Jewish Dems defend Ilhan Omar following removal from House committee

Jewish Democrats jump to protest Ilhan Omar's removal from her House of Representatives committee assignment despite her history of repeatedly giving voice to antisemitic tropes.

 Ilhan Omar (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Ilhan Omar
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Jewish Dems, or The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), released a statement on Friday in opposition to the removal of Ilhan Omar, a representative from Minnesota, from the Foreign Affairs Committee. The statement was published on the organization's Instagram account.

The press release begins as states that the Jewish organization condemns "violence, antisemitism, and extremism wherever they exist" and that there's "no equivalence between the two parties on this issue - Democrats have sought to combat extremism, while the GOP has normalized bigotry and provided a political home for extremists."

The claim from the Jewish Dems that there is no equivalence between Democrats and Republicans on the issue of condemning violence, antisemitism and extremism is contested. For instance, according to recent research by Israel's Diaspora Affairs Ministry, more than two-thirds of antisemitic discourse on social media comes from Palestinian or progressive pro-Palestinian circles.

Is the Democratic Party drifting away from Israel?

The Democratic Party has ideologically drifted further away from Israel over recent decades, according to a 2022 report by FiveThirtyEight. The polling data website found that, compared to 18% of democrats in 2001, 38% as of 2022 sympathized more with Palestinians. This proportion of growing anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian sentiment among democrats seems likely to exacerbate the increasingly antisemitic public discourse.

 House Committee on Foreign Affairs (credit: FLICKR) House Committee on Foreign Affairs (credit: FLICKR)

The statement from Jewish Dems continues saying that they "opposed the GOP removal of [Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell and Ilhan Omar] from their committee assignments. We've disagreed with Rep. Omar on Israel, condemned her use of antisemitic tropes, and welcomed her apology."

The statement went on to label the removal of the democrats as a "bigoted, Islamophobic and unjust act of political retribution" and slam House of Representatives speaker Kevin Mccarthy for the move.

Mccarthy, for his part, rejected claims like these. Following the vote to remove Omar from her committee assignment, the speaker spoke to reporters in defense of the vote.

"When it comes to foreign affairs, especially [given] the responsibility of that position [to make responsible comments], she shouldn't serve there... If [the vote to remove Omar] was tit for tat, we would have picked people, taken them off all committees and said nothing about it. We don't believe that."

Mccarthy cited previous controversial comments that the representative from Minnesota has made that have been widely recognized as antisemitic or otherwise problematic.

The House of Representatives speaker referred to three instances, the first occurring in early 2019 when Omar tweeted of support for Israel, "It’s all about the Benjamins baby." The statement evoked the antisemitic trope that Jews use money to exert control over world governments. Omar has since apologized.

Later that year, Omar said of the September 11 terrorist attacks at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) banquet that "some people did something."

Then, in 2021, Omar wrote on Twitter comparing the US and Israel to Hamas, Afghanistan and Taliban, writing, "we must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban."

"Even the former Democratic chair of the committee believed her comments were wrong," Mccarthy said. 

The Minnesota representative has a long history of making antisemitic remarks that are couched in "criticism of Israel."

In 2012, Omar wrote "Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel," on her Twitter. The comment evokes ancient tropes of Jews being deceitful or practicing black magic to manipulate gentiles.

In response to the statement from Jewish Dems that Omar should not have been removed from her committee assignment, many people took to the comments section of the Instagram post to express their displeasure.

One commenter wrote, "Jewish Dems- you should be ashamed of yourselves for publicly releasing a statement supporting this vile Jew-hating Israel-basher." Another accused the post of being irresponsible and endangering Jewish lives.

Another asked, "Seriously??? She can’t be held accountable for her repeated antisemitic comments because she’s a Muslim?!?"

Could Omar be considering the criticism directed toward her?

One possible reason Jewish Dems may be backing Ilhan Omar is that they are, on their website, promoting a House of Representatives resolution entitled "Recognizing Israel as America's legitimate and democratic ally and condemning antisemitism."

Omar is a co-sponsor of the resolution. On their website, the JDCA writes, "we strongly support H.Res.92 introduced by Democrats and led by Reps. Gottheimer and Omar, which recognizes Israel as America's legitimate and democratic ally and condemns antisemitism in all its forms."

Omar's support for the resolution would likely be surprising to a lot of Jewish Americans, even if, given her history, skepticism is warranted.

As the bill was introduced on Thursday and Omar was ousted from the foreign affairs committee on Friday, critics may label the move as a last-ditch effort on Omar's behalf to save her spot on the committee.

The resolution calls on the House of Representatives to "[reject] hate, discrimination, and antisemitism in all forms, including antisemitism masquerading as anti-Israel sentiment," to "[stand] in unity with the Jewish people in the United States and around the world against the rising antisemitism" and to "explicitly [condemn] perpetuation of antisemitic tropes, including claims of dual loyalty, control, and other conspiracy theories antithetical to American values."

Omar's willingness to co-sponsor such a resolution may also be seen as a glimmer of encouragement for Jews in the democratic party who are concerned that their political party is leaving them behind.