New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio broke ranks with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party Thursday, slamming freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D- Minn.) anti-Semitic remarks, comparing them to offensive statements made about Italian-Americans in past generations.
“Let me be really clear, suggesting that support for Israel is beholden to a foreign power is absolutely unacceptable — and it’s illogical too,” the New York Post quoted de Blasio as saying at a press conference at City Hall.
“I believe strongly in the state of Israel. I don’t feel beholden one bit to a foreign power. I’m a proud American who believes in the state of Israel and believes it must exist,” the mayor added: “I happen to be Italian-American. I never heard anyone suggest that because of my pride in my ancestral homeland, I’m beholden to a foreign government. It’s a really inappropriate comment.”
Omar, a member of the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee, recently drew a swift backlash from both Democrats and Republicans for suggesting that Jewish money was behind American elected officials’ support for Israel.
“Unfortunately, it aligns with a history — for centuries — of that kind of negative comment being thrown at the Jewish community,” de Blasio noted. “There’s a long anti-Semitic tradition associated with that kind of comment.”
The mayor urged Omar to sit down with representatives of the Jewish community to learn why her remarks were offensive and hurtful. “We need to fight anti-Semitism with the same energy we fight sexism or racism or Islamophobia or anti-LGBT bias,” de Blasio said. “It all goes together.”
Progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), on Tuesday questioned the push from some lawmakers to castigate Omar, writing on Twitter, “One of the things that is hurtful about the extent to which reprimand is sought of Ilhan is that no one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities (during the shutdown, a GOP member yelled ‘Go back to Puerto Rico!’ on the floor).”
De Blasio said in the past that defending Israel as a progressive is “a matter of being consistent with progressive values” and reflects “an understanding that we must always learn the painful lessons of history and do something about it.”
[Photo: Kevin Case / Flickr ]