The Hill: Liberal Jewish groups push back on McCarthy plan to remove Omar from committee
December 13, 2022

by Mychael Schnell in The Hill

A coalition of liberal Jewish groups is pushing back on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) pledge to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the Foreign Affairs Committee, arguing that the vow was made upon “false accusations that she is antisemitic or anti-Israel.”

The joint statement comes after McCarthy doubled down on his pledge to boot Omar from Foreign Affairs if he becomes Speaker in the newly GOP-majority House next month.

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“As Jewish American organizations, we oppose Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s pledge to strip Representative Ilhan Omar of her House Foreign Affairs Committee seat based on false accusations that she is antisemitic or anti-Israel,” the organizations wrote in a statement on Monday.

“We may not agree with some of Congresswoman Omar’s opinions, but we categorically reject the suggestion that any of her policy positions or statements merit disqualification from her role on the committee,” they added.

J Street, Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Habonim Dror North America, New Israel Fund, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and T’ruah all signed the statement.

McCarthy in January said that he would strip Omar of her Foreign Affairs panel assignment should House Republicans win control of the House, which they did last month. He also vowed to remove Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff (Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (Calif.) from the House Intelligence Committee.

Following the conference’s victory in November, he reiterated the pledge.

“I will keep that promise,” McCarthy told Fox News in an interview when asked if he would remove Omar, Schiff and Swalwell from their panels.

“Congresswoman Omar, her antisemitic comments that have gone forward — we’re not going to allow her to be on Foreign Affairs,” he said of the Minnesota Democrat.

Omar came under criticism last year after she appeared to compare the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban when discussing war crimes. The remarks led Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team to issue a rare joint statement in objection.

Omar said her remarks were focused on International Criminal Court probes, contending that they were “not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.”

And in 2019, the progressive Democrat who is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, tweeted that U.S. politicians’ support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” which some said was invoking the antisemitic trope of Jewish people utilizing money for influence. She later issued a statement apologizing.

The coalition of liberal Jewish groups said McCarthy’s pledge to remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee “seems especially exploitative in light of the rampant promotion of antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories by him and his top deputies amid a surge in dangerous right-wing antisemitism.”

The statement cites a now-deleted tweet McCarthy posted that called on Republicans to stop Jewish billionaires, including George Soros, from “buying” the 2018 election, and points to House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik’s (N.Y.) alleged promotion of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory. She has been accused of echoing tenets of the theory in Facebook ads last year.

The statement comes as McCarthy is struggling to shore up support to secure the Speaker’s gavel next month. He won the Republican nomination for the top spot last month, but GOP opposition in the thin majority is threatening his chances of winning the floor vote in January.

Reached for comment on the letter, a spokesman for McCarthy referred The Hill to Rabbi Yaakov Menken, the managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.

“It is dismaying that left-wing Jewish groups are so at odds with the consensus of America’s traditional rabbis, learned in how we have understood the hatred facing us for millennia,” Menken said in a statement.

He linked to a letter a group of rabbis sent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in June 2021 asking that Omar be removed from Foreign Affairs after the incident last year.

“We were disappointed that the current House leadership did not respond when hundreds of rabbis joined our call for Rep. Omar to be removed from the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee last year, in a letter that detailed her antisemitic animus,” Menken added.

Originally published in The Hill

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