Rep. Ilhan Omar spars with fellow Democrats over Israel comments, faces new calls to be removed from committee

Rep. Ilhan Omar is facing renewed pressure over her latest Israel remarks -- sparring with Rep. Nita Lowey after the fellow Democrat blasted her remarks as "hurtful."

The Minnesota congresswoman drew criticism after appearing once again to reference the so-called "dual-loyalties" charge against Israel supporters. “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,” Omar said last week. "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 movement that is influencing policy."

Lowey, who was responding to a widely condemned poster displayed at the West Virginia statehouse Friday linking Omar to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, started out defending the freshman Democrat before delivering her criticism.

“Gross islamophobic stereotypes - like those about @IlhanMN recently featured on posters in WVA - are offensive and have no place in political discourse. Anti-Semitic tropes that accuse Jews of dual loyalty are equally painful and must also be roundly condemned,” Lowey tweeted.

“Lawmakers must be able to debate w/o prejudice or bigotry. I am saddened that Rep. Omar continues to mischaracterize support for Israel. I urge her to retract this statement and engage in further dialogue with the Jewish community on why these comments are so hurtful.”

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In response, Omar doubled down: “Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman! I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee. The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest. I am sure we agree on that!

“I have not mischaracterized our relationship with Israel, I have questioned it and that has been clear from my end.

“I am told everyday that I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel. I find that to be problematic and I am not alone. I just happen to be willing to speak up on it and open myself to attacks.”

Lowey replied in an attempt to explain why the comments are "so hurtful," before closing the conversation with: “I believe we can debate important policy without using offensive, painful stereotypes.”

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On Monday, Omar was met with a petition to have her removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee. The petition, pushed by a group of leading Jewish organizations, was addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Eliot Engel, who chairs the committee.

“In light of Rep. Ilhan Omar's recent anti-Semitic tweets, statements, and address before Islamic Relief USA on Saturday, February 23rd, we, the undersigned organizations, request that you immediately remove her as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” the letter, which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, said.

“We hope you will continue to demonstrate your commitment to the high moral standards of your office by removing Rep. Omar, a woman who has repeatedly exhibited strong biases against the State of Israel and the Jewish people, from this critically important and sensitive committee.”

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Engel, who is Jewish, also issued a rebuke of the remarks, saying: “I welcome debate in Congress based on the merits of policy, but it’s unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Her comments were outrageous and deeply hurtful, and I ask that she retract them, apologize, and commit to making her case on policy issues without resorting to attacks that have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee or the House of Representatives.”