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Hoyer defends Israel in veiled shot at Omar
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) delivered Sunday a strong defense of Israel to thousands of attendees at a pro-Israel conference in a veiled rebuke of freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.).
"I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically. So when someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me," Hoyer said at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual conference to resounding applause. "I am part of a large, bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel, an overwhelming majority in the Congress of the United States. And I tell Israel's accusers and detractors: Accuse us."
Hoyer did not mention Omar by name during his address at the conference's opening night.
But the mention of "dual loyalty" appeared to reference comments Omar made last month that have been widely condemned as anti-Semitic.
At a Washington event late last month, Omar said she wanted "to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country."
That comment came after Omar was earlier criticized for invoking an anti-Semitic trope when she tweeted that "it's all about the Benjamins baby" in reference to lawmaker support for Israel. In a subsequent tweet, Omar directly called out AIPAC, suggesting it was the lobbying group responsible for U.S. support of Israel.
Both the "Benjamins" tweet and the "allegiance" comment were widely condemned as invoking anti-Semitic tropes about Jews controlling politics through money and having dual loyalty.
The second comment prompted a heated debate among the House Democratic Caucus about how to respond, eventually settled with a vote on a resolution that broadly condemned hate in many forms.
With AIPAC's annual conference coming just weeks after the Omar controversy, Democratic presence at the conference is being closely watched for signs of party divisions.
During his speech, Hoyer also strongly backed a bill introduced by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) rejecting the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel.
"Together, we will defeat BDS because at its core, it is un-American," he said to applause.
Hoyer received a standing ovation as he wrapped up his speech and delivered another passionate defense of the U.S.-Israeli alliance.
"Yes, we stand with Israel because we stand for America's security. Yes, we stand with Israel because we stand for freedom. Yes, we stand with Israel because we reject bigotry and prejudice. Yes, we stand with Israel because we abhor the violence directed throughout the millennia at our Jewish brothers and sisters. Yes, we stand with Israel because we respect their courage, their resilience, their refusal to be forced out of the land of their ancestors," Hoyer said, his voice increasing in intensity with each sentence. "Yes, we stand with Israel."