Liz Warren Defends Omar: Calling Criticism of Israel Anti-Semitic Has ‘Chilling Effect’

Elizabeth Warren, Ilhan Omar
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Senator and 2020 Democrat presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) defended Rep. Ilhad Omar (D-MN) Wednesday after the freshman congresswoman’s latest antisemitic outburst.

Warren said in a statement Wednesday

We have a moral duty to combat hateful ideologies in our own country and around the world — and that includes both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. In a democracy, we can and should have an open, respectful debate about the Middle East that focus on policy. Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

Warren concluded by stating that “threats of violence” akin to those made against the Minnesota Democrat are unacceptable under any circumstance.

Earlier Wednesday, fellow Democrat presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said that while Congress has a responsibility to speak out against bigotry, she is concerned a House Democrat resolution condemning Omar could put her in harm’s way.

“We all have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and all forms of hatred and bigotry,” said Harris. “But like some of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, I am concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), another White House contender, defended Omar, accusing House Democrat leadership of attempting to stifle “legitimate criticism” of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu by equating it with antisemitism.

“Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world. We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel,” said Sanders. “Rather, we must develop an even-handed Middle East policy which brings Israelis and Palestinians together for a lasting peace.”

“What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate,” the Vermont Independent continued. “That’s wrong.”

Meanwhile, House Democrats indefinitely postponed a vote on the resolution after a contentious meeting in which some new members confronted leaders over their push to rebuke Omar.

Omar last week suggested the Jewish state’s supporters are pushing lawmakers to pledge “allegiance” to a foreign country.

Last month, Omar deleted a 2012 tweet in which she said Israel had “hypnotized” America. She also apologized for suggesting that members of Congress support Israel because they are paid to do so. That remark earned her stern rebukes from Pelosi and House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY), among others. Last week, Engel declared that Omar’s suggestion about divided loyalties was a “vile anti-Semitic slur.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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