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February 2, 2023 6:14 pm
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Rep. Ilhan Omar Expelled from House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ocasio-Cortez Slams ‘Targeting Women of Color’

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avatar by Andrew Bernard

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) walks to her office after being ousted by the Republican-lead House of Representatives to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 2, 2023. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was expelled from the House Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday in a 218-211 party line vote, booting one of Israel’s most hostile critics in US politics from a key foreign policy post.

The Republican resolution, introduced by Rep. Max Miller (R-OH), cited Omar’s past anti-Israel statements and use of antisemitic tropes, including her insinuation that AIPAC was paying American politicians to support Israel when she tweeted in 2019 that “it’s all about the Benjamins baby,” using slang for $100 bills. Omar has also repeatedly referred to Israel as an “apartheid” state, among other such incidents cited in the resolution.

“This is about keeping someone with a long record of antisemitic and anti-Israel bias off the Foreign Affairs Committee, which needs objective emissaries for our foreign policy,” Miller, who is Jewish, said in support of the resolution. “The facts are clear. Representative Omar has espoused antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric time and again. She cannot be an objective contributor to the work of the committee and she has brought dishonor to the House of Representatives.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) welcomed Omar’s ouster, while the Jewish Democratic Council of America condemned it.

“For years, Democratic leadership has failed to hold Rep. Ilhan Omar accountable for her vile, hateful, and dangerous anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric,” RJC CEO Matt Brooks and RJC Chairman Norm Coleman said in a statement. “We are gratified that Rep. Omar will no longer be in a privileged position to influence legislation regarding US policy toward Israel and the Middle East.”

Omar is one of three Democrats who have been removed from their committee assignments by the Republican majority, alongside Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who were removed from the House intelligence committee on Jan. 25. That move did not require a full vote of the House because it is a select committee.

Omar’s Democratic colleagues decried the resolution as bigoted and argued that Omar’s perspective as a Somali-born former refugee was “invaluable” to the work of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Omar’s fellow members of the so-called “Squad” of left-wing progressives, many of whom have also described Israel as an “apartheid state,” were particularly vocal in their defense of Omar. 

“This is about targeting women of color in the United States of America,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said, concluding her remarks by slapping her notebook on the lectern.

The voice of Squad member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) broke repeatedly and she appeared to be on the verge of tears as she said that Omar belonged on the committee.

“The GOP is now doing what it is best at: Weaponizing hate against a black, beautiful, Muslim woman,” Tlaib said. “Congresswoman Omar’s lived experience as a refugee and a childhood survivor of war should be welcomed on this committee. It is needed.”

Tlaib has repeatedly faced criticism for her own anti-Israel comments since her 2018 election. In September 2022, Tlaib said that it was not possible to be a progressive and support Israel, a comment that was publicly condemned by a number of her Democratic colleagues.

Less than an hour before the vote to remove her from the committee, Omar seemed to reverse her position on Israel as she co-sponsored a resolution introduced by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) titled Recognizing Israel as America’s Legitimate and Democratic Ally and Condemning Antisemitism.

“It is no secret that, over the years, I have been unabashedly critical about Congresswoman Omar’s past comments,” Gottheimer said in a statement. “But, it is an enormous step forward that Congresswoman Omar has signed onto this Congressional Resolution in support of Israel as a Jewish and legitimate democratic State, that acknowledges Israel as a vital ally, and that condemns the use of antisemitic tropes, including those masquerading as anti-Israel sentiments.”

Rep. Omar did not immediately respond to a request from The Algemeiner to comment on the apparent change from her prior position that Israel is an apartheid state that should be boycotted.

Omar spoke on her own behalf to conclude the debate for the Democratic side.

“I didn’t come to Congress to be silent,” Omar said. “My leadership and voice will not be diminished. If I am not on this committee for one term, my voice will get louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world.”

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