|Rep. Elaine Luria (file photo)|
Elaine Luria, a native of Birmingham’s Jewish community who now serves as the congressional representative for Virginia’s second district, is calling on the Democratic leadership to take “swift action” in rejecting anti-Semitism and reiterating support for Israel.
In a letter co-authored with fellow Democrat Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Luria states “we cannot return to a time when it was considered fair game to question the motives, patriotism, and loyalty of some members of Congress.”
Luria was elected to Congress last November after retiring as a commander in the U.S. Navy, where she served for 20 years.
As Jewish representatives, they wrote, “we are deeply alarmed by recent rhetoric from certain members within our Caucus, including just last night, that has disparaged us and called into question our loyalty to our nation. We urge you to join us in calling on each member of our Caucus to unite against anti-Semitism and hateful tropes and stereotypes.”
While they do not mention Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota by name, the previous evening Omar wrote some tweets that have received widespread condemnation, for suggesting that Congressional support for Israel comes from Jewish money.
Omar, a Somali-American, is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.
On Feb. 10, Omar was responding to a tweet by Glenn Greenwald, who follows her on Twitter and was criticizing Republican efforts to punish Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan over their attacks on Israel. Greenwald wrote “it’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.”
Omar responded “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,”
Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor for The Forward, responded, “Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess. Bad form, Congresswoman. That’s the second anti-Semitic trope you’ve tweeted.”
To that, Omar replied “AIPAC.”
Ungar-Sargon then urged her to “learn how to talk about Jews in a non-anti-Semitic way,” signing it “Sincerely, American Jews.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as a non-profit lobbying group, is not allowed to contribute to political candidates or take partisan stances.
Rep. Donna Shalala of Florida, who is of Lebanese descent but is a supporter of Israel, called Omar’s comments anti-Semitic, tweeting that “To suggest members of Congress are ‘bought off’ to support Israel is offensive and wrong.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said “The use of this tired anti-Semitic trope about Jews and money is inappropriate and upsetting. As Americans and Jews, we expect our politicians to condemn bigotry, not fuel it.”
Chelsea Clinton weighed in, saying “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.”
Omar replied to Clinton, saying she would be happy to speak with her. “We must call out smears from the GOP and their allies. And I believe we can do that without criticizing people for their faith.”
Though Omar sidestepped criticism for her remarks, Clinton reiterated them in her response, saying “I also think we have to call out anti-Semitic language and tropes on all sides, particularly in our elected officials and particularly now.”
That was echoed in the letter from Luria and Gottheimer. “We must speak out when any Member – Democrat or Republican – uses harmful tropes and stereotypes, levels accusations of dual loyalty, or makes reckless statements like those yesterday. All Members of Congress should reject anti-Semitism, just as we reject all forms of hatred, bigotry, and intolerance, and must denounce those who deny Israel’s right to exist, including terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.”
They noted the Democratic Party’s “history of support for our ally Israel and for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on two states for two people.” They noted that the BDS movement “inherently denies the Jewish people’s 3,000-year-old connection to the land of Israel and seeks to delegitimize Israel and deny its right to exist as a Jewish state. Such positions are, at their core, anti-Semitic.”
Last month, some groups called on the Democratic leadership to remove Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, citing her support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement. During her campaign, she said BDS is ineffective, but embraced it publicly once in office.
As a state legislator, in 2017 she was one of only two to vote against a bill that would deny life insurance payments to anyone convicted of aiding or committing terrorist acts.
In 2012, she tweeted about how “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and see the evil doings of Israel.”
Among the criticisms of Tlaib is her comment in January that those supporting Israel through an anti-BDS bill in Congress “forgot which country they represent,” which echoes the “dual loyalty” canard that has been hurled at Jews for centuries.