Member Of Progressive Group Makes Anti-Semitic Joke While Teaching House Democrats About Anti-Semitism: Report

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Molly Prince Politics Reporter
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  • Jewish and Muslim Democrats in the House of Representatives gathered for a private meeting to discuss anti-Semitism and religion after Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar received backlash for repeatedly using anti-Israel tropes.
  • The anti-Trump organization Bend the Arc moderated the discussion and a representative reportedly made an anti-Semitic joke during the meeting.
  • Democratic Connecticut Rep. Jahana Hayes questioned why the “joke” was appropriate and criticized its use.

A member of a progressive anti-Trump organization, comprised of American Jews, used an anti-Semitic trope while meeting with Muslim and Jewish House Democrats to discuss recent allegations of anti-Semitism within the party, according to a report published Sunday.

Democratic Michigan Rep. Andy Levin invited Bend the Arc to moderate a discussion on religion and anti-Semitism between Muslim Democrats in the House and some of their Jewish Democratic colleagues, reported The Washington Post. In addition to Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, America’s first two Muslim congresswomen, other freshman progressives were also invited, such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has defended anti-Israel statements Omar made.

Bend the Arc is a left-wing advocacy group whose members are comprised of progressive American Jews — its mission is “rising up in solidarity with everyone threatened by the Trump agenda to fight for the soul of our nation.” Bend the Arc’s PAC was organized by Alexander Soros, the son of Democratic mega-donor George Soros.

The meeting was largely in response to Omar’s claim that Republican support for Israel is bought by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Her comments received swift condemnation from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, including from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership.

“It is deeply disappointing and disturbing to hear Rep. Ilhan Omar’s choice of words in her exchange with a journalist yesterday wherein she appears to traffic in old anti-semitic tropes about Jews and money,” House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler said in a statement at the time. “Her words are deeply hurtful and offensive, particularly as they build on previous comments she made about Jews ‘hypnotizing’ the world in support of Israel — another old trope born of hate-filled texts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

Bend the Arc did not comment on Omar’s use of anti-Israel tropes, but issued a statement condemning President Donald Trump for calling for her resignation. The organization subsequently praised Omar for her apology. (RELATED: Minnesota Democrats Reportedly Want Ilhan Omar Out — She Blames Trump)

During the meeting, a Bend the Arc representative who was facilitating the discussion reportedly made a joke about Jews and money in what was claimed to be an attempt to ease tensions, according to WaPo. Connecticut Rep. Jahana Hayes, another freshman in attendance, questioned why the joke was appropriate.

“The comment referred to in the article was an approach to use humor to call attention to an often-used Jewish stereotype. The facilitator apologized when another meeting participant expressed concern with the comment,” Ginna Green, chief strategy officer of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Like the rest of the training, this conversation was open and candid in a way that brought leaders closer to greater connection and understanding.”

“It’s not okay,” Hayes told The Washington Post when discussing the exchange. “These [sorts of jokes] are off-limits. It’s confusing for someone like me who is trying to learn.”

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

“I’m looking to try to understand everybody’s perspective,” Hayes added. “This isn’t my community.”

Both Omar and Tlaib’s time in congressional office has been embroiled in allegations of anti-Semitism. (RELATED: Nancy Pelosi Sees Herself In Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And Ilhan Omar)

Omar has defended her anti-Israel statements, such as ones invoking Allah to expose Israel’s “evil doings,” and she is on record suggesting Israel is not a democracy. She also gave an interview to a host that referred to Israel as the “Jewish ISIS” and mocked how Americans speak about al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.

Omar and Tlaib notably waited until after they won their congressional election to officially reveal their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to punish Israel by economically depriving the country for its alleged mistreatment of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The Anti-Defamation League describes the movement as “the most prominent effort to undermine Israel’s existence.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect that Bend the Arc is focused on domestic social change and does not hold positions on matters relating to foreign policy, including Israel and Palestine. 

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