House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats are expected to bring a resolution condemning anti-Semitism to a House vote this week in a direct rebuke of recent comments by Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar questioning the U.S.’s relationship with Israel. After facing criticism, the Democratic leadership added language in the resolution condemning anti-Muslim bias, as well. We speak to Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who says, “I just want to make sure that we are protecting the right for the first Muslim woman to be in Congress and to question, legitimately, foreign policy toward Israel.”
More from this Interview
- Part 1: Rep. Pramila Jayapal: Medicare for All Will Lower Costs & Expand Healthcare Coverage to Everyone
- Part 2: Rep. Jayapal: We Must Protect Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Right to Critique U.S. Foreign Policy on Israel
- Part 3: Jayapal: Democrats Are Ready to Issue Subpoenas If White House Blocks New Requests for Documents
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Jayapal, I also want to ask you about another story. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats are expected to bring a resolution condemning anti-Semitism to a House vote—it was supposed to be today, looks like this week—in a direct rebuke of recent comments by Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar questioning the U.S.’s relationship with Israel. After facing criticism, the Democratic leadership added language in the resolution condemning anti-Muslim bias, as well. Congressmember Omar is one of the first two female Muslim congressmembers in U.S. history.
The draft resolution comes days after Democrat Eliot Engel, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, accused Omar of making a, quote, “vile anti-Semitic slur” at a recent event in Washington, D.C., at Busboys and Poets. This is part of what Congressmember Omar said.
REP. ILHAN OMAR: I want to talk about—I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask: Why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy?
AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Congressmember Ilhan Omar speaking at the event at Busboys and Poets. And, Congressmember Jayapal, you were right there next to her at the event. Can you talk about the anti-Semitism resolution, as they’re calling it? Now, because of enormous pushback by people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, they are adding condemnation of Islamophobia, as well. What about what Ilhan Omar is saying?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Well, you know, I’m the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and we have been working for the last several days with House leadership to make sure that any resolution we pass takes on the same issues around Islamophobia, around anti-Semitism, around all of the bigotry and racism that we are seeing, frankly, fueled in large part by a president and a GOP who refuse to call any of it out. So, we, the Democratic Party, are united in the belief that anti-Semitism is wrong. And there are old tropes that do come out sometimes, and we have to—you know, we have to contend with those.
And I think that Representative Omar—and I was the first member of Congress to endorse her when she ran for Congress. She is a friend. And I believe that she is very intently listening to her Jewish friends and colleagues, who are explaining why one sentence, in everything that she said, was troubling. However, I do think we have pushed very hard for this resolution to also include anything around Islamophobia. This is a member of Congress who is being subjected to deeply unfair, in my part, scrutiny around everything she says, at a different level than others. Now, I think she knows that she has to be extra careful because of that. But I also think that we should condemn, you know, a poster that ties her to the 9/11 terrorists. I think that is outrageous.
And so, we have been pushing, and we’ve been successful, I think, and I’m grateful to Speaker Pelosi for recognizing that we need to take all of this on. I don’t know how many more resolutions we’re going to have to put forward around these comments, when I think the Republicans are just trying to divide the Democratic Caucus, the Democratic Party. I know that we just need to make sure we stay united, that we stand in support of all of our colleagues, and especially recognize that our colleagues are willing to learn and listen, whereas—you know, and even say they’re wrong, as Ilhan Omar did the last time she said something that was really called out. But I don’t see that coming from the other side.
And I just want to make sure that we are protecting also the right for the first Muslim woman—two, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan—to be in Congress and to question, legitimately, foreign policy towards Israel. We need to make sure we separate anything that, you know, might be said, which I don’t believe Representative Omar meant in that way, from a legitimate critique of Israel. And I am worried that these two things are coming together and that a lot of the noise that’s out there is designed to prevent us from taking on the question of our foreign policy towards Israel.
That said, I didn’t notice that she said that sentence in the middle. It was the middle of a very, very long speech, in some ways. The first part was very much about solidarity with our Jewish allies. The second part of the speech was really about our foreign policy towards Israel. Unfortunately, the sentence was in the middle. And I think she recognizes that—that, you know, she has apologized before for some of her oversight there. But I think she wants to make some legitimate points about our foreign policy towards Israel, and she should be allowed to do that, and we should be allowed to debate that.