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BY: CRISTINA MARCOS
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Tuesday pushed back against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for denouncing the global boycott and sanctions movement against Israel during an appearance before the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.
During a speech before the conference Tuesday morning, Pelosi said “we must also be vigilant against bigoted or dangerous ideologies masquerading as policy, and that includes BDS,” referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Omar, as well as fellow freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), both support the BDS movement, which seeks to pressure Israel over its policy toward Palestinians. The rookie lawmakers are the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress.
“A condemnation for people that want to exercise their First Amendment rights is beneath any leader, and I hope that we find a better use of language when we are trying to speak as members of Congress that are sworn to protect the Constitution,” Omar told reporters in a Capitol hallway after a House Democratic Caucus meeting on Tuesday.
But Omar didn’t respond and kept walking with an aide when a reporter asked if she thought Pelosi’s comments were aimed at her or Tlaib.
Omar also swiped at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, who rebuked her tweet saying that “it’s all about the Benjamins baby” in reference to why U.S. lawmakers defend Israel.
“From this Benjamin: It’s not about the Benjamins!,” Netanyahu said.
“This from a man facing indictments for bribery and other crimes in three separate public corruption affairs,” Omar tweeted Tuesday. “Next!”
Omar has faced multiple firestorms in recent weeks for making comments critical of Israel that many lawmakers in both parties condemned as invoking anti-Semitic tropes.
In January, Omar apologized for a 2012 tweet amid the Gaza War saying that “Israel has hypnotized the world.” And last month, she also apologized after suggesting that U.S. lawmakers defending Israel are motivated by money, while referencing AIPAC.
Late last month at a Washington forum with progressives, Omar described the pro-Israel lobby as a “political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
The House subsequently passed a resolution condemning hatred, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, in response to Omar’s remarks. Jewish Democrats had pushed for an initial version of the resolution that only focused on condemning anti-Semitism.
Pelosi referenced the latest Omar controversy in her address to AIPAC on Tuesday, saying that “the full House came together to condemn the anti-Semitic myth of dual loyalty and all forms of bigotry.”
“In our democratic societies, we should welcome legitimate debate at how best to honor our values and to advance our priorities without questioning loyalty or patriotism,” Pelosi said.
“I simply declare that to be anti-Semitic is to be anti-American,” Pelosi added. “It has no place in our country.”
Amid pressure from liberal groups, Democratic presidential candidates are skipping this year’s AIPAC conference. But multiple Democratic leaders are speaking at the AIPAC gathering, including Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Hoyer also rebuked the notion of dual loyalty in his address to AIPAC on Sunday, without specifically naming Omar.
“I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically. So when someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer, like Pelosi, endorsed a resolution from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) that rejects BDS and reaffirms support for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.
“Together, we will defeat BDS because at its core, it is un-American,” Hoyer said to applause.