At AIPAC, Democratic majority leader aims fire at Ilhan Omar

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives told AIPAC that Rep. Ilhan Omar, the freshman from Minnesota, was not representative of the Democrats when it comes to Israel.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in an address to the AIPAC policy conference also appeared to criticize Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a Palestinian American who backs ending assistance to Israel and plans to lead a lawmakers’ tour of the West Bank to rival the one Hoyer leads to Israel every year with the assistance of an affiliate of AIPAC, as well as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., who has defended Tlaib and Omar.

“This August, I will lead what I expect to be the largest delegation ever” to Israel, Hoyer said. “There are 62 freshman Democrats,” he said and cocked his ear. “You hear me? Sixty-two — not three.”

Hoyer said the “overwhelming majority” in Congress continues to support Israel.

Referencing comments made by Omar that some saw as anti-Semitic, Hoyer said: “When someone accuses American supporters of dual loyalty, I say ‘Accuse me’,” he said to cheers Sunday at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“Let’s have debates on policy instead of impugning the loyalty of Israel’s supporters,” he said.

Omar last month said she felt pressure to pledge “allegiance” to Israel, opening up a rift, with Jewish Democrats accusing her of invoking the anti-Semitic slander of dual loyalty. She previously said that AIPAC purchased support in Congress through campaign donations, and apologized for that claim. (AIPAC does not support candidates, although its activists are expected to.)