Presidential candidates on Wednesday defended Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSenate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Overnight Defense & National Security — DOD watchdog to review extremism screening Omar calls for closure of Guantánamo Bay prison after 20 years of 'lawlessness and cruelty' MORE (D-Minn.) amid an avalanche of criticism over her comments slamming pro-Israel groups and politicians.
Omar drew criticism last week when she suggested pro-Israel groups are pushing members of Congress to have “allegiance to a foreign country.”
The comments, widely condemned as anti-Semitic, set off a firestorm among lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Democrats are currently adjusting the language of a resolution intended to reprimand Omar for her comments and condemn a wider range of discrimination also faced by other groups.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFilibuster becomes new litmus test for Democrats Gallego says he's been approached about challenging Sinema Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans MORE (I-Vt.), who is Jewish, expressed fear that a House resolution intended to rebuke Omar could hinder a larger conversation over U.S. support for Israel.
“Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world," he said in a statement to The Hill. "We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel. Rather, we must develop an even-handed Middle East policy which brings Israelis and Palestinians together for a lasting peace.”
“What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate," he continued. “That's wrong.”
Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTlaib blasts Biden judicial nominee whose firm sued environmental lawyer These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Trump by the numbers: 2024 isn't simple MORE (D-Calif.) wrote in a statement obtained by HuffPost that continued attention directed at Omar, one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, puts her at risk of possible violence.
“We all have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and all forms of hatred and bigotry,” Harris said in a statement. “But like some of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, I am concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk.”
Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service Trump by the numbers: 2024 isn't simple MORE (D-Mass.) later condemned reported threats against Omar and pushed back on the notion that criticizing Israel is inherently anti-Semitic.
“We have a moral duty to combat hateful ideologies in our own country and around the world — and that includes both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. In a democracy, we can and should have an open, respectful debate about the Middle East that focuses on policy,” Warren said in a statement to The Hill.
“Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians," she said. "Threats of violence — like those made against Rep. Omar — are never acceptable.”
Omar first drew censure last month after she accused some members of Congress of supporting Israel as a result of funds from pro-Israel lobbying groups, saying it was “all about the Benjamins baby.” She later noted that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee donated to members of Congress who had criticized her comments.