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Omar’s Israel remarks expose Democrats’ simmering divisions

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., sits with fellow Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee during a bill markup, on Capitol Hill in Washington, on March 6, 2019. Omar stirred controversy last week by saying that Israel's supporters are pushing U.S. lawmakers to take a pledge of "allegiance to a foreign country." Omar is not apologizing for that remark, and progressives are supporting her. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Back in January, the Democrats welcomed their brash young newcomers to Congress with smiles and hugs. That was before the new colleagues dragged the party’s simmering divisions over Israel out in the open.

Provocative comments from Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota have thrust the Democrats into an uncomfortable debate over Israel policy a few weeks before a high-profile conference at which senior Democrats typically make a show of support for the Jewish state. Increasingly, the rift appears as much generational as ideological, with newly elected Democrats showing less deference to the party line.


RELATED: Rep. Omar touches a third rail (COMMENTARY)


Omar became the flashpoint after she suggested last week that Israel’s supporters are pushing U.S. lawmakers to take a pledge of “allegiance to a foreign country.” It’s at least the third time she has forced older, pro-Israel Democrats who run the House into awkward territory over U.S.-Israeli policy.

This time Omar is not apologizing. And this time pro-Israel Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi are not just warning her about the dangers of Jewish tropes. They are expected to offer a resolution condemning anti-Semitism on the House floor. Although no vote on the resolution is yet scheduled, Democrats said it could come as soon as Thursday (March 7).

Republicans have been happy to stoke the furor, with President Trump tweeting it’s “shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference.” Trump himself faced such criticism in 2016 for circulating a six-pointed star alongside a photo of Hillary Clinton, a pile of money and the words “most corrupt candidate ever.”

Democratic leaders are in a bind, torn between a need to admonish Omar and their desire to defend one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

“Accusations of dual loyalty generally have an insidious, bigoted history,” an early draft of the resolution reads in part. “The House of Representatives acknowledges the dangerous consequences of perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes and rejects anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”

Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced in a meeting of leading Democrats late Tuesday that the text will be updated to include anti-Muslim bias, according to a senior Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting. Other Democrats said an outpouring of support for Omar prompted leaders to consider broadening the measure to avoid dissension. Omar did not speak to reporters outside her office on Tuesday evening.

“There is a lot (of) emotional disquiet about the situation, and it’s a good time to restate our values,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who is Jewish and a member of leadership, as he exited a meeting in Pelosi’s office. “That’s what I hope our resolution can do.”

The text, which includes a history of bigotry against Muslims and blacks as well as Jews, sounds unobjectionable by itself. But the fact that senior Democrats felt obliged to put the House on record on the topic points to a transformation in the country — mostly among Democrats — about supporting the Jewish state.

In a poll by the Pew Research Center in January of last year, 46 percent of Americans said they sympathized more with Israel and 16 percent with the Palestinians in their Middle East discord.

But Democrats are about evenly divided, with about a quarter sympathizing with each side and the rest saying they side with neither or don’t know — and in recent years they have become less likely to sympathize with Israel. Liberal Democrats were nearly twice as likely to say they sympathize more with the Palestinians (35 percent) than with Israel (19 percent). Older Americans were much more likely to say they sympathize with Israel than with the Palestinians, with more division among younger Americans.

Omar, a Somali-American, says that what she’s questioning is the influence game in Washington and she worries that anything she says about Israel and its treatment of Palestinians will be construed as anti-Semitic.

“Being opposed to (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and the occupation is not the same as being anti-Semitic,” she tweeted on Sunday. “I am grateful to the many Jewish allies who have spoken out and said the same.”

Democrats in Congress remain largely supportive of Israel. Pelosi, for example, often attends the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, which is coming up this month.

Omar on Tuesday got a boost from allies who point out that she, too, has been the target of threats and bigotry.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested in a tweet that her fellow freshman was being treated unfairly.

“No one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities,” the New York Democrat wrote.

Jewish groups generally said they support the resolution, but expressed concern.

“We are concerned that the timing of this resolution will be seen as singling out and focusing special condemnation on a Muslim woman of color as if her views and insensitive comments pose a greater threat than the torrent of hatred that the white nationalist right continues to level against Jews, Muslims, people of color and other vulnerable minority groups,” said J Street, a nonprofit that says it’s a home for “pro-Israel, pro-Peace Americans.”

Back home in Minnesota, a collection of elected officials started a #StandWithIlhan hashtag with a statement that reads in part: “We call on Democrats to stand with Ilhan against Republican efforts to pit Jews and Muslims against each other.”

But there also was talk of finding a candidate to challenge her in 2020.

“She is rapidly making herself a pariah in Congress, rather than an effective representative for her constituents,” said state Sen. Ron Latz, who is Jewish, lives in her district and has been critical of her recent statements on Israel.

Earlier this year, Omar apologized for a 2012 tweet in which she said Israel had “hypnotized” America. And last month, she apologized for suggesting that members of Congress support Israel because they are paid to do so.

That earned her stern rebukes from Pelosi and House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, among others. This time, Engel declared that Omar’s suggestion about divided loyalties was a “vile” stereotype that had no place on his committee.

Republicans demanded that Democrats throw Omar off Engel’s panel. There was no sign of that happening.

“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,” Omar tweeted.

(Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Emily Swanson and Hannah Fingerhut in Washington and Doug Glass in Minneapolis contributed to this report.)

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Laurie Kellman

61 Comments

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  • What a dilemma; act like you’re aware that 1+1=2, or keep up the identity politics scam.

    If they didn’t have “Russian collusion”, they’d have nothing.

  • I love it when the press start harping about the supposed “simmering” divisions among Democrats. I guess since Republicans are united to Donald Trump like a barnacle is to a boat, the press have no division on the Republican side to get titillated over. It’s true that we Democrats are like cats who do our own thing, unlike the Republicans who are dogs forever in need of an alpha lest they lose their way. But I can assure Ms. Kellman that we Democrats are 100% united in the one major thing that matters most: preventing Donald Trump from presiding over the collapse of our once-strong, once-great democratic republic. To that end, nothing else matters, and there are certainly no divisions among Democrats on that front.

    LOCK HIM UP!

  • There is a tussle now between the Old Guard and the New Kids and the Republicans are going to capitalize on it. The Three Amigos are going to be picked on, scrutinized and criticized daily for every perceived misstep. You Democrats have unify and focus on how to defeat Trump.

  • They have to avoid being seen as supporting antisemitism yet scared to death of insulting a female Muslim of color. That’s a landmine. They’ll call out you Christians in a heartbeat; not so much other religions.

    Watch – the resolution Congress is going to proffer is likely to be watered down. I’ve heard they’re going to add a condemnation of anti-Muslims. But nothing about anti-Christian bias, I bet.

  • There is nothing wrong with Omar or any other politician questioning current foreign policy; or domestic for that matter.
    There is also nothing wrong with questioning where your political opponents money and support come from.
    That being said, it is the responsibility of the good congresswoman to understand that the interests of the United States may not be identical to her own; and any debate about those differences should be based upon facts, history, strategic relationships, etc.; and not racial, ethnic nor religious bigotry.

  • Keep on talking like that, and these wild-child Alt-Democrat street-protesters will come a-knockin’ on your door, at Midnight !!

  • Omar is just supporting a two-state solution and the concept of justice in international affairs. Supposedly, that Is just US policy, and has been for 70 years.

  • Yeah, Omar should have just called Israel a ‘shithole country,’ which is apparently just fine.

  • They see what they want to see. The fact that the Dems aren’t panicking and splintering over this has them very, very annoyed.

  • Body counts for partisan nutjobs (2016-2019):

    Right Wing Extremists: 60 so far (11 of them in one incident)
    Left Wing Extremists: Still Zero

  • Nope. I’m always for honest debate. Just keep to the facts.
    Unfortunately, Omar isn’t intelligent enough to keep her personal bigotry out of the way.

  • Ummmmm….
    Tell that to Nancy Pelosi and the leadership team. As Jim Johnson has pointed out there IS an internal fight brewing between the young socialists/radicals and the establishment democrats / moderates.
    In addition, the Jewish contingent that drafted the document is upset that the rest of the democrat caucus has not supported the resolution.
    This is the result of the democrat party lurching leftward into socialist territory.

  • Left wing extremist shot up the republican baseball team and a few cops – no?
    You sound like an ass when you make statements like this.
    As if death is the marker.
    If it is: democrat murders through abortion 25,000,000; Christians; 0.

  • So you contradicted your first sentence with your second.

    There is no personal bigotry in her criticizing the Likud darlings of the GOP and calling for the 2 state solution more than half of Israel and virtually all American Jews have been clamoring for since 1997.

    I also find it funny that someone who has consistently engaged in anti-semitic appeals (“Soros!”) is trying to pretend others have done so.

  • So the answer is still none. Abortion isn’t murder either.

    But thanks for proving once again the sole purpose of fetus worship is to act like a horse’s posterior and nothing else of value.

    Whereas the “very fine people” who consider Trump one of their own have killed literally scores of people since he took office, the “left wing mobs” deflecting liars have talked about have done nothing even close to the same.

    OK. We’re done here.

  • Same with Soros.
    I don’t like him because he’s a globalist/leftist; not because he’s a Jew.
    As a lefty yourself, you view the world (and assume others do) through the lens of race.
    I hate Soros because of his politics; not because of his Jewishness.

  • You’ve been drinking the Fox News Kool-Aid too long. Republicans have been trotting out socialism as a bogeyman scare tactic ever since FDR instituted Social Security. But I challenge any Fox News junkie to voluntarily give up their SS. And it’s Democratic party, not Democrat party. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

  • “Same with Soros”

    That is one of the most common anti-semitic appeals made to pretend it isn’t an anti-semitic appeal.

    Well documented as such as well.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/10/24/conspiracy-theories-about-soros-arent-just-false-theyre-anti-semitic/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b28e294586c8

    I find it interesting you parrot the same nonsense which anti-semitic mass murderer Robert Bowers acted on.
    https://www.expressnews.com/news/news_columnists/gilbert_garcia/article/GOP-demonization-of-Soros-reaches-its-dangerous-13349811.php

  • Wow, you’re not aware that most Democrats are Christians? You’re right here online; get some facts.

  • What kool-aid?
    Are the democrats of today similar to democrats during Bill Clinton’s presidency? I think not.
    Democrats used to be pro-America.
    They used to be friendly toward Israel.
    They used to have faith.
    They used to be pro-life.
    The used to be for secure borders and controlled immigration.
    They used to be for the working class.
    Now they hate America because it was founded by white guys.
    They want to kill babies because they can.
    They side with the enemies of Israel because of skin color.
    They want to fundamentally change the composition of the citizenry to solidify their power.
    They despise anyone of faith.
    They support Wall Street and big environmentalism over the union worker.
    Is AOC’s green deal not socialism?
    Mandatory union jobs. Mandatory “wages” for those who don’t work. Mandatory removal of automobiles and fossil fuels at the “request” of the state.
    To prove my point – when trump stated in the SOTU that the United States will never embrace socialism; the entire democrat caucus remained seated – that says it all; no more words need to be said.
    The democrat party has moved way left; and you went along with it.

  • Wrong bullwinkle.
    Plenty of articles on this very page have cited studies that affirm democrats are nones/atheists and conservatives are of faith.

  • Again – your words; not mine.
    I told you I hate his policies.
    The same way (I assume) you hate the Koch brothers – which makes you an anti-kochite.
    Funny how democrats cannot separate the individual from the group.
    Although that’s the basis for socialism; amirite?

  • LOL, sure they are. Please give the citations that can stand up to this one.
    https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/09/15/religion-and-race-among-democrats-and-republicans/

    Oh, it’s true that any religious minority group is far more likely to side with the only party that respects their views and protects their rights… but Christians are still the majority among Democrats.

    Not to mention the Pew surveys showing large numbers of Christians in both parties:
    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/11/07/how-religious-groups-voted-in-the-midterm-elections/

    There’s even an advocacy group, Christian Democrats of America, representing the tens of millions of Democratic Christians.

    And yet you claim that “Democrat” and “Christian” are mutually exclusive categories? If you’re going to lie, at least try to come up with one that’s not so easily exposed. That’s just embarrassing.

  • Re: “Funny how democrats cannot separate the individual from the group.” 

    Funny how you’d say that. Your own ideology, Rightism, does something similar … or maybe you didn’t know that? For instance, they follow this syllogism: 

    1. Some Democrats/Leftists claim, or admit, they’re “socialists” … 
    2. Thus, all Democrats/Leftists must be socialists. 

    And onto this, they tack: 

    3. Venezuela is a “socialist” country … 
    4. Thus, all Democrats/Leftists want the US to become Venezuela. 

    You hear this sort of reasoning all the time on Fox News and from the mouths of Limbaugh, Levin, Ingraham, etc. It’s a constant stream of endless “associafying” (i.e. assuming equivalencies that don’t actually exist based on overlaps and associations). 

  • I will use some/most going forward.
    My other statements still stand.
    The AOC wing of the democrat party IS socialist. She is the future. You should be happy.

  • Re: “The AOC wing of the democrat party IS socialist.” 

    Maybe, but — whether or not you wish to admit it — they’re not the whole party

    Re: “She is the future.” 

    You have absolutely no way to know that. None. Remember what Yoda so famously said: “Always in motion is the future.” 

    Re: “You should be happy.” 

    Why would that be the case? First, I’m not a registered Democrat, so I don’t even have a say in what that party does. Second, I’m not a socialist — no matter how vehemently you insist otherwise. I actually don’t think very much of the kind of “socialism” I see advocated in the US … pretty much everything they want to do would be brutally expensive or simply absurd. And most of those “socialists” are well aware their positions are ridiculously expensive, if not just plain ridiculous, which leads me to wonder why they even advocate them in the first place: Either they’re so idealistic as to be insane, or they’re being brazenly cynical, proposing measures they know they can’t implement, just to get votes. 

    (Note: It’s not only Lefists/socialists/Democrats who do such things. Most politicians will, at some point. And it often happens on the Right, e.g. when Bob Stefanowski ran on the GOP ticket for governor in my home state of CT on a platform of abolishing both the income and corporate taxes. There is no f-ing way he’d ever be able to do either of those things … it simply could not ever happen! But he pushed them nonetheless. His entire campaign was predicated on those positions, and literally nothing else. Which is why he lost. If he’d been less of a “let’s end all taxation” buffoon, he might actually have gotten elected.) 

  • AOC is the future.
    Schumer and pelosi or the AARP wing while hold office, but not the power. The power is held by AOC and the freshman radicals.
    25 years of brainwashing school kids is coming to fruition.

  • Yep, thought so.
    You lived through it; you more than anyone here would be able to verify it. But you won’t because your intellectually dishonest.

  • Re: “AOC is the future.” 

    No one knows the future. You literally cannot say that.* 

    Re: “Schumer and pelosi or the AARP wing while hold office, but not the power. The power is held by AOC and the freshman radicals.” 

    … in your opinion. That, of course, doesn’t matter to anyone other than you. 

    Re: “25 years of brainwashing school kids is coming to fruition.” 

    Yes, it certainly did in the case of folks like Ted Cruz (raised a militant Christianist by a raging dominionist specifically to work in government and push it in a Christofascist direction). 

  • My opinion is closer to reality than anything you offered.
    The fact that Omar didn’t get censured by the caucus would imply that she is in the position of strength.
    Anyway, later.

  • Yes, the Democrats loved Israel in December, 2016, when the United States – following Obama Administration policy, abstained from United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, effectively allowing it to pass.

    Sure, the Democrats loved Israel in January, 2017, when the United States House of Representatives voted 342-80 – led by the Republicans – to condemn the UN Resolution.

    Ted Cruz is not going to sell out Israel.

  • Comrade, you’re getting off the party line which is that it is all white Evangelicals in the other party.

    Oh, and there is no difference between a Democrat and a Socialist.

  • He and pelosi are going to get pushed out by AOC.
    I can totally see her running for the senate. The clowns in NYC will love her.

  • Demonstrating your ignorance of basic political terms isn’t helping your case. But it’s nice of you to try to rescue parker from his obvious blunder by trying (and failing) to change the subject.

  • That’s an odd notion; how can she ‘sell out’ other countries when she’s an American? And what are the ‘both sides’ you imagine to exist here?

  • Both Israel and Saudi Arabia are American allies.

    She opposes supporting Israel and convinces enough folks in Congress to agree with her and pull American support.

    The Arabs smell victory and wipe Israel out.

    That is Israel “sold out”.

    She opposes supporting Saudi Arabia and convinces enough folks in Congress to agree with her and pull American support.

    The Iranians smell victory and wipe Saudi Arabia out.

    That is Saudi Arabia “sold out”.

    It is not very complicated.

  • The mere statement “Demonstrating your ignorance of basic political terms isn’t helping your case.” is an assertion, not a fact.

    So, let’s see your “correction” of the political terms.

    Show everyone how versed you are.

  • Re: “My opinion is closer to reality than anything you offered.” 

    Your opinion has nothing whatever to do with reality, except inside the vast, empty vault which is your own brain. 

    Re: “The fact that Omar didn’t get censured by the caucus would imply that she is in the position of strength.” 

    No, it’s because the whole thing became a partisan dance, with the GOP leaping for joy over her comments and raging and fuming about it — while ignoring the hateful cretins in their own midst. Because of that, the Dems got all petulant and stuff and decided not to enact the kind of measure the GOP wanted, solely because the GOP wanted it. 

    Re: “Anyway, later.” 

    Sayonara little dude. Come back when you’ve grown up and gotten over yourself. 

  • The major Jewish organizations in the US do not see it your way.

    The reason is that Jews have been there before: accusations of dual loyalty preceded pogroms.

    Had she been criticizing the “Likud darlings”, she would have left American Jews out of her accusations.

    It is somewhat amusing to watch the practitioners of identity politics like yourself try to remove yourselves from your own petards after being hoisted on them.

  • The absurd notion that certain American allies (including the home base of terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, don’t forget) should be off-limits to criticism is unsupportable. And that’s not very complicated either.

  • Where she calls out politicians (not Jews) for being financially tied to AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobbying group with ties to Israel’s far-right party?

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