On Monday, Senior Democrats joined the growing list of Members of Congress rebuking Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) incendiary comments on Israel and AIPAC, invoking anti-Semitic stereotypes.
Rep. Omar suggested last night that AIPAC pays members of Congress to support Israel. The freshman member also retweeted a Jewish follower’s criticism of her original tweet that said, “She might as well call us hook-nosed.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark (D-CT) issued a joint statement on Monday afternoon, condemning Omar’s anti-Semitic comments and urging her to apologize.
“Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive,” the House leadership said. “We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments. As Democrats and as Americans, the entire Congress must be fully engaged in denouncing and rejecting all forms of hatred, racism, prejudice and discrimination wherever they are encountered.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told JI in a statement: “Rep. Omar’s use of an anti-Semitic stereotype was offensive and irresponsible. This kind of intolerance has no place in Congress—or anywhere in American society. No one should invoke anti-Semitic tropes during policy disagreements.”
Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), was the first Democratic member to issue a statement Sunday evening. “Congresswoman Omar’s statements are deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself,” Rose said. “When someone uses hateful and offensive tropes and words against people of my faith, I will not be silent.”
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that Omar’s “choice of words” are “deeply hurtful and offensive,” particularly following a previous comment she made about Jews ‘hypnotizing’ the world in support of Israel.
Rep. Eliot Engel, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it was “shocking” to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of ‘Jewish money.’ “I fully expect that when we disagree on the Foreign Affairs Committee, we will debate policy on the merits and never question members’ motives or resort to personal attacks,” Engel said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Rep. Engel did not return a request for comment on Republican calls to remove Omar from the HFA committee.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement, “Anti-Semitic tropes are painful for Jewish communities around the world, and such mischaracterizations of our support for Israel are deeply offensive.”
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement, “The use of stereotypes and offensive rhetoric by Members of Congress, whether anti-Semitic or racist, must come to an end. They should never be a part of any conversation about the policies of Congress.
“Criticism of Israel, or any ally, can be at times fair and appropriate, but trafficking in hateful tropes and dog whistles is dangerous and must be called out,” added Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL).
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), presenting herself the first Jewish Congresswoman from Florida, said in a statement that Omar’s tweets “are alarming, offensive, and disturbing. They rely on anti-Semitic tropes that are centuries old and have no place today in America or the halls of Congress.”
Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), a freshman member of Congress, tweeted: “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.”
“Comments like this are disgraceful and blatantly anti-semitic, and they have no place in our country’s discourse,” Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), another freshman, tweeted.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), who pledged on Sunday to speak out against criticism of Israel within his own party, said he’s disappointed in Omar for “again tweeting dangerous and hurtful tropes,” adding that is support for Israel “is based on shared values and U.S. national security, not money.”
Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) said in a statement that he had declined requests from his constituents to criticize Omar and Tlaib “because it seemed” that Omar was distancing herself from some previous comments “and I felt that these colleagues should be approached privately and given an opportunity to hear why things they were saying were hurtful and wrong.” Suozzi explained this approach in an interview with JI on Sunday. However, Omar’s tweet yesterday “went too far.” The comments, he suggested, “conjures up the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes.”
Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), reiterated her support for a two-state solution while denouncing “anti-Semitism and all forms of religious bigotry.” She added: “Support for the security of Israel has always been bipartisan & should not be a political football.”
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) tweeted, “I share in the House leadership’s denouncement of Rep. Omar’s comments about support for Israel. I can’t speak to her intent, but her comments conjure abhorrent anti-semitic rhetoric.”
Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) maintained that Omar’s comments were “particularly troubling at a moment in which Jewish Americans, alongside other religious and ethnic communities, face rising incidents of hate crimes and assaults.” She further expressed hope that Omar “will be open to hearing the perspectives of her colleagues, particularly around the ways that coded language asserting undue influence of Jews in American life has historically been wielded to discriminate and delegitimize the Jewish people.”
Also issuing statements were: Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Ben McAdams (D-UT), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Daniel Hernandez Jr (D-AZ), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Joe Morelle (D-NY), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Andy Levin (D-MI), Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Richard Neal (D-MA), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Ted James (D-LA), Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA).
Meanwhile, two Jewish members of the Democratic caucus — Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Elaine Luria of Virginia (D-VA) — are reportedly gathering signatures on a letter asking Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to confront Rep. Omar and her colleague Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) by “reiterating our rejection of anti-Semitism and our continued support for the State of Israel.”
“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,” the letter reads. “We urge you to join us in calling on each member of our Caucus to unite against anti-Semitism and hateful tropes and stereotypes.”
Gottheimer also claimed that Omar refused to meet “for nearly two weeks” to discuss the issue of anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) was the only member who publicly defended Omar’s tweets. “I wouldn’t take it as anti-Semitism,” Kildee said on CNN’s New Day. “We ought to be careful not to construe that in anything other than a concern about the fact that money has undue influence on political decision making.”