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Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House will vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hate after an upheaval that split Democrats and clouded their agenda. But Pelosi said the measure won’t name Ilhan Omar. (March 7)
AP

WASHINGTON – After debates and delays over the wording of the text, House Democrats plan to vote Thursday on a resolution broadly condemning hate.

An early draft of the resolution, which Democrats had hoped to vote on Wednesday, was focused solely on denouncing anti-Semitism. It was crafted after freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., made comments critical of Israel, which critics said played to anti-Semitic tropes.

But that effort received pushback from progressive Democrats like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said it was unfair to single out Omar – although a draft version of the initial resolution obtained by USA TODAY did not mention Omar by name. They pointed out that Omar, who is Muslim, has herself been the subject of offensive attacks, such as a poster displayed in West Virginia’s statehouse implying she was linked to the 9/11 attacks.

The Democrats compromised by drafting a resolution that condemns both anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination, as well as general “bigotry against minorities.” The resolution does not mention Omar by name. 

“It’s not about her,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Thursday. 

The new resolution condemns “anti-Semitism” and “anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contrary to the values and aspirations of the United States.” 

The resolution did not appear to satisfy some Democrats. 

“Why are we unable to singularly condemn anti-Semitism?” asked Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., in a speech Thursday from the House floor. 

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House Democrats were anxious to push ahead with the resolution ahead of a vote on an important Democratic-led initiative on Friday. Democrats feared Republicans would offer a last-minute amendment and put Democrats in the awkward position of appearing to have to choose between condemning their colleague or looking soft on anti-Semitism.

Omar has generated a substantial amount of controversy since taking office just over two months ago. House Republicans quickly objected to her appointment to the House Foreign Affairs Committee because of her past statements criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. They cited a 2012 tweet in which she said Israel had “hypnotized the world.” 

On Feb 10, Omar was roundly criticized for tweets implying the influence of pro-Israel lobbying groups was stifling debate about Israel and Palestine. Critics said the comments played into enduring stereotypes about Jewish money controlling politics. 

Omar “unequivocally” apologized for the tweets and said the comments were “not intended to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.” She later deleted the posts, along with the one from 2012. 

Just as the uproar over the tweets was subsiding, Omar appeared at a town hall event in Washington, D.C., where she suggested Israel demands “allegiance” from American lawmakers. Critics said that comment invoked another anti-Semitic trope questioning the loyalty of American Jews. 

“We’ve had lots of conversations about foreign policy, but the fact is that using anti-Semitic tropes like the dual-loyalty charge, which I take so personally, both as a member of Congress and the son of a World War II veteran, that language is unacceptable and must be condemned,” Deutch said Thursday on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria.”  

After her town hall remarks, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., issued a statement denouncing Omar’s “vile, anti-Semitic slur” and demanding that she apologize. So far, Omar has not apologized for those remarks.

When asked if she thought an apology from Omar was necessary, Pelosi said, “It’s up to her to explain. But I do not believe she understood the full weight of the words.” 

But Pelosi said she was “confident that her words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude” and that Omar “didn’t have a full appreciation” of the “cultural impact” of her words and their offensive historic connotations. 

More: Elliott Abrams bristles at Rep. Ilhan Omar’s ‘attack’ for his Iran-Contra role

More: Rep. Omar starts furor with tweets on ‘compromised’ Sen. Graham, Israel ‘evil doings’

The resolution specifically addresses the anti-Semitic tropes Omar has been accused of invoking. 

“Accusing Jews of being more loyal to Israel or to the Jewish community than to the United States constitutes anti-Semitism because it suggests that Jewish citizens cannot be patriotic Americans and trusted neighbors,” the proposed resolution says. “Accusations of dual loyalty generally have an insidious and pernicious history.” 

Republicans pounced on the Democratic infighting and criticized them for not being able to unite in opposition to anti-Semitism. 

“This is shameful and unacceptable,” tweeted Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. “@SpeakerPelosi has shown that Democrats like @Ilhan can make anti-Semitic comments with no real consequences. She continues to sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee and now Dems can’t even muster the courage to officially condemn anti-Semitism.” 

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., in defending Omar to The Hill on Wednesday, said her experience escaping violence in her birth country of Somalia is “more empirical – and powerful” than those of people years removed from Japanese internment camps and the Holocaust.

“I’m serious about that. There are people who tell me, ‘Well, my parents are Holocaust survivors.’ ‘My parents did this.’ It’s more personal with her,” Clyburn told The Hill. “I’ve talked to her, and I can tell you she is living through a lot of pain.”

The progressive group CREDO defended Omar in a statement Thursday, calling the resolution a “dangerous waste of time.” 

“Democrats should be spending their time in Congress investigating the purveyors of hate in the Trump White House, not pushing platitudes in order to implicitly condemn one of their own,” said CREDO Action Co-Director Heidi Hess. 

The pro-Israel organization J Street welcomed the resolution and urged lawmakers to pass it “immediately.” 

“We believe it is an important step forward in the fight against anti-Semitism for the Jewish community to stand together with Muslim-Americans and other vulnerable communities of color and faith that are subjected to discrimination and attack on the basis of their religion, race, ethnicity or other status,” the group said. 

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, was less enthusiastic about the compromised resolution. 

“At the Anti-Defamation League, we have fiercely opposed hate and bigotry in all forms for more than 100 years,” he wrote in an op-ed for USA TODAY. “However, at the end of the day, words matter. When prominent people or members of Congress spout anti-Semitic rhetoric, it gives a green light to others to repeat that rhetoric.” 

“We will continue to call out elected officials in both parties when they spew hate, and now is the time for Congress to send a clear, unambiguous message: There is no place for anti-Semitism in the United States.”

See the full House resolution here: