The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Friday that a recent comment by freshman U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who also serves on the panel, represented a "vile anti-Semitic slur," according to reports.
U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House panel, then called on Omar to apologize for her remark, which was made at an event in Washington earlier this week.
“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, who is Muslim, said, in an apparent reference to Israel. "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."
Engel issued his rebuke of her comment late Friday, saying it they amounted to a "vile anti-Semitic slur." Conservative critics had panned the remark earlier.
Added Engel, who is Jewish: “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.”
Omar also said at the event that she feared her religious affiliation would get in the way of meaningful discussions.
“What I’m fearful of [is] that a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel to be anti-Semitic because we are Muslim,” she said. “But it’s almost as if, every single time we say something regardless of what it is we say … we get to be labeled something. And that ends the discussion.”
The event, called "Progressive Issues Town Hall," was held at Busboys and Poets, a D.C. restaurant. Omar was joined by three fellow Democrats in Congress: Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Pramila Jayapal of Washington state and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin. It was moderated by the venue's owner Andy Shallal, who echoed Omar's sentiment.
“I know that’s a very sensitive topic and I know it’s an issue that has been out there and it’s used oftentimes to quiet people, to disparage them, to isolate them,” Shallal said, according to the New York Times.