NOTE: original date after all.
On August 15, 2019, the Israeli government announced that it would bar first-term U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and her Palestinian-American colleague Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) from going on a planned trip to Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. This announcement brought public attention back to controversial comments that Rep. Omar had made about Israel earlier in the year.
On February 10, journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted "GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy threatens punishment for @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib over their criticisms of Israel. It's stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans"
and Rep. Omar responded:
"It's all about the Benjamins baby" (referring to a Puff Daddy song about $100 bills)
When journalist Batya Ungar-Sargon asked for clarification on who Rep. Omar thinks "is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel", she answered:
"AIPAC!" (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, "America's Pro-Israel Lobby" on its website)
Rep. Omar's tweets were condemned publicly by Congressional leaders from both parties, and she deleted them and apologized for them.
Then on February 27, speaking at a bookstore event in Washington, DC, Rep. Omar gave a speech that included the line:
"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. 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?"
This comment was also condemned by politicians from both parties, and prompted the House to pass a resolution that included condemnations of bigotry against Muslims and others as well as Jews, but began by resolving that the House "(1) rejects the perpetuation of anti-Semitic stereotypes in the United States and around the world, including the pernicious myth of dual loyalty and foreign allegiance, especially in the context of support for the United States - Israel alliance."
Some objections to Rep. Omar's comments:
Less attention has been given to remarks by incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), whose district includes most of San Francisco. On December 12, 2018, she spoke at the Israeli-American Council National Conference in Florida, saying:
"I have said to people when they ask me, if this Capitol crumbled to the ground, the one thing that would remain is our commitment to our aid, and I don't even call it aid, our cooperation with Israel. That's fundamental to who we are."
At the same event, Speaker Pelosi referred to obligations of members of Congress:
"We really want to see again Israel to prevail as a Jewish democratic state, but we have to make sure that there is security, because that is the first responsibility of any government, it's the oath we take as members of Congress, and any of you who are part of any official organization, to protect and defend. And we have to make sure that the security of Israel is essential, that is essential to a solution."
On March 26, Speaker Pelosi's speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference included the line:
"We must also be vigilant against bigoted or dangerous ideologies masquerading as policy, and that includes BDS."
This was a reference to the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel until its government changes its policies towards Palestinians.
Some objections to Pelosi's comments:
At our debate, you'll be shown additional comments about Israel from Rep. Ilhan Omar and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and you can weigh in with your opinion on whether or not their comments really are objectionable as their critics say, and which Representative's comments are more objectionable.
There is a $5 admission fee to offset room rental costs.