US Lawmakers Refuse to Single Out Anti-Semitism, Add Islam to Bigotry Resolution
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The House of Representatives passed a resolution in a 407-23 vote Thursday condemning racism and bigotry in America. The measure was an attempt by Democrats to evade charges of anti-Semitism triggered by freshman congresswoman Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D-MN) repeated controversial remarks about Jews and Israel.
In 2012, the Somali-born congresswoman tweeted, "Israel has hypnotized the world. May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel."
Last month, she appeared on a news program and accused Israel of not being a real democracy because it is a Jewish State. She also wrote that US support for Israel was "all about the Benjamins baby" and implied that Jewish organizations like AIPAC have bribed American lawmakers.
A few weeks after that, she told an audience in DC that "I want to talk about the political influence this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country." That remark sparked allegations that she was playing up the old anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty.
President Trump blasted Democrats Friday for the repeated incidents and the resolution they passed:
"The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They've become an anti-Jewish party. And I thought that vote was a disgrace." pic.twitter.com/JgpkLgmKjo— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 8, 2019
Omar faced immense pressure from all sides of the political spectrum and apologized for her earlier comments. But she's standing her ground on her more recent remarks.
The resolution was originally intended to denounce Omar's anti-Semitic statements without mentioning her by name, but her supporters urged the House to turn it into a referendum on all bigotry – including Islamophobia.
Following the vote, Omar released a joint statement with Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Andre Carson (D-IN) praising the passage of the resolution.
"Today is historic on many fronts," they wrote. "It's the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning Anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation's history."
The statement continued, "We are tremendously proud to be part of a body that has put forth a condemnation of all forms of bigotry including anti-Semitism, racism, and white supremacy. At a time when extremism is on the rise, we must explicitly denounce religious intolerance of all kinds and acknowledge the pain felt by all communities. Our nation is having a difficult conversation and we believe this is great progress."
Republicans and several Democrat lawmakers were outraged that the resolution did not mention Omar by name and argue it was an attempt to whitewash blatant anti-Semitism.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) a Jew himself, called the measure "spineless" and voted against it.
"Let's all be honest with each other," he said. "We are here today right now because of anti-Semitic rhetoric from one member of this chamber said again and again and again. We would not be on this floor otherwise to discuss this topic. If that member was a Republican, that member's name would be in this resolution and this resolution would be all about condemning anti-Semitism and would be done so forcefully."
H.Res.183 was spineless, watered down & filled w moral equivalency & double standards. Watch my floor speech explaining my NO vote to this resolution. Name names & remove Rep Omar from @HouseForeign. No double standards! pic.twitter.com/Rj17P6MHFI— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) March 7, 2019
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) blasted Omar's suggestion that Jews and Americans who support Israel are disloyal to the United States.
"We are having this debate because of the language of one of our colleagues -- language that suggests that Jews like me, who serve in the United States and Congress, and whose father won a purple heart fighting the Nazis in the Battle of the Bulge that we are not loyal Americans. Why are we unable to singularly condemn anti-Semitism?" he asked the chamber.
Words have consequences.— Rep. Ted Deutch (@RepTedDeutch) March 8, 2019
Anti-Semitic words have led to violence and death for generations of Jews, including Jews today - around the world and in America.
This is intensely personal for me and I wanted my colleagues to understand why. pic.twitter.com/Rxnmtxz0OQ
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended Omar during a press conference and said the freshman congresswoman's beliefs about Jews are "not based on any anti-Semitic attitude."
.@SpeakerPelosi Pelosi defends @IlhanMN just now during a press conference:— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) March 7, 2019
"I feel confident that her words are not based on any anti-semitic attitude," Pelosi said. "But she didn't have a full appreciation of how they landed on other people." https://t.co/0h5UlMEP78 pic.twitter.com/0oRsnIsXq1
Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) also came to Omar's defense Wednesday and urged the media to have sympathy for her because she was once a refugee. Her experience, Clyburn argued in an interview with The Hill, is much more powerful than that of people who are generations removed from the Holocaust and World War II.
"I'm serious about that. There are people who tell me, 'Well, my parents are Holocaust survivors.' 'My parents did this.' It's more personal with her," Clyburn said. "I've talked to her, and I can tell you she is living through a lot of pain."
Democrats have long been split over America's relationship with Israel. But this resolution seems to highlight a generation and ideological divide that could play out in the 2020 presidential nomination.
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