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politico – Progressives count their foreign policy victories with Omar’s flap in rear view

Netanyahu is out and the latest wave of violence with Hamas is over, but the will of progressives to criticize Israel is here to stay.

A dozen Jewish House Democrats responded with a statement denouncing Omar for an “offensive” and “misguided” comparison which “gives[s] coverage of terrorist groups ”; the six main Democratic House leaders also dismissed Omar for “establishing false equivalences” while thanking her for clarifying her remark.

This friendly fire on Omar sparked speculation that the House could act to punish her, but no tangible threat materialized. In fact, a notable number of colleagues – including Jewish Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus – have defended Omar and insisted that she was being unfairly targeted for being a Muslim woman.

“She gets a lot more attention than anyone, like a person like me, would. People are ready to analyze every word she says. And I just think it’s unfair, ”said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), An American Jew in his seventies who has claimed he would not face a similar backlash for agreeing to the comment. Omar.

“The idea that you can’t mention the United States, Israel, and Hamas in the same sentence without being accused of being anti-Semitic?” It’s just stupid, ”Yarmuth added.

Even as Republicans rushed to ridicule Omar as an anti-Semite, it quickly became clear that the majority of Democrats just wanted to move on. The 12 lawmakers who initially condemned Omar did not take the issue any further, and Republicans walked away from their initial flirtation by forcing a vote to kick her out of the foreign affairs committee.

More Democrats have taken the opportunity to stress that they do not see criticism of the Israeli government’s policy per se as biased against the Jewish people.

“Do you believe in responsibility for human rights, for war crimes? How can you believe it for everyone except yourself or your friends? Said Representative Andy Levin (D-Michigan), an American Jew. “That’s what Rep. Omar was actually saying. And since I’ve taken this position myself for so many years, why is everyone jumping at her when she says it? “

The growing number of supporters marks a victory for Omar and his progressive colleagues, who say their messages about Israel are strengthening and attracting more support from across the caucus and the party.

“There were more Jews who did not sign this letter than did,” Yarmuth noted, describing the anti-Omar statement as an “overreaction” by the 12 Democrats. “Some people probably regret doing it.”

Progressives were initially furious that the upper echelon of Democratic leadership was so quick to push back on Omar’s comments. Yet President Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Later declined to call the response a “rebuke,” and Republicans viewed the cooling as the fact that their opponents were effectively giving in to a potential political club.

“The Democratic Party no longer supports Israel, and they agree to help a terrorist organization. That’s where they are, ”said Florida Senator Rick Scott, who chairs the GOP’s upper house campaign arm. “That’s a good question for us.

Republicans have long sought to bind vulnerable Democrats to Omar and use his rhetoric as a political stick to portray the whole party as radical. In the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, some GOP lawmakers went so far as to accuse Democrats of supporting the terrorist group because they were openly pushing for a ceasefire in defiance of the Prime Minister. then, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Liberals retort that their stance is politically and politically favorable, as a generational divide within the Democratic Party has prompted calls from young lawmakers to recalibrate US policy toward Israel. Democrats should consider a foreign policy doctrine that takes into account alleged human rights violations by U.S. allies, these young members say, and a party leadership dominated by octogenarians should encourage that discussion.

“Young people really see this from a secular perspective and not from an ethnic, cultural or national perspective,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) said in an interview. “Young people say, why are we paying for this? Why do we support this? “

Ocasio-Cortez, a longtime ally of Omar who has advocated for a tougher stance with Israel, said she often hears of young American Jews who were “brought up with one story” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and they “don’t want their identity tied to this injustice.

One of many progressives pushing for conditions on US military aid to Israel, which is critical to its survival in the region, Ocasio-Cortez noted that she has long called for conditioning the money from the American aid to various countries suspected of human rights violations. , not just Israel.

Some lawmakers will be facing these issues firsthand in the coming weeks. Representative Gregory Meeks (DN.Y.), chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, will lead a congressional delegation to Israel from July 5, according to several sources. Membership numbers and who are leaving remain fluid, but a source told POLITICO that Reps Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) And Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) Will join the Meeks’ first trip of this type as as president.

Meanwhile, progressives who want to continue reassessing the US-Israel relationship often add a social justice component to their message, pointing out that this is an anti-establishment tactic. Progressives and Young Democrats in particular view the foreign policy establishment in Washington – which has encompassed a majority of both parties – as a destructive force.

And after a spring conflict that saw more Democrats express deep reservations about President Joe Biden’s strategy of “silent and intensive diplomacy” as Israel carried out retaliatory strikes against Hamas assets in Gaza, the liberals feel more appetite to attack the traditional race of foreign policy. that Biden embodies.

“This is a generational shift of prioritizing human rights and emphasizing human rights in US foreign policy,” said Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) . “And it’s definitely a recognition that these rights include Palestinian human rights.”

Sarah Ferris and Laura Barron-Lopez contributed to it.

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