Rep. Nadler: “We’ll have to say something and do something”

How members of Congress are reacting to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s “foreign allegiance” comment

Democratic members of the House have renewed their criticism of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) over the weekend after the freshman representative said that she wants to “talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” meaning Israel. Many viewed Rep. Omar’s comment as a “dual-loyalty” charge, an anti-Semitic trope that implies that American Jews are loyal to Israel, rather than solely loyal to the United States.

Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), who had accepted Omar’s apology last month following widespread criticism of her anti-Semitic tweets against AIPAC, told Jewish Insider on Sunday that her language is “of course concerning.”  

“I’m disappointed that she made these remarks, I certainly am,” said Rep. Rose, after attending a local event in Brooklyn. “We have to continue to work to make sure that this does not happen anymore. But I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t disappointed.”

Also on Sunday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) told Jewish Insider that Democratic leadership will “have to say something and do something” after Rep. Omar’s latest comments.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on Omar to apologize for her “vile, anti-Semitic” comments. “Her comments were outrageous and deeply hurtful, and I ask that she retract them, apologize and commit to making her case on policy issues without resorting to attacks that have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee or the House of Representatives,” Engel said in a statement on Friday.

Rep. Pete King (R-NY) told Jewish Insider that it’s incumbent upon the Democratic Party’s leadership to “take some firm action to make it clear that they’re not going to take it” and that they should do it “for their own political reasons. It’s going to tar them. Also for the good of the country, they should do it.”

“There’s any number of reasons to support Israel, there’s no reason to oppose Israel,” King explained. “To have this type of veiled anti-Semitism, code words for anti-Semitism, it’s frankly disgraceful and we have to denounce it. You can have disagreements with the Israeli government as long as its put in terms of government to government, not that you’re attacking a people, talking about dual loyalty. This is wrong. There’s no excuse for that.”

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), chairman of the Ethics Committee, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that both Islamophobic and anti-Semitic stereotypes must be “condemned across the board.”

Earlier, before the start of Shabbat, Rep. Deutch, who is also chair of the subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and international terrorism, shared a photo of “A book of Jewish Thoughts” that his father was given before being deployed to fight the Nazi’s.  “Dual loyalty?” He wrote. “Jews proudly serve our country. I serve in the U.S.House. My father served in the U.S. Army…We are proud, loyal Americans. Shabbat Shalom.”

Other Democratic lawmakers took to Twitter to express their frustration with the Minnesota congresswoman and the danger of her words. In their statements on Friday, members of congress also took into account how Rep. Omar was the subject of a bigoted display: Her face plastered on a poster underneath the burning Twin Towers in the West Virginia Capitol.

“Gross islamophobic stereotypes – like those about @IlhanMN recently featured on posters in WVA – are offensive and have no place in political discourse,” Nita Lowey (D-NY) wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “Anti-Semitic tropes that accuse Jews of dual loyalty are equally painful and must also be roundly condemned.” She further called on Omar to “retract” her statements and “engage in further dialogue with the Jewish community on why these comments are so hurtful.”

On Sunday afternoon, Rep. Omar responded to criticism of her comments, directed at Rep. Nita Lowey: “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! I have not mischaracterized our relationship with Israel, I have questioned it and that has been clear from my end.”

“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. My Americanness is questioned by the President and the @GOP on a daily basis, yet my colleagues remain silent. I know what it means to be American and no one will ever tell me otherwise,” Omar wrote on Twitter.

A frequent critic of Rep. Omar from across the aisle, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), condemned both the hateful images in West Virginia and Omar’s comments. “That WV GOP 9/11 poster w/ Rep Omar is absolutely disgusting & should be strongly condemned by all. This is the type of message that can incite hate, division & violence, only made worse given its invocation of 9/11 imagery & very painful memories,” the congressman wrote on Twitter.

“Meanwhile, Rep. Omar’s simultaneously disgusting, anti-Semitic gas lighting that support for our great ally Israel is due to a pay off by Jews & allegiance to a foreign country will hopefully give all parties pause & reason for reflection at this moment in US history & politics.”

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), who had been critical of Omar’s past episode, reposted Rep. Engel’s statement to his official Twitter account.

By Jacob Kornbluh in NY, and Laura Kelly in Washington, D.C.

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