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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 March 2019

Congress postpones 'indefinitely' vote to rebuke Ilhan Omar

Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris criticised the effort against the Congresswoman

The Democrats are polarised over comments from representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, about America's relationship with Israel. Bloomberg
The Democrats are polarised over comments from representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, about America's relationship with Israel. Bloomberg

Under mounting pressure from its base, the Democratic leadership in the US House of Representatives has indefinitely postponed a vote on an anti-Semitism resolution in response to fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s criticism of Israel.

Both the Associated Press and the Washington Post reported late on Wednesday that the vote on the anti-Semitism resolution has been postponed indefinitely. The move was initially planned for Wednesday before being delayed by a day, but then divisions within the Democratic Party and a push from Ms Omar’s colleagues on the left, prompted the indefinite delay. Ms Omar is the first Somali American elected to Congress, and one of two first Muslim women in the House of Representatives.

The resolution ̶ which didn’t mention the Minnesota congresswoman by name ̶ was in direct response to her remark cautioning against “the political influence in this country [the US] that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country [Israel].” The remark was read by many supporters of Israel as an accusation of “dual loyalty”. Their resolution would have affirmed that it “rejects anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”

But on Wednesday, ranking figures in the Democratic Party among them two Presidential hopefuls, warned against the effort. “We all have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and all forms of hatred and bigotry, especially as we see a spike in hate crimes in America,” said California senator and candidate for President Kamala Harris in a statement. “But 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” she added.

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Ms Harris said: “there is a difference between criticism of policy or political leaders, and anti-Semitism. At the end of the day, we need a two-state solution and a commitment to peace, human rights, and democracy by all leaders in the region, and a commitment by our country to help achieve that.”

Senator Bernie Sanders also opposed the campaign against Ms Omar. “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,” he said.

“Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world,” Mr Sanders, who is running for President said in his statement. “We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel,” he warned.

The divide around Ms Omar statements came as a new Gallup poll revealed that support for Israel in the United States is at the lowest it has been in 10 years. The support for Israel dropped to 59 percent among Americans, compared to 21 percent who said they sympathise with the Palestinians. That's the highest level of support for the Palestinians and the lowest for Israel since 2009.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in the midst of a heated election and a corruption scandal, is scheduled to visit Washington later this month to speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and meet US President Donald Trump.

Updated: March 7, 2019 07:23 AM

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