Dem lawmaker defends House freshmen accused of anti-Semitism as 'thoughtful colleagues'

The fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives Tuesday defended two freshman lawmakers who have been accused of anti-Semitic remarks as "thoughtful colleagues" while insisting that "the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic Caucus is strongly pro-Israel."

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., was asked to respond to a Daily Caller report that Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., is a member of a Facebook group called the "Palestinian-American Congress" that posts anti-Semitic videos and memes. The Daily Caller also reported that activist Maher Abdel-qader, a key fundraiser for Tlaib's congressional campaign, posted a video last year questioning Jewish claims to Israel as well as the historical facts of the Holocaust.

"I'm not sure what The Daily Caller has or has not said," Jeffries, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters. "I've found [Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.,] to be thoughtful colleagues on a wide variety of issues. We can have a robust debate on domestic policy and on foreign policy."

The Daily Caller report was the latest to tie Tlaib and Omar to anti-Israel activists. Earlier this month, Tlaib was criticized for hosting a dinner featuring an activist with ties to the terror group Hezbollah who has previously suggested that Israeli Jews move to New York.

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Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, was also accused of anti-Semitism when she criticized Senate Republicans over a bill that would allow state and local governments to restrict contracts and take other actions against those who support the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel, saying "They forgot what country they represent."

In 2012, Omar wrote on Twitter that "Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel." She has also admitted to supporting the BDS movement. Earlier this month, Democratic leaders elevated Omar to the House Foreign Relations Committee amid harsh criticism from Republican leaders.

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"[House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi said in 2017 that Congress ‘must’ oppose the BDS movement against Israel," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said at the time. "[Senate Democratic Leader] Chuck Schumer went even further, calling BDS ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘profoundly biased.’ I would love to know what changed, because Democratic leaders just promoted a pro-BDS Democrat to a key committee that deals with the State of Israel."

On Tuesday, Jeffries said the House would not take up the anti-BDS bill if the Senate passes it as expected this week.

"We are not going to allow the Senate Republicans to move legislation forward that really is a political stunt," he said, "and not a serious effort at advancing American foreign policy interests."

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