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    Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., joins House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and newly-elected members at a news conference to discuss their priorities when they assume the majority in the 116th Congress in January, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018

    ‘Enormous’ Grassroots Movement Behind Rep. Omar Weakened Democratic Rebuke

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    The US House of Representatives passed a milquetoast resolution condemning bigotry against minorities by an enormous margin Thursday. The bill began as a Democratic rebuke of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for her comments about AIPAC, but wide grassroots support in her defense forced the watering down of its language, an activist told Sputnik.

    The resolution condemning anti-Semitism, discrimination against Muslims and other forms of bigotry against minorities, introduced by House Speaker and fellow Democrat Nancy Pelosi, passed with an astounding 407 votes for and only 23 against.

    While Omar has come under attack for her criticisms of Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) before, the rub that prompted Thursday's censure is an answer Omar gave during an event at a Washington, DC, coffeehouse called Busboys and Poets last week with several other progressive Congress members, including Palestinian-American Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

    "So for me, 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. "And 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 lobby that is influencing policy?"

    ​Radio Sputnik's Loud and Clear spoke with Ariel Gold, peace activist and co-director of Codepink, about the resolution and the movement behind Omar. Gold said the pressure for a resolution against Omar came from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), "which claims to be a civil rights organization while actually being involved in spying on activists in place like Ferguson [Missouri], is directly involved in Islamophobic trainings in cities and for police forces and is behind many of the times that US police forces are sent over to Israel to train with the Israeli military."

    She noted that the wording of the resolution was changed because of "enormous and incredible grassroots work" in support of Omar. Supporters tweeted the hashtag #istandwithilhan to express their solidarity with Omar and their outrage at the reaction to the congresswoman's criticisms of Israel and the political lobbying done on that country's behalf in the US.

    ​"We know that however we change the wording… the intention of it, given the timing and given the story, it is a rebuke of Ilhan Omar, and it falsely claims that what she said was anti-Semitic when it absolutely wasn't."

    Gold, who has been barred from entering Israel for her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement even though she is Jewish, said, "This was "such a clear attack… on the first black, Muslim congresswoman." However, she noted that "in the last couple years, more and more, Democrats are moving away from support for Israel," citing polls showing Democrats sympathize more with the Palestinians than the Israelis.

    "We see these rapid, rapid changes [in opinion], especially among young American Jews. We have groups like If Not Now, and we have, again, these polls that show that American Jews are more and more disillusioned, especially young Jews, with Israel," she said.

    The activist told Sputnik "the forces of the status quo, the pro-occupation forces," are not only composed of Jews. "It's not only [New York Senator] Chuck Schumer," Gold said. She noted that in January, during the recent government shutdown, Florida Senator Marco Rubio attempted to introduce a "Combating BDS Act" bill that sought to empower local governments to take action against activists forwarding the movement. BDS is a worldwide political protest movement, inspired by the 1980s movement against South African Apartheid, that seeks to pressure Israel into ending the oppression of the Palestinian people by encouraging individuals to boycott products made in Israel, companies to divest from Israel and the international community to implement sanctions against Israel.

    ​"If that isn't allegiance to a foreign government, I don't know what is," Gold told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou. She later noted that she had taken Omar's comments about dual loyalty to be referring to Rubio, who is not Jewish.

    "There's no ‘trope' being invoked there," Gold said. "This is because of political power and influence."

    "Omar is constantly accused of singling out Israel, but she doesn't single out Israel," Gold noted. "She was the first and boldest of all of the members of Congress to come out against the US-backed coup in Venezuela; she is constantly working hard to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen; we all remember her incredible grilling of war criminal Elliott Abrams. There's no singling out of Israel here."

    Gold cautioned that some of the political figures who came out in support of Omar, such as Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris, weren't exactly fellow travelers of Omar's anti-Zionist sentiments.

    "She has a lot to answer for," Gold said. "Kamala Harris has attended AIPAC for at least the last two years in a row. Last year while speaking at AIPAC, while speaking to a group of around 3,500 students, when asked where her support for Israel comes from, she said [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1965] march from Selma to Montgomery is what inspires her to be committed to the US-Israel relationship."

    "She in 2017 went on a trip to Israel, and we have a picture of her smiling with [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu that he tweeted out," she said, "a war criminal who has just built an alliance with the Jewish KKK, which Kamala has not condemned."

    "She's not off the hook herself," Gold said while noting the possibility that "this might be a change, and I would love to see that."

    However, Gold warned that once the resolution is voted on, the issue is far from over.

    "We know that when people get backed into a corner… they get uglier and uglier," she warned. "We need to stay vigilant."

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, zionism, bigotry, resolution, accusations, antisemitism, Loud and Clear, ADL, US House of Representatives, American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Ariel Gold, Ilhan Omar
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