Democrats in the U.S. House plan to vote Wednesday on a resolution condemning comments made by U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar that many of her colleagues viewed as anti-Semitic.
The firestorm erupted over comments Omar made last week in a Washington, D.C., bookstore in which she accused supporters of Israel of “allegiance to a foreign country,” which has historically been used as an anti-Semitic charge against Jewish citizens in an attempt to question their loyalty.
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, the influential Democratic chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee that determines how the federal budget will be apportioned, called on Omar over the weekend to “retract this statement and engage in further dialogue with the Jewish community on why these comments are so hurtful.”
Omar, who has herself been the target of violent, anti-Islamic rhetoric, struck back at Lowey on Twitter: “Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman! I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee. The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest. I am sure we agree on that!”
Omar could not be reached for comment. In the past, she has argued that critics calling her anti-Semitic were trying to silence her criticism of the Israeli government.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday calling on her to offer a resolution so the House can “voice its rejection of [Omar’s] latest slur and make clear that no matter what may divide the 435 members of the House of Representatives, they are united in condemning anti-Semitism.”
Pelosi and other top Democrats already condemned Omar for a previous incident in which Omar alleged that support for Israel is driven largely by money.
Greenblatt explained the ADL’s issue with Omar’s latest statement: “Accusing Jews of having allegiance to a foreign government has long been a vile anti-Semitic slur that has been used to harass, marginalize, and persecute the Jewish people for centuries.”
Omar has been the target of anti-Muslim attacks recently. An Islamophobic poster displayed at an event last week sponsored by the West Virginia Republican Party linked her to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The poster showed a photo of the World Trade Center buildings on fire with an image of Omar below it, Politico reported.
Most of Omar’s fellow Democrats in the Minnesota congressional delegation condemned her language in statements to the Star Tribune last week.
Omar is drawing new criticism from prominent members of the local Jewish community.
“Rep. Omar has used up the reservoir of good will,” said state Sen. Ron Latz, D-St. Louis Park. “She cannot legitimately defend her own offensive statements by claiming that our objections are motivated by anti-Muslim bias. She is trying to shut down her critics and the conversation by hiding behind that straw man.”
Asked about Omar’s comments Monday, Gov. Tim Walz said, “There is no place in any civil discourse [for] anti-Semitism. We condemn it in all its forms, and the hope is that people continue to learn,” Walz said. “We can do better in our language. We can debate difficult issues but not in a way that divides us, and I would continue to condemn all of these certainly unwarranted anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic attacks,” he said.