House Democrats failed Wednesday to introduce a resolution condemning antisemitism, which had been promised in response to the latest antisemitic remarks by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tried to contain the political damage, claiming that repeat-offender Omar was not “intentionally antisemitic.”
Other Democrats found another excuse: they claimed criticizing Omar would stifle “legitimate criticism” of Israel.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) claimed Democrats who criticized Omar were arguing it was “unacceptable to even *question* US foreign policy.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), running for president as a Democrat, said, “What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate. That’s wrong.” Rivals Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) made similar comments.
Rep. André Carson (D-IN), likewise, said that while Americans should “always strive to be inclusive and tolerant,” nevertheless “we cannot shut down legitimate policy debate.” And Omar, he said, “has raised valid points about Palestine and Israel that should be debated.”
Notably, Carson did not cite any examples of “valid points” that Omar had made. That is because she never did. Omar’s target was not Israel, but the American Jewish community.
Omar kicked off the controversy by tweeting last month, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” She was re-tweeting a comment by journalist Glenn Greenwald — a vehement critic of Israel — who lamented the fact that Congress is so supportive of Israel. Omar’s clear meaning — made even clearer in subsequent tweets — was that pro-Israel members of Congress had been paid to support Israel. Her remarks had antisemitic implications; she later apologized.
But Omar could not help herself, and claimed last week in front of a friendly audience at a Washington, DC, bookstore that pro-Israel Americans had “allegiance to a foreign country.” Her remark evoked themes of “dual loyalty” that have been used as a pretext to persecute Jews since the days of the Bible. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — on which Omar site — called her words a “vile anti-Semitic slur.”
That was the context of Omar’s remarks. She was complaining about Americans who support Israel, not criticizing any Israeli policy.
The only tangential link to any actual policy issue, perhaps, was Omar’s support for the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” (BDS) movement against Israel, which is the target of Republican criticism. Notably, Pelosi put Omar on the foreign affairs committee despite Omar’s support for BDS. She wasn’t silenced; she was promoted.
Omar’s remarks have embarrassed Democrats. They have also weakened the party’s attack on President Donald Trump, whom they have falsely portrayed as a bigot. Still, Democrats lack the political will to condemn antisemitism outright. They added a condemnation of anti-Muslim bigotry to their resolution, but even that could not convince the party’s “progressives” to support it. The result: a “full-scale brawl” over antisemitism in the party.
In an attempt to contain the damage, Democrats are claiming they are protecting “legitimate criticism” of Israel. But rather than saying, “We can criticize Israel, where appropriate, without resorting to vile anti-Semitic rhetoric,” they are effectively saying, “We cannot criticize vile anti-Semitic rhetoric if it might be construed as legitimate criticism of Israel.”
The party is giving a free pass to antisemitic bigotry — and criticism of Israel has nothing to do with it.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.