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Democratic resolution condemning Ilhan Omar sparks defence for embattled congresswoman

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As Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives intend to reprimand Congresswoman Ilhan Omar once again for alleged “anti-Semitic” comments made last week, several commentators, experts and journalists – both Jewish and non-Jewish – have rallied to defend the embattled lawmaker.

Democratic Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Elliot Engel, the chair of the Foreign Relations committee, of which Omar is a member, said on Monday that they will introduce a resolution mid-week that rebukes anti-Semitism but does not mention Omar by name.

The proposed resolution lays out a number of stipulations defined as anti-Semitism, including “hateful expressions of intolerance”, “bigotry faced by Jewish people”, and “the myth of dual loyalty” to the US and Israel.

Critics of the congresswoman say that at a town hall event in Washington, DC last week, Omar suggested that pro-Israel groups are pushing “allegiance to a foreign country”.

“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 said.

When news of the proposed resolution broke on Monday, several experts and journalists took to social media to defend and criticise Omar.

Peter Daou, a Democratic strategist who advised both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry called into question whether Omar’s comments were actually anti-Semitic.

Glenn Greenwald, a journalist for the Intercept, called the resolution “utterly preposterous” on Twitter.

Jamil Smith, a senior reporter for Rolling Stone, said “I don’t know what the House Democrats believe that they are accomplishing here”.

Dave Zirin, a journalist for the leftist outlet The Nation, defended Omar in response to another writer who falsely criticized the lawmaker for not going after Saudi Arabia with the same tenacity.

On Facebook and Twitter, political analyst Omar Baddar said: “The Israel lobby is NOT the American Jewish community. The American Jewish community is diverse, and includes huge constituencies for liberal centrist ‘J street’ & progressive ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ & ‘If Not Now’, all of whom object to varying degrees to Israel’s brutal military occupation of Palestine”.

Congresswoman Omar’s detractors include fellow Democratic Congressman Juan Vargas, who said on Twitter that “questioning support for the US-Israel relationship is unacceptable”.

Jews and non-Jews alike roundly criticized his comments, with the consensus being that it’s possible to criticise Israel without being anti-Semitic.

Other commentators have claimed a double standard for not addressing Islamophobic rhetoric directed at Omar in the past.

Omar’s office has not made an official response to the allegations of anti-Semitism.

Omar, a former Somali-American state legislator in Minnesota who came to the United States as a refugee, was sworn in as the first Muslim women in Congress earlier this month, along with Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.

Omar and Tlaib are part of a wave of progressive women of colour who won Democratic seats in November’s mid-term elections.


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