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Public Rebuke of Ilhan Omar for Substantive Critique of Israeli Policy a 'Disgrace,' Say Progressives

"Instead of throwing her under the bus, Democratic leadership should have Rep. Omar's back in pushing back against increasingly dangerous attacks and threats from the far right." 

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) waves to supporters at an election night results party on November 6, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

A growing chorus of criticism  from progressives across the country is targeting House Democrats who plan to publicly rebuke one of their own on Wednesday for talking about the influence of a powerful D.C. lobbying group.

On Wednesday, House leadership will introduce a resolution (pdf) to the floor calling out anti-Semitism in American life and politics. Though the resolution does not name Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the Congresswoman's recent comments questioning the ongoing influence and power of the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) on U.S. politics were the impetus for the resolution, POLITICO reported on Monday. 

Staffers for Pelosi and top Democrats, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), began drafting the resolution over the weekend as the confrontation between Omar and her colleagues unfolded on Twitter.

Progressive advocacy group CREDO expressed dissatisfaction with House leadership in a statement.

"Speaker Pelosi and Democratic leaders in the House need to stop attacking Rep. Ilhan Omar," wrote CREDO Action co-director Heidi Hess. "Rep. Omar’s willingness to voice badly needed and substantive critiques about Israeli government policies and disturbing trends in American foreign policy has earned her public condemnation, slander, and even threats of physical violence."

"Instead of throwing her under the bus," Hess added, "Democratic leadership should have Rep. Omar's back in pushing back against increasingly dangerous attacks and threats from the far right."

Members of the House GOP, meanwhile, are pushing to strip Omar of her committee assignments and may introduce a resolution to that effect on Wednesday. Prominent House Republicans made the case for the move on Twitter. 

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who once referred to himself as "David Duke without the baggage," expressed outrage over what he saw as Omar's continued "reward" of being on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. 

The number three Republican in the House, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), took to Twitter as well, calling a magazine cover featuring Omar alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "disgraceful and immoral." 

Omar's comments have been directed primarily at the power of AIPAC and subverting the longstanding conventional wisdom in Washington that it's career suicide to cross the lobbying group. 

Both Republicans and Democrats have condemned the remarks by alleging Omar implied that American Jews have dual loyalty issues, an anti-Semitic trope. However, as journalist Glenn Greenwald and others pointed out, Omar said nothing of the sort, and criticisms of Israel and AIPAC are not inherently anti-Semitic. 

Even moderates like The Atlantic writer Peter Beinart took issue with the attacks against the Congresswoman. Beinart pointed to the hypocrisy involved in pillorying Omar for criticizing AIPAC influence on U.S. politics while excusing Israel's ongoing lurch to the extreme right. 

For its part, AIPAC is leaning into Omar's point about career suicide with veiled threats against the Minnesota representative. In an article Tuesday from The New York Times, AIPAC activist Stephen Fiske said that Omar and fellow freshman Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) "are three people who, in my opinion, will not be around in several years."

Those comments come in direct contradiction to AIPAC's earlier claims that the group doesn't have outsized power or influence, a point that was wryly noted on Twitter by Isaiah Breen, communications director for Jewish Community Action Minnesota. 

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