House lawmakers on March 7 passed a watered-down resolution meant to condemn anti-Semitic remarks by Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. The final resolution, approved by a vote of 407–23, was expanded to include other forms of bias and does not include Omar’s name.
Omar, a freshman Democrat representing Minnesota, doubted the allegiance of Jewish-Americans to the United States and refused to offer an apology. Efforts to control the damage from the backlash have split the Democratic Party, with the far-left Congressional Progressive Caucus defending Omar and centrist Democrats racing to allay concerns from Jewish colleagues.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on March 7 that a new version of the resolution was expanded to “speak out against anti-Semitism, anti-Islamophobia, anti-white supremacy and all the forms that it takes.” The speaker added that it is up to Omar to “explain” the remarks.
“When you cross that threshold into Congress, your words weigh much more than when you’re shouting them at somebody outside,” Pelosi said.
“I feel confident that her words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude,” she added, “but that she didn’t have a full appreciation of how they landed on other people where these words have a history and a cultural impact that might have been unknown to her.”
The resolution specifically condemns Omar’s remarks, stating that “accusing Jews of being more loyal to Israel or to the Jewish community than to the United States constitutes anti-Semitism because it suggests that Jewish citizens cannot be patriotic Americans and trusted neighbors.”
President Donald Trump criticized the Democrats on March 6 for failing to condemn Omar. The president had previously called Omar’s comments “a dark day for Israel” and called on Omar to resign.
“It is shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference. Anti-Semitism has fueled atrocities throughout history and it’s inconceivable they will not act to condemn it!” Trump wrote on Twitter on March 6.
It is shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference. Anti-Semitism has fueled atrocities throughout history and it’s inconceivable they will not act to condemn it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 6, 2019
Republicans and Democrats criticized Omar for saying on Twitter that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, was paying U.S. politicians to support Israel.
Omar said that she is not pro-Israel and that she questions Israel’s relationship with the United States.
“I am told everyday that I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel. I find that to be problematic and I am not alone. I just happen to be willing to speak up on it and open myself to attacks,” she wrote on Twitter on March 3 while already under fire for previous anti-Semitic remarks.
I am told everyday that I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel. I find that to be problematic and I am not alone. I just happen to be willing to speak up on it and open myself to attacks.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 3, 2019
Even before her most recent comments, Republicans had criticized Democrats for appointing Omar to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and called for her to be removed from her seat because of past statements critical of Israel.
Omar’s history of anti-Semitism stretches as far back as 2012. In a since-deleted tweet, she wrote that “Israel has hypnotized the world” to hide its “evil doings.”
David Duke, a prominent anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist, dubbed Omar “the most important of the U.S. Congress,” in a Twitter message on March 7.
Omar apologized for her initial remarks
“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” Omar said in a statement.
“My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole,” she said, adding that she “unequivocally” apologizes.
Pelosi said on March 7 that while Omar may not have intended the remark to be anti-Semitic “the fact is that’s how it was interpreted.”
“We have to remove all doubt, as we have done over and over again,” Pelosi said.
Reuter contributed to this report.