As House Democratic leadership is struggling to find a dignified way to leave behind the firestorm of controversy that they themselves ignited over supposedly anti-semitic comments made by freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California has now come out in apparent defense of Omar. According to a piece in The Hill, Pelosi offered something of a defense of Rep. Omar, saying that she now believes the progressive lawmaker doesn’t harbor secret hatred of Jewish people, and that she doesn’t believe Omar is an anti-semite.
But at the same time, Pelosi continued to suggest that Rep. Omar needed to be corrected for what she said when she criticized lawmakers who are beholden to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a lobbying organization that lobbies for support from U.S. lawmakers for hardline right-wing policy in the Middle Eastern state.
“I don’t think that the congresswoman perhaps appreciates the full weight of how it was heard by other people, although I don’t believe it was intended in an anti-Semitic way,” Pelosi said to a group of reporters. “But the fact is, if that’s how it was interpreted, we have to remove all doubt.”
The controversy began when Omar was speaking to a group of constituents and criticized lawmakers who seem to have “allegiance” to both the United States and the state of Israel, as evidenced by their unwavering support for policies sought by AIPAC, and by extension, the government of Israel.
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Rep. Omar said, which sparked the brouhaha.
Many lawmakers pounced on the comments, accusing Omar of using a hoary anti-semitic trope, namely that of “dual loyalty,” the belief that no Jewish person is capable of being 100 percent loyal to the U.S. because they will always be more loyal to Israel.
But Pelosi and the House leadership were taken aback by the fury of the backlash against their crafting of a resolution against anti-semitism that many saw as a thinly veiled rebuke of Rep. Omar. Establishment House Democrats, like Pelosi and Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, reportedly squabbled behind closed doors with newly-elected progressive House members and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. They questioned why there was such a pressing need for a resolution condemning anti-semitism given the barrage of anti-African-American, anti-Islamic, and anti-Latino sentiment that routinely comes out of the White House and other members of Congress.
Pelosi is said to be crafting a resolution that will condemn all of those as well, and likely hopes the whole thing will just go away.
“The resolution should enlarge the issue to anti-Semitism, anti-Islamophobia, anti-white supremacy,” Pelosi said, “and it should not mention [Omar’s] name, and that’s what we’re working on, something that is one resolution addressing all those forms of hatred and not mentioning her name.”