In the face of a House resolution vote called in response to Ilhan Omar’s criticisms of powerful political lobbies and the actions of the Israeli government, Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders have spoken out to defend the Minnesota Democrat. They each released statements on Wednesday condemning anti-Semitism while also critiquing the racist smear campaign against Omar that is coming from both the right and her colleagues in the Democratic Party.
Sanders, who is Jewish, said that while anti-Semitism is a “hateful and dangerous ideology,” it must not be confused with criticism of Israel’s government under the right-wing leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We must develop an even-handed Middle East policy which brings Israelis and Palestinians together for a lasting peace,” Sanders said. “What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate. That’s wrong.”
Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass said focusing on Omar was “inappropriate” especially considering that Omar has already received death threats prior to this latest controversy. Harris appeared to agree with this assessment in her own statement, agreeing that “like some of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, I am concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk.”
“We should be having a sound, respectful discussion about policy,” Harris continued. “You can both support Israel and be loyal to our country. I also believe there is a difference between criticism of policy or political leaders, and anti-Semitism.”
Warren, in her own statement, wrote that we must condemn both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and that there should be room for “open, respectful debate” about Middle East policy. She continued:
We have a moral duty to combat hateful ideologies in our own country and around the world―and that includes both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. In a democracy, we can and should have an open, respectful debate about the Middle East that focuses on policy. Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians. Threats of violence ― like those made against Rep. Omar ― are never acceptable.
The House vote is still scheduled for Thursday.