Republicans took the opportunity to use a House Judiciary Committee hearing on white nationalism and hate crimes to talk about Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Omar, who is a black woman, a former refugee, and one of only two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, obviously has nothing to do with white nationalism. She has, however, become a frequent target of Republicans and some Democrats over her outspoken criticism of Israel’s government as well as her open support of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel’s human-rights abuses in occupied Palestinian territories.
Ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican, started off by attempting to equate Omar’s recent controversies — without mentioning her by name — with white nationalism, pondering why a “tolerance of Jewish stereotypes” has spilled into the House. (Omar’s supporters, including numerous Jewish organizations, say accusations of anti-Semitism thrown at the congresswoman are simply attempts to silence the most prominent critic of Israel in Congress.)
House Republicans also invited Mort Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, who is known to use Islamophobic rhetoric, such as when he refused to apologize for using the phrase “filthy Arab.”
Klein railed against “Muslim anti-Semitism” as well as the Students for Justice in Palestine groups at college campuses, which invited jeers from the hearing audience. He eventually went into Omar after his time had expired.
“I was horrified to see Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer defend Rep. Omar after her vicious anti-Semitic remarks,” Klein said, before being interrupting by Rep. Jerry Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
“That was unfair,” Klein said.
Later in the hearing, Klein said Omar should have been removed from her committee posts and equated her with Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who publicly pondered why white nationalism was a bad thing to the New York Times. He also criticized Beto O’Rourke, a 2020 presidential candidate, for calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “racist.”
“Nothing could be more absurd than that,” Klein said.
Israel has been described as an “apartheid” state by numerous human rights groups, UN investigators, and scholars. In a blatant play to his far-right supporters, Netanyahu said last week that he would annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The punches at Omar during the hearing were not limited to the Congressional hearing room. President Trump himself quote-tweeted an insult of Omar during the hearing.
Omar had also tweeted Monday in reaction to Trump shaking up the Department of Homeland Security and removing top immigration officials, saying Stephen Miller, one of President Trump’s top advisers, was a white nationalist. Miller is a longtime far-right political activist and reportedly the brains behind some of Trump’s most hard-line immigration policies, including forced separation of children from the parents at the border.
During the hearing, Omar took the opportunity to again go after Miller, quoting an article that described Miller as even more extremist about immigration than Trump.
“We can’t afford to tiptoe. Let’s address this head on,” Omar tweeted. “The world is watching!”