Rep. Ilhan Omar has been in office for just two months, but in that short amount of time, she’s completely upended the debate around Israel and Palestine, as well as the pro-Israel lobby’s unmatched influence on American politics. The proof has been in the pudding at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference, whose speakers include the four party leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives as well as Vice President Mike Pence.
On the opening night of the conference, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer went off on a tangent where he dared detractors to accuse him—a Baptist—of having “dual loyalties,” a thinly veiled reference to comments Omar made last month saying she wanted to “talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence—a man who serves in the administration of a guy who thinks “very fine people” were among those chanting “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville—devoted a large chunk of his AIPAC speech to attacking Omar. Per Haaretz’ transcript of his speech:
Recently a freshman Democrat in Congress trafficked in repeated anti-Semitic tropes, alleged congressional support for Israel reflected an allegiance to a foreign country, said that Israel had – and I quote – “hypnotized the world,” and she accused Americans who support Israel of being bought off with campaign contributions. Anti-Semitism has no place in the Congress of the United States of America.
And at a minimum, anyone who slanders those who support this historic alliance between the United States and Israel should never have a seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States House of Representatives.
And today, we’ve had this:
But the real headliner so far has been Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer—a man who, at last year’s conference, said that the reason there is “not peace” is because Palestinians “don’t believe in the Torah.” During his speech on Monday night, Schumer thankfully avoided the theology, but still managed to compare Omar’s comments over the past few months to overtly anti-Semitic things said and done by House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and President Donald Trump:
Yes, that is Schumer including a neutral statement by Donald Trump towards actual neo-Nazis and this Kevin McCarthy tweet in the same arena of anti-Semitism as two things Ilhan Omar said about the influence of the lobbying group whose conference Schumer was giving this speech at.
There’s also another problem: if Schumer was actually referring to Omar here, she didn’t ever say that “being Jewish and supporting Israel means you’re not loyal to America.” While Omar did suggest in a February tweet that the pro-Israel lobby, like any other lobby in America, leverages its resources to convince lawmakers to support a pro-Israel agenda, she has never singled out Jewish lawmakers. The reason for that is simple enough: American politicians’ unwavering support for Israel (and hatred and condescension towards Palestinians) stretches across political and religious lines. Evangelical Christians, in particular, have especially fucked-up reasons for their support of the Israeli government.
But as a black Muslim woman, it appears that Omar is expected to keep her mouth shut about these issues, as evidenced by this week’s bipartisan pile-on. Unfortunately for AIPAC and the leaders in her party, she doesn’t seem to be taking their advice.
We’ve reached out to Schumer’s office to ask if he believes Omar’s comments were comparable to those made by Trump and McCarthy, and to clarify that he was talking about Omar in the “being Jewish and supporting Israel means you’re not loyal to America” comment. We’ve also reached out to Omar. We’ll update with any response we receive.
Update, 12:11 p.m. ET: When reached for comment, a Schumer spokesperson directed Splinter back to Schumer’s speech.
Omar’s office has so far not responded to our request for comment, but Omar did address the conference in a remark to Congressional reporters earlier today: