Congressional Democrats pointed out Rep. An unusually united front in support of Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., as he faces an attack from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. As leader of the Republican-controlled House, McCarthy succeeded on Thursday in his efforts to remove Omar from his seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he has been a vocal critic of war-industrial complex and human rights abuses in which the United States is either a primary actor or sponsor.
On Thursday, the House voted along party lines to remove Omar from the committee by a vote of 218 to 211. Despite the unity of congressional Democrats, members of the party initially bear a share of the blame for legitimizing McCarthy’s broadsides against Omar.
McCarthy and his colleagues’ attacks on Omar go back to 2019, his first month in Congress, when he was Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., then House Speaker, called for Omar’s removal from the Foreign Affairs Committee. McCarthy noted the Minnesota representative’s criticism of Israel’s human rights abuses and his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, a Palestinian civil society movement working to build international opposition to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
At the time, Republican Lee Zeldin, who had recently been the Republican gubernatorial candidate of New York, Tweeted that he was disappointed that Omar was also appointed to a foreign affairs subcommittee overseeing it and accused him of harboring “anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hatred.”
Shortly thereafter, Democrats began to confirm the message from Republicans in their public comments and letters to Congress, laying the groundwork that would set the stage for their most recent salvo: McCarthy’s bid to remove Omar from his committee assignment.
Some Democrats even voted against McCarthy’s proposal. allegedly Continues to justify his actions against Omar and rehash old grievances. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y. said the vote was about political vendetta but Omar was “obviously wrong” and used “anti-Semitic tropes”.
“When the Democrats were in control of the House, they often attacked him for the same things, and Republicans threw him under the bus when they started criticizing him,” said Beth Miller, political director of Jewish Voice for Peace Action. “They have created an environment that shows they are willing to attack and throw under the bus any member of their own party who demands Palestinian human rights.”
“They have created an environment that shows they are willing to attack and throw under the bus any member of their own party who demands Palestinian human rights.”
Miller, who said he is relieved that Democrats are now supporting Omar, noted that this fight is not happening in a vacuum. The Progressive Jewish American group released a statement Wednesday linking Omar’s attack to attacks on progressives everywhere.
The GOP, Miller said, is using its power to attack progressives: “And especially progressive women of color, because they are effective progressives who are speaking up for Palestinian rights.”
Efforts to oust Omar based on his criticism of Israel also come at a time when Israeli politics is taking an unprecedented turn toward the far right and the Jewish state is stepping up its attacks on Palestinians; More than 30 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces so far this year.
“This circus is happening as the Israeli government escalates a whole new level of state violence against Palestinians,” Miller said. “If you really look at what the Israeli government is doing now, the mask is completely off.”
.@Speaker McCarthyAttempts to remove representatives. @Ilhan Part of a crooked backroom deal with the Freedom Caucus on behalf of the Foreign Affairs Committee to secure its gavel.
We will not stand for white supremacist efforts to use Islamophobia and racism to silence him.
— Congresswoman Cory Bush (@RepCori) February 1, 2023
Democratic pile-on came against Omar only four years ago.
In February 2019, just over a month after Omar took office as one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, House Democrats quickly condemned her for a tweet criticizing the relationship between members of Congress and members of the pro-Israel lobby’s flagship, American Israel. Public Affairs Committee.
Omar wrote, “It’s all about the Benjamins. He clarified that he was specifically referring to AIPAC and later apologized for the tweet.
The next day, conservative New Jersey Democrat Rep. Josh Gottheimer and then-Rep. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., wrote an alarming letter to House Democratic leadership that did not mention Omar by name but noted their concerns about anti-Semitic speech in “reckless statements like yesterday.” They called on the caucus to “not remain silent in the face of hateful speech or actions” and to “take swift action” to address the issue by “refuting anti-Semitism and reaffirming our continued support for the State of Israel.”
In a statement the same day, House Democratic leaders, including Pelosi; Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; D-mo.; Majority Whip James Clyburn, DSc; Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Lujan, DNM; Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y.; and Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark, D-Mass. said, “Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about supporters of Israel are deeply offensive.”
The House voted two days later on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism — a rebuke from Omar — after taking action on an unrelated resolution on the Saudi war in Yemen.
The following month, after Omar raised criticism of the pro-Israel lobby in remarks at a Washington coffee shop, the House took another vote to condemn Islamophobia and racism in general, along with anti-Semitism.
While McCarthy, mounting an attack by Democrats, is going after Omar for alleged bias, the GOP has long been home to several members who have supported or defended overt anti-Semitism and white nationalism, including Reps. Paul Gosser, R-Ariz., and Marjory. Taylor Greene, R-Ga. and former Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. The focus is on Omar instead of McCarthy.
While McCarthy’s campaign against Omar revolved around accusations of anti-Semitism, Washington insiders say the long-running flap is really about his criticism of Israel and the power of the pro-Israel lobby on Capitol Hill.
“As I think most people know and don’t care to say publicly, there is a problem with the Israel lobby on both sides,” said a senior congressional Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of professional reprisal. “They don’t understand where they really stand on this issue.” “They don’t know how to talk about it,” the associate added.
“As I think most people know and don’t care to say publicly, there is a problem with the Israel lobby on both sides.”
After his arrival, Omar maintained a consensus in Congress and became one of the few members willing to strongly criticize human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine – as well as the pro-Israel lobby. “It’s almost like that person who comes into your classroom and tells you that what you’re learning is wrong,” the congressional aide said. “I think a lot of Democratic members felt that way when they were involved with him. They didn’t know how to deal with a person saying, ‘You know, the United States isn’t meeting right now.’
Meanwhile, Washington was spending time fighting over whether to remove Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, while Omar himself experienced the effects of the war and US foreign policy firsthand, said Miller of Jewish Voice for Peace Action. This conundrum, he said, “is a perfect example of how Washington, D.C., has broken with the way we view foreign policy.”
“We’ll see in generations what he’s actually done for this place when we find a new leader,” said a senior Democratic aide. “It is without question an old, old problem that Democrats in Congress are late to the party on Israel.”