House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been hit with a backlash over her decision to assign freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, despite the Minnesota Democrat’s record of anti-Israel advocacy.
The House Republican leadership blasted the decision, citing Ms. Omar’s 2012 tweet saying that Israel had “hypnotized the world” and was guilty of “evil doings,” as well as her support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
“It is disgraceful that Speaker Pelosi and her Democrat majority gave a coveted seat on the House Foreign Relations Committee to a member who has a documented history of making anti-Semitic and anti-Israel remarks,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said in a Thursday statement.
“Rather than standing up against the disturbing rise of anti-Semitic rhetoric on the left, House Democrats have now just endorsed that ideology,” he said.
House Republican Conference chair Liz Cheney called on Democrats to “correct this immediately,” while former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday that Mrs. Pelosi should “reverse herself.”
“Nancy Pelosi should ask Congresswoman Omar to step down, and if she doesn’t step down, the Democrat leadership should remove her,” Mr. Flesicher told Fox News.
Republicans weren’t alone. The move, which received extensive coverage in the Jewish and Israeli press, was also condemned by Jewish groups and advocates of Israel.
“So the @TheDemocrats thought it a good idea to reward @IlhanMN with a cushy appt!” tweeted former New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat. “Was it her demonization of Israel that won her the spot? 2020 is around the corner. Good luck to Dems explaining this twisted move on the campaign trail!”
Ms. Omar, who said the House Foreign Affairs Committee was her “first choice,” addressed the 2012 tweet this week in two interviews with CNN, saying Tuesday that “those unfortunate words were the only words I could think about expressing at that moment.”
“I don’t know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans,” she added in a Thursday interview. “My comments precisely are addressing what was happening during the Gaza War and I am clearly speaking about the way the Israeli regime was conducting itself in that war.”
Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel responded that Ms. Omar had “just doubled down on her claim that ‘Israel has hypnotized the world,’ calling its behavior ‘evil.’ “
“But instead of denouncing it, Democrat leadership rewarded her with a spot on the House Foreign Relations Committee,” Ms. McDaniel tweeted.
Meanwhile, Palestinian advocates cheered the addition of Ms. Omar to the committee.
“This is huge news!” said IfNotNow, which bills itself as a Jewish progressive group. “Having an anti-Occupation voice like Ilhan Omar’s on the House Foreign Affairs Committee will be a welcome change. And it’s further proof that the days of the Democrats’ support-Israel-at-all-costs stance are numbered.”
Mr. Flesicher echoed the sentiment that Democratic support for Israel on the left is waning, despite support from leaders like Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.
“The democratic leadership has historically been very pro-Israel, but it’s cracking because the Democratic grassroots are increasingly anti-Israel and, as we’ve seen with the Women’s March, increasingly anti-Semitic,” Mr. Fleischer said.
For the first time, there are two members of Congress who are openly supportive of the BDS movement: Ms. Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Democrat.
“And Pelosi is trying to split that difference,” Mr. Fleischer said. “You don’t split it: You stand on principle and you stand with Israel and with the American Jewish community. That’s the problem Nancy Pelosi has. She’s cast her lot with the wrong group.”
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