Democratic Rep. James Clyburn came to the defense of Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar by saying that her experience in a Kenyan refugee camp was “more personal” than people whose parents are Holocaust survivors.
The South Carolina House Majority Whip made these comments amid a rising tide of support for the Minnesota congresswoman from Democrats who have pushed back after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposed that House Democrats pass a resolution condemning anti-Semitism.
Such a resolution would have, either directly or indirectly, targeted Omar, a Muslim, who in recent comments has been accused of anti-Semitism. Pelosi was responding to comments from high-profile Democrats who believed Omar was out of line.
Clyburn said that the media has largely ignored the fact that Omar was born in Somalia, but left the country to escape violence and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to the U.S., according to The Hill.
“There are people who tell me, ‘Well, my parents are Holocaust survivors.’ ‘My parents did this.’ It’s more personal with her,” Clyburn said. “I’ve talked to her, and I can tell you she is living through a lot of pain.”
Clyburn said that whatever emerges from the negotiations underway among Democrats who have converted Pelosi’s initial resolution into something broader, Omar will not be condemned.
“She won’t be targeted. We’re going to target those people who had her picture on the Twin Towers,” Clyburn said. A poster with pictures of Omar’s face and the 9/11 attack caused an incident at the West Virginia statehouse.
“This resolution is going to be inclusive; it’s going to be expansive, and I might just try to add something to deal with that billboard that’s up in Pennsylvania this morning calling John Lewis and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus racists.”
Several Democratic presidential candidates joined congressional Democrats rallying behind Omar.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent seeking the Democratic nomination for the White House, issued a statement defending Omar, Fox News reported.
“Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world,” Sanders wrote.
“We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel. Rather, we must develop an even-handed Middle East policy which brings Israelis and Palestinians together for a lasting peace. 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.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Omar should not be stifled, according to CNN.
“Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has had a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians,” she said.
San. Kamala Harris of California said she was worried that Omar was “at risk.”
“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,” she said.
“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. We should be having a sound, respectful discussion about policy.
“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. 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.”
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