Politics & Policy

Pelosi: Omar’s Comments Not ‘Intentionally Anti-Semitic’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a press briefing on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., January 17, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

House speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday asserted that Representative Ilhan Omar’s (D., Minn.) recent claim that her pro-Israel colleagues are motivated by a “dual loyalty” to the U.S. and Israel was not intentionally anti-Semitic.”

Pelosi’s comment, which was reported by Politico, came hours after House Democrats sparred in a closed-door meeting over a resolution condemning religious bigotry intended at least partially in response to Omar’s comments. A number of Omar’s fellow progressives lashed out at Pelosi and suggested their older colleagues were making a politically costly mistake by rebuking Omar.

“We’ve individually and collectively already responded to the fact that we oppose all ‘-isms’ that do not treat people in this country fairly and justly,” Representative Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D., N.J.) said during the meeting, according to the Washington Post. “To continue to engage in this discussion is simply an opportunity to give both the media and Republicans distractions from our agenda. We’ve got important work to do.”

Pelosi told Politico that she is not sure whether the resolution, which was amended earlier this week to include a provision condemning anti-Muslim bigotry in addition to anti-Semitism, will receive a vote this week.

Omar, who has previously been accused of anti-Semitism by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for attributing U.S. support for Israel to the “Benjamins,” once again enflamed tensions last week by suggesting that accusations of anti-Semitism, including from her “Jewish colleagues,” are intended to chill debate over the alliance.

“What I’m fearful of — because [Representative] Rashida [Tlaib] and I are Muslim — that a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel to be anti-Semitic because we are Muslim,” said Omar, speaking at a progressive town-hall event in Washington, D.C. alongside Representative Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.).

“So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” she later added.

The comments were unanimously condemned by Democratic and Republican leadership and earned Omar the scorn of House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Elliot Engel, who called them “outrageous and deeply hurtful.” Engel has thus far resisted Republicans’ calls for Omar to lose her seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

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