The controversial comments about Jews and Israeli influence on American politics made by Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar that sent Washington into a frenzy hit home for U.S. Rep. Max Rose, the first Jewish-American to be elected in his congressional district.
Rose, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, parts of Bensonhurst and all of Staten Island, was among the House members voting in favor of a resolution condemning all forms of bigotry in the wake of statements by Omar that set off a firestorm of controversy and led to charges of anti-Semitism against her.
“For those who have magically found their strength to tackle bigotry in our country, I would remind them it doesn’t take courage to condemn hate in another party, but it takes character to stand up to your own,” Rose said in a statement apparently aimed at fellow Democrats reluctant to call out Omar.
The resolution, which did not single out anti-Semitism but instead condemned all forms of intolerance, was passed by the House by an overwhelming margin of 407-23 on March 7.
Republicans accused the Democratic-led House of watering down the resolution and criticized the Democrats for not solely condemning anti-Semitic hatred.
Omar, a Democrat and one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, got herself in hot water in February when she wrote a tweet on Twitter in response to a journalist’s tweet about House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s threats to punish her and another congressmember for criticizing Israel.
In her response, Omar wrote, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” a lyric from a Puff Daddy song referring to $100 bills. Omar’s tweet drew sharp criticism from people who charged her with advancing negative stereotypes about Jews and money.
Omar faced even more condemnation after she appeared at a recent event in a Washington, D.C. bookstore and asserted that pro-Israeli groups push U.S. lawmakers to pledge allegiance to Israel.
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask why is it okay for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policies?” National Public Radio quoted Omar as saying.
Rose took offense at the comment. “Every single American has the right to criticize the actions of a foreign government, Israel or otherwise. But, as the first Jewish congressman from Staten Island, I reject the insinuation that because I, and colleagues like me, support Israel’s right to exist, I am somehow disloyal to the country that I’ve served in uniform and in Congress,” said Rose, a U.S. Army veteran who fought in Afghanistan.
“Anti-Semitism isn’t a game,” the local pol added.
But the Working Families Party defended Omar, issuing a statement pointing out that the freshman lawmaker has faced threats because she is a Muslim.
“In January, Rep. Ilhan Omar became one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress. Ever since, she has found herself under sustained and coordinated attack from the white nationalist, extremist right. Death threats in her own district. Elected Republicans shamelessly linking her to 9/11. Calls for her to be expelled from Congress and worse,” party leaders wrote in a fundraising email.
The Working Families Party also criticized Democratic leaders who were not defending Omar.
“When West Virginia Republicans displayed a poster effectively calling Rep. Omar a terrorist, there was no outrage from Democratic leadership in Congress,” party leaders wrote.