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House to vote on anti-Semitism measure after Rep. Omar's Israel remarks

Omar said, "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.”
Image: Ilhan Omar (D-MN)  listens during a news conference on prescription drugs
Ilhan Omar (D-MN) listens during a news conference on prescription drugs on Jan. 10, 2019 at the Capitol in Washington.Alex Wong / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The House will vote Wednesday on a resolution to condemn anti-Semitism after Rep. Ilhan Omar made controversial remarks about Israel at a D.C. forum last week, a senior Democratic aide said Monday.

The staffs of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.; and Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., who chairs the Foreign Affairs subcommittee with jurisdiction over Middle East issues, worked on the resolution over the weekend, the aide said. The text of the measure, however, has not yet been finalized.

Omar, of Minnesota, referred to Israel at a “progressive town hall” at the bookstore and restaurant Busboys and Poets last week, saying. "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.”

"I want to ask, 'Why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, or fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy?’” she added.

On Monday, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote a letter to Pelosi calling on her to hold a vote on a congressional resolution rejecting what he said were Omar’s anti-Semitic statements.

“Accusing Jews of having allegiance to a foreign government has long been a vile anti-Semitic slur that has been used to harass, marginalize, and persecute the Jewish people for centuries," Greenblatt wrote. "Sometimes referred to as the 'dual loyalty' charge, it alleges that Jews should be suspected of being disloyal neighbors or citizens because their true allegiance is to their co-religionists around the world or to a secret and immoral Jewish agenda."

A draft of the resolution, which does not mention Omar by name, “acknowledges the dangerous consequences of perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes" and "rejects anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States."

Multiple Democratic lawmakers have also criticized Omar’s remarks and have called on her to apologize, including House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., who demanded Friday that she apologize for a “vile, anti-Semitic slur."

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., a Jewish lawmaker and chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, tweeted Saturday, “Lawmakers must be able to debate w/o prejudice or bigotry. I am saddened that Rep. Omar continues to mischaracterize support for Israel. I urge her to retract this statement and engage in further dialogue with the Jewish community on why these comments are so hurtful.”

In response, Omar tweeted: “Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman! 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. The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest. I am sure we agree on that!”

On Sunday, Lowey responded on Twitter: “No member of Congress is asked to swear allegiance to another country. Throughout history, Jews have been accused of dual loyalty, leading to discrimination and violence, which is why these accusations are so hurtful” She added, “I believe we can debate important policy without using offensive, painful stereotypes.”

This is not the first time Omar has come under fire for making controversial comments about Israel. Last month, she was apologized for tweets about the Israel lobby in the United States that House Democratic leaders condemned as anti-Semitic in a statement.