Jewish Groups Have Mixed Reactions to Omar’s Removal From House Foreign Affairs Committee

The House of Representatives voted 218-211 on a resolution to remove Omar from the committee along party lines.
February 2, 2023
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) leaves her office at the Longworth House Office Building on February 02, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Jewish groups shared differing opinions on Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) being booted off the House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 2.

The House of Representatives voted 218-211 on a resolution to remove Omar from the committee along party lines, with Representative David Joyce (R-OH) voting present, per CNN. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters that Omar “said that the American military was equal to Hamas and the Taliban. From a member of the Foreign Affairs [Committee], she said Americans only like Israel because ‘it’s all about the Benjamins.’ And three years later she says, ‘I didn’t know these were tropes.’” McCarthy also referenced Omar saying with regard to the 9/11 terror attacks that “something happened that day.” “What does that say to other people around the world?” McCarthy said. “What does that say to somebody else who wants to create another 9/11? I’m sorry, it’s not right. We were right in our action, and she can serve other committees.”

Omar tweeted after the vote, “I will continue to speak for the families who are seeking justice around the world—whether they are displaced in refugee camps or hiding under their bed somewhere like I was. I didn’t come to Congress to be silent. I came to Congress to be their voice. My leadership and voice will not diminish if I am not on this committee for one term. My voice will only get louder and stronger.”

Some Jewish groups lauded Omar being kicked off the committee. Simon Wiesenthal Center Dean and Founder Rabbi Marvin Hier and Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement, “No one believed for one minute her disingenuous claim following the deployment of a classic anti-Semitic trope. Representative Omar should have been held accountable immediately by the House when she made those statements. Moving forward, if Congresswoman Omar wants to repair her relationship with the Jewish community, she should own up to what was said in the past, apologize and move on.”

“For years, Democratic leadership has failed to hold Rep. Ilhan Omar accountable for her vile, hateful, and dangerous anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric,” Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) National Chairman Senator Norm Coleman and CEO Matt Brooks said in a statement. “Today, Republicans, under Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s leadership, kept their promise to remove Rep. Omar from the prestigious and crucially important House Foreign Affairs Committee.” They added: “We are gratified that Rep. Omar will no longer be in a privileged position to influence legislation regarding US policy toward Israel and the Middle East.”

Stop Antisemitism tweeted, “We are thrilled antisemite Ilhan Omar has been removed from the House Foreign Affairs committee. Bigotry against the Jewish people must never be tolerated and we applaud current leadership for having the guts to do what should have been done a few years ago.”

Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Action Fund said in a statement, “Rep. Omar has a track-record of trafficking in antisemitic tropes and making bigoted claims concerning pro-Israel activists. Moreover, her positions regarding the Middle East defy reason. She has made blatantly false claims about Israel and has even gone so far as to compare the United States and Israel to terrorist groups. An individual espousing such fringe and hateful beliefs has no place serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Just as we did during the last Congress when we supported the vote to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from her committees because of her own antisemitic comments, the CUFI Action Fund will continue to combat antisemitism in all its forms, wherever it is found.”

Former New York Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who heads the Americans Against Antisemitism watchdog, tweeted that kicking Omar off the committee was “teaching @TheDemocrats a lesson on what it means to follow through in doing the right thing rather than just making empty threats! I hope this is a teachable moment for Omar: Say ‘NO’ to Jew-hatred!”

Other Jewish groups criticized the move.

“Jewish Dems condemn violence, antisemitism, and extremism wherever they exist,” Jewish Democratic Council of America CEO Halie Soifer said in a statement. “There is no equivalence between the two parties on this issue—Democrats have sought to combat extremism, while the GOP has normalized bigotry and provided a political home for extremists. The three Democrats removed from committees in the past week have never advocated for attacking our democracy or murdering their colleagues, unlike some Republicans currently serving on House committees.”

She added that the move shows how the Republicans disrespect “good governance or democratic norms.” “As we have said before, Jewish Dems oppose the GOP removal of these three Democrats from their committee assignments,” Soifer said. “We’ve disagreed with Rep. Omar on Israel, condemned her use of antisemitic tropes, and welcomed her apology. Today, we stand with House Democrats in strongly opposing this unjust act of political retribution. We also stand with Muslim Americans calling out this Republican attack for being rooted in bigotry and Islamophobia.”

J Street tweeted that the move was “cynical” and “especially exploitative given the myriad antisemitic statements from [McCarthy] and his top deputies.” As examples, they pointed to McCarthy tweeting “that George Soros and two other billionaires of Jewish descent were seeking to ‘buy’ an election” and House Whip Tom Emmer (R-IN) tweeting something similar. J Street also accused Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the Republican Conference Chair, of promoting “the deadly, antisemitic ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory.”

Americans for Peace Now (APN) condemned the move. “Speaker McCarthy’s claim that he did so on the basis that Representative Omar is ‘antisemitic’ is both inaccurate and offensive,” they said in a statement. “Criticizing Israeli policies and actions is not antisemitic. Antisemitism is a real and dangerous threat, and misrepresenting Congresswoman Omar’s statements does not advance the fight against antisemitism. Instead, this transparent attempt to weaponize the accusation of antisemitism to score cheap political points damages efforts to isolate and eradicate antisemitic speech. Targeting Omar has wide-ranging repercussions that go beyond congressional committee assignments. Representative Omar has been the target of disturbing and hateful Islamophobic attacks and threats, which could be further fueled by today’s House action against her.”

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