Rep. Ted Deutch (D., Fla.) asked fellow Democrats during an emotional floor speech Thursday to cease abetting anti-Semitism.
"Today should not be about politics. I didn't rise to be political," he began. "This is personal."
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Deutch rose to protest Democrats' reluctance to directly and unequivocally recognize comments from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) as anti-Semitic.
"If there is anti-Semitism in your country, there is hatred that will ultimately permeate throughout society if it is not checked," he said. "I never thought I would need to explain that to my colleagues."
Deutch, who is Jewish, co-chairs the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism. The congressman has pushed for the rapid and direct condemnation of Omar's remarks. He was joined by Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) and Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) in quickly and strongly condemning Omar's remarks. House leaders announced the chamber would vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. Shortly after, however, the tide in the party turned.
Instead of that strong condemnation, the final text of a resolution introduced Thursday does not mention Omar by name. Rather than singularly defending the American Jews slandered by Omar, it spends several paragraphs defending Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants, Catholics, French Jews, African Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color.
Many in the party are hesitating to take Omar's comments head-on, preferring to point to Republican hypocrisy or excuse her comments by pointing to her upbringing.
Deutch was alarmed the party could not clearly sound a moral note opposing anti-Jewish hatred. "When one of our colleagues invokes the classic anti-Semitic language that Jews control the world, that Jews care only about money, that Jews cannot be loyal Americans if they support Israel, this, too, must be condemned," he said. "We have the opportunity to condemn all of that, by all of them, intolerable as it all is, by passing a strong condemnation of anti-Semitism."
In response to the watered down resolution, Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.) was overheard calling the language "ridiculous," according to HuffPost reporter Matt Fuller.
Deutch was similarly displeased. "Why are we unable to singularly condemn anti-Semitism?" he asked. "Why can't we call it anti-Semitism and show we've learned the lessons of history? It feels like we're only able to call the use of anti-Semitic language by a colleague of ours, any colleague of ours, if we're addressing all forms of hatred."
Omar, a member of the Progressive Caucus, has drawn scrutiny and condemnation since taking office in January for a series of anti-Semitic remarks.
During an event in Washington, D.C. last Wednesday, Omar gladly took on past accusations of anti-Semitism, and in the process, made fresh anti-Semitic comments. "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," she said. The comment provoked condemnation from members of both parties.
Omar responded by making additional anti-Semitic comments. After Rep. Nita Lowey (D., N.Y.) tweeted, "Omar continues to mischaracterize support for Israel," Omar responded that members of Congress should not be "expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country" in order to serve or sit on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In early February, Omar shared several ill-advised tweets concerning Jewish Americans, the state of Israel, and the United States government.
Omar peddled in anti-Semitic stereotypes, mischaracterized a pro-Israel lobbying group, and garnered praise from the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. She shared a tweet from far-left journalist Glenn Greenwald, who claimed Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) was "defending a foreign nation" and "attacking free speech rights of Americans."
In reply, Omar claimed elected officials acted for Israel out of financial interest. "It's all about the Benjamins baby," she said in reference to $100 bills.
Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor of the liberal publication the Forward, has staunchly defended Omar's comments in the past but criticized her in this case. She responded by saying it was "the second anti-Semitic trope you've tweeted," and she asked Omar who would be "paying American politicians to be pro-Israel."
Omar replied, "AIPAC!" That tweet has since been deleted.
In another 2012 tweet, Omar accused Israel of having "hypnotized" the world. It has also been deleted.
Omar later agreed that her comments were anti-Semitic, and offered an "unequivocal" apology. In the same apology, she returned to her critique of AIPAC, a not-for-profit organization that promotes U.S.-Israel relations. Omar now denies that February comment was anti-Semitic, or that she ever apologized for the comment itself. Though she deleted the offending tweet, her Twitter page still hosts several retweets of others claiming her original comments were not anti-Semitic.
In another tweet responding to the early February controversy, Omar claimed the strong reactions to her tweets, which she herself called anti-Semitic, were really "smears" against her.
Deutch said it was particularly difficult to hear people being told they're "wrong" for calling out the use of anti-Semitic tropes.
"Jewish elected officials are saying that this history that we know well is invoked by referencing dual loyalty, some of my colleagues are saying it doesn't matter what that history means to me," he said.
Pelosi, following insurrection from the progressive wing of her caucus, took half-measures to defend Omar on Thursday. "I don't think that the congresswoman perhaps appreciates the full weight of how it was heard by other people," she said during a press conference, "although I don't believe it was intended in an anti-Semitic way."
Deutch strongly disagreed. "When a colleague invokes anti-Semitic lies three times, this body must condemn that anti-Semitism as worthy of being taken seriously on its own," he said. "It's worthy of being singularly called out. Jews control the world? Jews care only about money? Jews have dual loyalty and can't be patriotic members of the country which they live? Words matter."
Earlier this week, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) claimed calls for Omar to leave the House Foreign Affairs Committee were a form of "Islamophobia," not a proper response to anti-Semitism. Likewise, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.) defended Omar, claiming the outrage, much of it voiced by American Jews, was really a scheme "designed to prevent us from taking on the question of our foreign policy toward Israel."
"For generations, they have had dangerous consequences for me, for my family, and for my people," Deutch concluded. "This shouldn't be so hard."