Progressives come to Omar's defense

Progressive allies of Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOvernight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia US launches second Somalia strike in week Omar reflects on personal experiences with hate in making case for new envoy MORE (D-Minn.) are rushing to her defense as the House prepares to approve a resolution condemning anti-Semitism that is largely seen as a rebuke of the outspoken lawmaker’s remarks about Israel.

Omar’s progressive allies largely stayed quiet during other recent controversies regarding Israel, which led to an apology from Omar.

But this time, Omar is holding her ground, and supporters such as fellow progressive freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez, Bush criticize lack of diversity among negotiators on latest infrastructure deal Fetterman slams Sinema over infrastructure: 'Democrats need to vote like Democrats' House passes spending bill to boost Capitol Police and Hill staffer pay MORE (D-N.Y.) are speaking out.

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Ocasio-Cortez said advancing a resolution to rebuke Omar should have only been done as a last resort if efforts to address the remarks privately didn’t work. 

“ ‘Calling out’ is one of the measures of last resort, not 1st or 2nd resort,” she wrote in a tweet on Tuesday. “We do it when repeated attempts to ‘call in’ are disrespected or ignored. And I believe that Ilhan, in her statement a few weeks ago, has demonstrated a willingness to listen+work w/impacted communities.”

Progressive Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHouse passes spending bill to boost Capitol Police and Hill staffer pay Omar reflects on personal experiences with hate in making case for new envoy House passes bill requiring EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water MORE (D-Mich.), who with Omar is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, also tweeted that her fellow freshman is “being targeted just like many civil rights icons before us who spoke out about oppressive policies.”

The House resolution, which could receive a vote as soon as Wednesday, does not mention Omar at all. But it was thrown together after she accused people who back Israel of pushing allegiance to a foreign country.

“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Omar said at an event last week at Washington, D.C.’s Busboys and Poets restaurant. “I want to ask, why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby that is influencing policy?”

The resolution states that the House “rejects anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”

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Ocasio-Cortez suggested there was a double standard for rebuking lawmakers with votes on resolutions.

“One of the things that is hurtful about the extent to which reprimand is sought of Ilhan is that no one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities (during the shutdown, a GOP member yelled ‘Go back to Puerto Rico!’ on the floor),” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, referring to an incident in January when Rep. Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithTrump unhappy with Guilfoyle backing Greitens: report Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri GAO rules Biden freeze on border wall funds legal MORE (R-Mo.) yelled “Go back to Puerto Rico!” at Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.). 

Smith later apologized and claimed he was referring to a House Democratic delegation to Puerto Rico during the shutdown.

This isn’t the first time Omar has faced accusations of anti-Semitism.

In January, she expressed regret over a 2012 tweet amid the Gaza war stating, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

Last month, Omar suggested that U.S. lawmakers defending Israel are motivated by campaign donations, tweeting, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” Omar later apologized under pressure from House Democratic leaders. 

Two days later, the House adopted a measure from Rep. David KustoffDavid Frank KustoffREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Lobbying world Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid MORE (R-Tenn.) to condemn anti-Semitism as part of a resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. That resolution also didn’t specifically mention Omar, who voted for it.

This time, Omar has defended herself.

When House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyLobbying world Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Biden needs to tear down bureaucratic walls and refocus Middle East programs MORE (D-N.Y.), who is Jewish, criticized her remarks, Omar wrote on Twitter, “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.”

In response, the Anti-Defamation League expressed support for a resolution condemning anti-Semitism.

Other, more liberal groups have taken a different tack.

J Street, which describes itself as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” advocacy group, issued a statement on Tuesday endorsing the effort to rebuke anti-Semitism but questioned the effectiveness of targeting Omar. 

“At the same time, we are concerned that the timing of the resolution will be seen as singling out and focusing special condemnation on a Muslim woman of color — as if her views and insensitive comments pose a greater threat than the torrent of hatred that the white nationalist right continues to level against Jews, Muslims, people of color and other vulnerable minority groups in our country,” J Street said in the statement. 

“By narrowly focusing on progressive critics of Israeli policy and the politics surrounding Israel-related issues, much of our current debate bears little relation to the reality of anti-Semitism in the United States today. This plays directly into the hands of the president and his allies, who act in bad faith to weaponize the debate for political gain,” J Street’s statement added.

IfNotNow, a Jewish progressive activist group, started a petition urging Democratic leaders to withdraw the resolution, arguing the focus should be on white nationalism. A coalition of Muslim and left-leaning Jewish advocacy groups also plan to hold a press conference on Wednesday in support of Omar and urge Democratic leaders to “equally condemn” anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy Pelosi, Schumer vow climate action: 'It is an imperative' MORE (D-N.Y.) called Omar’s comments “wrong and hurtful,” but also called for condemning Islamophobia. An altercation broke out last week over the display of a poster at the West Virginia Statehouse linking Omar to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I also want to say that what happened linking all Muslims to the terrorist attack was wrong and hurtful and both should be condemned,” Schumer said.

Conservative-leaning groups focused on Israel and GOP lawmakers have called for Omar’s removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but Democrats are signaling they have no plans to do so.

Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyHouse bill targets US passport backlog Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe Tlaib, Democrats slam GOP calls for border oversight to fight opioid crisis MORE (D-Va.), a fellow House Foreign Affairs Committee member, pointed out that Republicans never removed former Rep. Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone Rohrabacher'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Former Rep. Rohrabacher says he took part in Jan. 6 march to Capitol but did not storm building On The Trail: The political losers of 2020 MORE (R-Calif.) from the panel despite his pro-Russia views that many disagreed with.

At the same time, Connolly thinks Democratic leadership’s decision to pass the resolution in response to Omar is appropriate.

“I’m not Jewish. And I’m not a member of AIPAC. And I’m offended. You don’t have to be Jewish to take offense at age-old tropes and stereotypes that led to some horrible things in the 20th century,” Connolly said Tuesday. 

Connolly said the current calls to reconsider Omar’s seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee could potentially grow louder if she sparks yet more controversy. “Should it happen again, I think that will be a topic of conversation,” Connolly said. 

Other Democrats warned the body was coming close to equating speaking against the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to anti-Semitism. 

“Voting to condemn antisemitism is fine, even if you feel compelled to do it twice. But I worry that accusation is a way to kill all debate about policy regarding Israel,” tweeted Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzGyms, hotels, bus companies make last-ditch plea for aid On The Money: Stocks fall as COVID-19 fears rattle market | Schumer sets infrastructure showdown | Dems struggle to sell agenda The Hill's Morning Report - Surging COVID-19 infections loom over US, Olympics MORE (D-Hawaii), who is Jewish. 

“And folks need some new, non-inflammatory language to be supportive of Israel but opposed to Bibi’s policies,” Schatz added, referring to Netanyahu.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats ramp up pressure for infrastructure deal amid time crunch Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia MORE (D-Conn.) suggested Twitter was the problem.

“We should set as a predicate that we all support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, and there’s probably lots of disagreement amongst members of Congress as to the elements of that,” Murphy told reporters. “Twitter and social media is not a great place to make much of this, which seems to be where a lot of the debate is happening these days.”

Jordain Carney contributed.