratic colleagues.

Another Democratic freshman lawmaker who is also Jewish, Max Rose of New York, criticized Omar for her tweets. “Congresswoman Omar’s comments are deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself,” he wrote. Other Democrats, including Chelsea Clinton, also tweeted criticism of Omar’s rhetoric.

A growing number of House Democrats are weighing in on the controversy. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York condemned Omar’s tweets Monday morning. “It is deeply disappointing and disturbing to hear Representative Ilhan Omar’s choice of words in her exchange with a journalist yesterday, wherein she appears to traffic in old anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money,” he said. “Her words are deeply hurtful and offensive.”

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