Asked in an interview Sunday why she believes her own party reacted "so strongly" to her fellow Muslim Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN) using anti-Semitic rhetoric, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI) blamed "Islamophobia," which she said is not only within the Republican Party, but "very much among the Democratic Party as well."
"Why do you think people in your own party reacted so strongly against what [Rep. Ilhan Omar] said?" asked Alex Wagner, host of "The Circus," in a moment reported by The Washington Free Beacon.
"You know, I'm trying to figure it out," Tlaib responded. "It's just this past week, I feel, and I know this would be somewhat shocking for some, but I think Islamophobia is very much among the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party. And I know that's hard for people to hear, but there's only been four members of Congress that are of Muslim faith. Three of them currently serve in this institution. More of us need to get elected, but more of us need to understand as we come into this institution that I have a lot of work to do with my colleagues."
"So you think Democrats have some 'Islamophobia,' and that's at the root of this consternation," Wagner said for clarification.
"I think our country is struggling with it," Tlaib responded.
Video below via "The Circus":
Omar has a long history of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric. In 2012, she declared in a tweet that "Israel has hypnotized the world." Last year, she tweeted, "Drawing attention to the apartheid Israeli regime is far from hating Jews." In early February, Omar accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) of buying politicians' support of Israel, tweeting infamously, "It's all about the Benjamins baby." When called out by members of her own party for those anti-Semitic tweets, she apologized.
But during a town hall in D.C. in February, Omar repeated the anti-Semitic "dual loyalty" conspiracy about pro-Israel Jewish lawmakers.
"What I am fearful of, because both Rashida and I are Muslim, is that a lot of our Jewish colleagues and constituents go to thinking that everything we say about Israel is anti-Semitic because we are Muslim," Omar said during a "Progressive Town Hall" event that also featured Tlaib (partial transcript WFB). "It's something designed to end the debate. It's almost as if every time we say something that is supposed to be about foreign policy, or advocacy about ending oppression, or the freeing of every human life, we get to be labeled and that ends the discussion. We end up defending that and nobody gets to have the broader debate about what is happening with Palestine."
She then made the comment that really caught the attention of some of her fellow Democrats: "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 it is okay for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, or fossil fuel industries, or big pharma, but not talk about the influence of a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy."
That earned the rebuke of Jewish Democratic Rep. Elliot Engel (NY), who called her out for the "vile anti-Semitic slur," saying in a statement: "I welcome debate in Congress based on merits of policy, but it's unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow Americana citizens because of their political views, including support for the U.S.-Israel relationship. We all take the same oath. Worse. Representative Omar's comments leveled that charge by invoking a vile anti-Semitic slur."
Another Jewish Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey (NY) also called out Omar for her anti-Semitic remarks, tweeting: "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."
In response, Omar reiterated the dual "allegiance" smear: "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!"
After a great deal of debate within the party, House Democrats officially reprimanded Omar last week in a resolution — which failed to specifically name Omar and watered down the rebuke of anti-Semitism by including a long list of forms of bigotry, including "anti-Muslim discrimination."