House votes to condemn antisemitism following Ilhan Omar controversy

Andrew Buncombe

The House of Representatives has passed a resolution condemning antisemitism and other forms of hate amid a row involving a Muslim congresswoman that exposed a sharp division between the Democratic Party’s establishment and its younger, more progressive members.

The measure passed by the House 407-23, condemned antisemitism as “hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values and aspirations that define the people of the United States”. It also condemned anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry.

The passing of the resolution – support for which came from a number of Jewish members of Congress – followed a row among Democrats over remarks made by congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who last year become one of the two first Muslim women elected to congress.

Ms Omar, who represents a district in Minneapolis, triggered headlines over comments many believed repeated antisemtic tropes. Last month, she responded to tweet from journalist Glenn Greenwald, who posted about House Republican lader Kevin McCarthy threatening to punish her and another congresswoman for being critical of Israel.

Ms Omar replied “It’s all about the Benjamins baby”, a line about $100 bills from a Puff Daddy song, which some said was part of a centuries-old smearing of Jews over money.

Ms Omar apologised at the time, saying: “Antisemitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of antisemitic tropes.”

Yet, many believe Ms Omar has been attacked because of her comments over the outsized influence Israel has on US policies – something that has long been alleged by some academics. Those who have studied the relationship, say it is based on both history and a strategic relationship in which the US has long supported Israel against attacks in institutions such as the United Nations.

Another factor is the power of evangelical Christians in the US – an important part of Donald Trump’s support – whose so-called “End time” beliefs state that Jesus will return when Jerusalem is “returned to the Israelites”.

A survey carried out last year of evangelical Christians, found half of evangelicals supported Israel because they believe it is important for fulfilling such prophecies.

Ms Omar’s comments about the influence of Israel and the pro-Israel lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), were made at a bookshop appearance with fellow congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who is also Muslim.

“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it’s okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” she said. “I want to ask why is it okay for me to talk about the influence of the NRA (National Rifle Association), of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policies.”

As the president, Republicans and a number of Democrats attacked Mr Omar – the third-ranking Republican in the House Liz Cheney told reporters Ms Omar embodied “a vile, hate-filled, antisemitic, anti-Israel bigotry” – some Democrats came to her defence.

Politico reported that in separate statements Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and and Elizabeth Warren condemned antisemitism, but called for more discussion surrounding the US’s policy with Israel.

Many said the episode highlighted a division between the Democrats’ establishment and its younger, more progressive members, many of whom are happy to question the US’s unquestioning support for Israel.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has long been an outspoken supporter of Israel, said on Thursday she did not believe Mr Omar’s comments were “intended in any antisemitic way”.

“I don’t think that the congresswoman perhaps appreciates the full weight of how it was heard by other people, although I don’t believe it was intended in any anti-Semitic way,” Ms Pelosi said at her weekly news conference, according to CNN.