COLUMN: Congress Must Do More to Condemn Anti-Semitism

March 11, 2019
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

A member of Congress makes a hateful remark, and House congressional leaders of the same political party respond by swiftly condemning and then strip that representative of all committee assignments—a severe punishment.

If you think I’m referring to House Democrats’ response to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) widely-covered statement last week referring to American Jews who support Israel as harboring dual loyalties (“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,”) then you would be sadly mistaken. The scenario I described occurred in January when Rep. Steve King (R-IA) was rightly punished by House GOP leadership for racist remarks.

In contrast to the strong action taken by the GOP in the case of Rep. King, Rep. Omar has refused to apologize and has not been held accountable for her hateful rhetoric. All this is despite her repeated anti-Semitic statements: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” and, “All about the Benjamins baby.”

Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) responded to Rep. Omar’s latest statement saying, “No member of Congress is asked to swear allegiance to another country. Throughout history, Jews have been accused of dual loyalty, leading to discrimination and violence, which is why these accusations are so hurtful.” Unfortunately, House Democrats failed to come together to agree on anything but a watered-down resolution originally written to condemn Omar’s anti-Semitism. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) spoke for many on both sides of the aisle by asking, "Why are we unable to singularly condemn anti-Semitism? Why can't we call it anti-Semitism and show we've learned the lessons of history?”

Rep. Omar sent a celebratory press release after the anti-hate resolution passed, congratulating Congress for condemning “hate of all kinds,” but offering no apology. Rep. Omar continues to serve on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

In fact, instead of holding Rep. Omar accountable, Speaker Pelosi defended her, saying that “she has a different experience in the use of words,” as though a 37-year old elected member of Congress cannot understand the impact of anti-Semitic hate.

I am a strong supporter of our friend and ally, Israel. In 2015, I visited Yad Vashem in Israel, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, which bears witness to the consequences of hatred toward the Jewish people. We cannot forget that the anti-Semitism that led to the horror of the Holocaust began in small ways.

Congress cannot condone hateful behavior by failing to hold Rep. Omar accountable.

In the same way Congress responded to condemn white supremacy and Rep. Steve King, we must unite to hold Rep. Omar and all who perpetuate anti-Semitism accountable.