Presidential candidate Rep. Bernie Sanders has defended Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Mn), who was criticized by some Democrats and many Republicans last week when she made comments about pro-Israel lawmakers that were perceived as anti-Semitic.
At an event in Washington, D.C. last week, Omar said she wanted “to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Omar did not back down, tweeting she “should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on
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Sanders defended Omar, warning against equating “anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel.
“As I see it, she has been critical of the Israeli government, and I think that that is a fair criticism,” Sanders said during an interview with WMUR-TV. “And I have been very critical of the Israeli government in terms of their treatment of Palestinians.”
“What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate,” Sanders said.
The House approved a resolution Thursday condemning “anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and other forms of bigotry” in a move that Democrats hope will settle the latest uproar over Rep. Omar’s criticism of Israel,
This is the second time that the House voted to condemn anti-Semitism “as a rebuke of Omar, although she is not named in either resolution,” NPR reported. The first time was in response to a tweet.
The first tweet came in February when House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy threatened to punish Omar and another congresswoman for being critical of Israel. Omar tweeted back, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” referring to $100 bills from a Puff Daddy song. Critics said she used a negative and harmful stereotype of Jewish Americans.
In a New York Times opinion piece, columnist Bret Stephens said Omar has the freedom to think what she likes about Israel or any other country:
“Like many self-described progressives, Omar does not like Israel. That’s a shame, not least because Israel is the only country in its region that embraces the sorts of values the Democratic Party claims to champion. When was the last time there was a gay-pride parade in Ramallah, a women’s rights march in Gaza, or an opposition press in Tehran? In what Middle Eastern country other than Israel can an attorney general indict a popular and powerful prime minister on corruption charges?”