House Democrats fail to condemn anti-Semitism, don’t rebuke Rep. Ilhan Omar

March 7, 2019 GMT

Rank-and-file Democrats circled the wagons around freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar on Wednesday, forcing party leaders to retreat from plans to rebuke her by passing a resolution condemning anti-Semitism.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants were rewriting the resolution to include other forms of hate speech, and they postponed a vote that had been expected to occur Wednesday.

“People do feel if we’re going to condemn one form of bigotry that we make sure we also condemn other forms of bigotry,” said Rep. Pramilla Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

But the retreat from a resolution condemning anti-Semitism was an embarrassing misstep for Democratic leaders, and it drew a quick condemnation from President Trump who said it should have been easy to pass.

“It is shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference,” the president said on Twitter. “Anti-Semitism has fueled atrocities throughout history and it’s inconceivable they will not act to condemn it!”

Democratic leaders had initially pushed the resolution condemning anti-Semitism after new remarks this weekend by Ms. Omar, Minnesota Democrat, questioning the motives behind her colleagues’ support for Israel.

But liberal activists rose to defend Ms. Omar, as did some of her colleagues who wondered why they were going after one of their own, when they said Republicans especially Mr. Trump say offensive things that have gone unpunished.

They demanded the resolution be changed to include language about Islamophobia, saying Ms. Omar has faced unconscionable attacks as one of two Muslim women in Congress.

“This woman has death threats,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat. “The question was maybe she needs security because of the kind of wrath that she has been facing. That is really unacceptable.”

Other Democrats said they didn’t want to cave to GOP demands for a rebuke of Ms. Omar, saying Republicans were trying to make a political game of it.

“The overall concern is that there has been a rise of hatred in so many different directions,” said Rep. Karen Bass, California Democrat and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Unfortunately a lot of it has been emanating from the White House.”

The move to change the rebuke didn’t sit well with all Democrats.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida said the resolution should be focused on anti-semitism because of the rising rate of hate crimes targeting Jews and the fact that some members “continue to use anti-Semitic tropes.”

“The fact that we have to put a resolution on the floor to spell out for people across this country what anti-Semitism means is pretty outrageous,” she said.

Ms. Omar has on multiple occasions questioned the support shown for Israel by most members of Congress. At one point she suggested it was because they were bought off by Jewish money and more recently she suggested Israel-backers had dual-allegiances both classic anti-Semitic tropes.

On Wednesday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries condemned questioning the loyalty of Jewish lawmakers, but did not mention Ms. Omar by name.

“We must find a way to address the vicious charge of dual loyalty because it has a very dangerous history with respect to the Jewish people,” Mr. Jeffries said.

Mr. Hoyer said they’re back in rewrite on the resolution.

“We’re working on language,” Mr. Hoyer said. “We haven’t set a timeline.”