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Congressional Democrats and antisemitism

Hakeem Jeffries’s endorsement of Ilhan Omar will only further legitimize antisemitism in American life.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in Jerusalem, April 24, Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in Jerusalem, April 24, Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.
Farley Weiss
Farley Weiss is chairman of the Israel Heritage Foundation (IHF) and former president of the National Council of Young Israel.

The Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives has failed to stand up to antisemitism. In particular, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) has endorsed antisemitic Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for re-election.

“Rep. Omar has been elected by her constituents three times and has consistently stood up for them, including through her service on the House Budget Committee,” Jeffries stated. “As House Democratic leader, I vigorously endorse her reelection and stand with her as we battle extreme MAGA Republicans for the future of our nation.”

On July 18, the House voted to condemn both antisemitism and the claim that Israel is a racist and apartheid state. It passed 412-9 with Rep. Betsy McCollum (D-Minn.) voting present. Jeffries’s statement indicates that the House Democratic leadership will endorse all nine Democratic lawmakers who voted against the resolution.

Worse still, Mark Mellman, the president and CEO of the Democratic Majority for Israel, defended Jeffries’s endorsement of Omar while admitting that Omar has made antisemitic statements. Mellman justified Jeffries’s endorsement by saying it is customary to endorse all incumbents.

On March 7, 2019, the House of Representatives passed Resolution 183, which condemned antisemitism. It was initiated in response to antisemitic comments made by Omar and fellow congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

The text of the resolution stated that its purpose was to “ensure safety” for the Jewish people. It included the statement that “accusing Jews of being more loyal to Israel or to the Jewish community than to the U.S. constitutes antisemitism.”

This was prompted by Omar’s Feb. 27, 2019 categorization of supporters of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship as people who “push allegiance to a foreign country.”

Omar’s libel followed Tlaib’s tweet the previous month in which she criticized Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)’s anti-BDS efforts with the accusation: “They forgot what country they represent.” Rubio responded, “The ‘dual loyalty’ canard is a typical antisemite line.”

Neither Omar nor Tlaib has apologized for their antisemitic statements.

The congresswomen’s antisemitism goes much deeper than their antisemitic statements. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IRHA) ’s widely adopted definition of antisemitism includes the denial of Israel’s right to exist. Tlaib in particular has rejected this right and demands Israel be dismantled. By definition, this is antisemitic.

Moreover, both Omar and Tlaib support the BDS movement, which seeks to weaken and ultimately destroy Israel through economic, social and political means. One of the leaders of the movement is Omar Barghouti, who has publicly stated that Israel should never have been created.

Omar won her last primary by less than 2% of the vote. If Jeffries and the rest of the Democratic leadership oppose her re-election, she would likely lose. Jeffries’s statements show they have no intention of doing so.

The Republicans had a similar decision to make regarding former congressman Steve King, who made statements in support of white supremacy. Then-Minority Leader and current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) rightly endorsed King’s primary challenger, Randy Feenstra. He also dropped King from all committees. King was not reelected.

In contrast, when a vote was taken to remove Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee—she was removed—every single House Democrat, including all Jewish members, voted to keep her on the immensely powerful committee.

A few years ago, former basketball star Kareem Abdul Jabbar bravely wrote about the “shocking lack of massive indignation” concerning antisemitic statements made by black athletes and celebrities. Thankfully, several of those who made such statements have since apologized. In contrast, Omar and Tlaib’s antisemitism has become acceptable in their party and thus in Congress.

Jabbar said, “It is not enough to have good intentions, because it’s the actual deeds—and words—which have the real impact.”

The Democratic House leadership, Mellman and his organization, and the Democratic Party as a whole have failed to do the actual deeds in the fight against antisemitism. Endorsing Omar and defending her and other congressional antisemites will only further legitimatize antisemitism in American life.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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