Democrats Join G.O.P. in Condemning Freshman for Anti-Semitic Comments

WASHINGTON — Representative Ilhan Omar, who has been battling charges of anti-Semitism for weeks, drew swift and unqualified condemnation from some fellow Democrats after she insinuated on Twitter Sunday night that American support for Israel is fueled by money from a pro-Israel lobbying group that has Jewish backing.

Two House Democrats, Representatives Elaine Luria, a freshman from Virginia, and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, released a letter Monday morning calling on Democratic leaders to speak out against any lawmaker who “uses harmful tropes and stereotypes, levels accusations of dual loyalty, or makes reckless statements like those yesterday.”

“As Jewish Members of Congress, we are deeply alarmed by recent rhetoric from certain members within our Caucus, including just last night, that has disparaged us and called into question our loyalty to our nation. We urge you to join us in calling on each member of our Caucus to unite against anti-Semitism and hateful tropes and stereotypes,” they wrote.

[Read the letter here.]

The two, who addressed the letter to the entire Democratic leadership including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, did not mention Ms. Omar by name. Other But other Democrats did. Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called it “deeply disappointing and disturbing to hear Representative Ilhan Omar’s (MN) choice of words in her exchange with a journalist yesterday, wherein she appears to traffic in old anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money.”

Representative Max Rose of New York, another freshman Democrat, responded directly to Ms. Omar on Twitter, calling her statements “deeply hurtful to Jews.”

Representative Donna E. Shalala, a freshman Democrat from Florida and former Health and Human Services secretary, added, “There is no place in our country for anti-Semitic comments. I condemn them whatever the source. To suggest members of Congress are ‘bought off’ to support Israel is offensive and wrong.”

Chelsea Clinton also weighed in, saying on Twitter that Americans should expect “all public figures not to traffic in anti-Semitism.”

The Twitter exchanges began when Ms. Omar, Democrat of Minnesota and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, responded to a tweet by the journalist Glenn Greenwald. Mr. Greenwald had accused Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican leader, of targeting Ms. Omar and another Democratic freshman, Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who has also been sharply critical of Israel.

“It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” Ms. Omar wrote, a reference to hundred-dollar bills.

That set off more tweets in which a Jewish journalist asked whom Ms. Omar was referring to when she suggested that money was driving American Israel policy. “AIPAC!” she replied, referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Aipac does not contribute to political campaigns, but its large-scale conferences and congressional trips to Israel have long drawn enthusiastic and bipartisan participation.

They have also elicited charges that Aipac has deliberately fed a one-sided view of the Israel-Palestinian conflict into American politics. Ms. Tlaib, a Palestinian American, has been trying to organize her own congressional trip to the West Bank to give lawmakers the Palestinian side of the issue.

And Palestinian rights groups largely stood by Ms. Omar and her criticism of the group.

Aipac responded with a statement that said, “We are proud that we are engaged in the democratic process to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. Our bipartisan efforts are reflective of American values and interests. We will not be deterred in any way by ill-informed and illegitimate attacks on this important work.”

Republican leaders quickly demanded that Ms. Omar be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, just as Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, was stripped of his committee assignments after he made comments sympathetic to white supremacy.

But what distinguished the events of Sunday and Monday from earlier controversies around Ms. Omar was the willingness of Democrats to join in.

Ms. Omar had been trying to distance herself from a 2012 comment on Twitter in which she said Israel had been hypnotizing the world to look past its actions in Gaza. She expressed regret for trafficking in an anti-Semitic trope, which she said was unwitting. And she had reached out to Jewish Democrats to make amends.

But her latest comments made some question the authenticity of her contrition.

“In recent weeks, we have had conversations with multiple members of our Caucus who share our concerns about this rhetoric; we have also raised these concerns with Democratic leadership. We must speak out when any Member — Democrat or Republican — uses harmful tropes and stereotypes, levels accusations of dual loyalty, or makes reckless statements like those yesterday,” Ms. Luria and Mr. Gottheimer wrote.

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations urged the Democratic leadership to censure Ms. Omar: “We appreciate the statements made so far by several Democratic Members of Congress repudiating Rep. Omar on this front,” the conservative group said in a statement. “But in the face of an unprecedented rise in anti-Semitism in this country and around the world, we call upon all Members to speak up and be counted among those who explicitly reject anti-Semitism. And we call upon Speaker Pelosi and the Congressional leadership to immediately take concrete action to censure Representative Omar for her offensive statements.”

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