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US House to condemn anti-Semitism after lawmaker's Israel remarks

AFP , Wednesday 6 Mar 2019
Ilhan Omar
File photo: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., arrives for President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. Omar’s latest remarks about Israel are prompting House Democrats to draft a resolution condemning anti-Semitism Feb. 5, 2019 AP
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The US House will vote as early as Wednesday to condemn anti-Semitism, following another round of controversial comments by a new congresswoman who criticized pro-Israel lawmakers for potential "allegiance" to a foreign country.

The resolution is not expected to specifically name Ilhan Omar, one of the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress, but the vote will be a clear reprimand against the freshman from Minnesota -- and the second public admonishment by fellow Democrats that she will have received since coming to Washington.

Last week Omar sparked an uproar at a Washington event when she criticized the "powerful" pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, and US lawmakers who fiercely support the Jewish state.

"I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country," she said.

Several lawmakers and activists recoiled.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel said it was "unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the US-Israel relationship."

President Donald Trump weighed in late Monday, pointing to Omar's "terrible comments concerning Israel" and suggesting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remove her from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Anti-Defamation League chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt wrote to Pelosi slamming Omar's comments and urging the top Democrat to introduce a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and bigotry.

"Accusing Jews of having allegiance to a foreign government has long been a vile anti-Semitic slur that has been used to harass, marginalize, and persecute the Jewish people for centuries," he wrote.

Politico and others reported that the resolution, drafted by Pelosi and other top Democrats, will receive a floor vote Wednesday.

Last month Omar, a onetime refugee from Somalia, triggered uproar with comments that echoed an anti-Semitic trope that Jewish influence in politics is money-related.

Stunned Democratic leaders demanded -- and received -- and apology from Omar.

But a second round of controversial comments has further angered some lawmakers.

"It is disturbing that Rep. Omar continues to perpetuate hurtful anti-Semitic stereotypes that misrepresent our Jewish community," tweeted House Democrat Juan Vargas.

"Additionally, questioning support for the US-Israel relationship is unacceptable."

But Omar has pushed back. "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," she tweeted.

Omar's public statements triggered an ugly Islamophobic reaction in the West Virginia statehouse. A poster displayed there by Republicans comparing Omar to Al Qaeda terrorists and showing 9/11 imagery sparked a physical confrontation between Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

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