House Democratic leaders plan to call for a vote on a resolution in response to remarks that freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., made about Israel.
Omar's comments are wrong. Plain and simple.
By Jonathan Greenblatt
The controversy surrounding the recent comments of Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., implying that Jewish Americans have an allegiance to a foreign government — Israel — has ignited a debate in the House of Representatives over whether the freshman congresswoman's remarks were anti-Semitic, and what should be done about them.
At a public forum last week, Omar said, in the context of the U.S.-Israel relationship: "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."
This weekend, Omar, in response to a tweet from House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, wrote: "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."
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Let's be clear: The problem isn't that Omar criticized Israeli policies. The problem is her comments were anti-Semitic. Accusing Jews of having allegiance to a foreign government has long been a vile anti-Semitic slur used to harass, marginalize and persecute the Jewish people for centuries.
Trying to make this situation about Israel is a tactic to deflect from the central issue of anti-Semitism. It is a move we have seen, for instance, repeatedly in Europe and other countries. It is wrong, plain and simple.
As a result of her comments, the House is expected to introduce a resolution this week rejecting Omar's comments, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, hatred of immigrants, misogyny and racism.
There is no doubt that all of these issues are scourges that continue to plague our society. At the Anti-Defamation League, we have fiercely opposed hate and bigotry in all forms for more than 100 years. Just last week, when Omar was linked by legislators in West Virginia to the 9/11 attacks, we came out strongly against that vile attack. We unequivocally oppose targeting her, or anyone in the Muslim community, on the basis of faith.
However, at the end of the day, words matter. When prominent people or members of Congress spout anti-Semitic rhetoric, it gives a green light to others to repeat that rhetoric.
We will continue to call out elected officials in both parties when they spew hate, and now is the time for Congress to send a clear, unambiguous message: There is no place for anti-Semitism in the United States.
Jonathan Greenblatt is CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGreenblattADL.
What others are saying
Steven Strauss, USA TODAY: "Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., has been subjected to many vile racist attacks, but that doesn't excuse her thoughtless remarks. If she and her supporters want to have a serious conversation about changing U.S. policy towards Israel, they’ll find many people in and outside the Jewish community who want to have that discussion. But if they just want to make vaguely worded comments about how 'some people' control the media, buy politicians and have divided loyalties — maybe they're just anti-Semites."
Henry Olsen, The Washington Post: "The issue is her repeated suggestion that support for the current policy toward Israel is the product of Jewish money buying support and/or Jews who are more loyal to Israel's interests than they are to those of the United States. Those claims are false and bigoted. Republicans learned the hard way with Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that where there’s smoke, there's fire."
Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times: "If she thinks the only reason that Americans support Israel is because of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and campaign contributions, she is dead wrong. Americans’ affinity with Israel is rooted in a respect for Israel’s ability to maintain a democracy, albeit with flaws, in a sea of autocratic regimes; it is rooted in a Judeo-Christian religious affinity; and it is rooted in respect for Israel’s contributions to technology, medicine and science. AIPAC is the beneficiary of that support, not the cause of it."
What our readers are saying
How about the House of Representatives call for the removal of Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., instead of a resolution on her comments? Obviously, Omar doesn’t care what anyone thinks about what she says about Israel.
— Joe Miller
Why haven’t Democratic leaders introduced legislation to condemn white supremacists yet, then?
— Nicole Keys
Omar said, "I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress." Whether you are pro-Israel or not, you must admit she is right. There is no reason to embrace allegiance to another country!
— Yolanda Sorrentino
Questioning legislative and financial favoritism toward a foreign country — regardless of which one — is what I expect a congress member to do.
— David Mathers
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ilhan Omar's comments were anti-Semitic rhetoric, let's not beat around the bush: Today's talker