Representative-elect Ilhan Omar, D-MN, attends a press conference in the House Visitors Center at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on November 30, 2018.
Omar faces backlash from Muslim and Jewish constituents
04:01 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

A Jewish freshman Democratic congressman apologized to his constituents earlier this week for “not being able to protect” them from comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar that were widely condemned by the Jewish community as anti-Semitic.

Rep. Max Rose, whose district encompasses Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, also pledged at a town hall Tuesday that he will work as “hard as I can to make sure that these comments are not made again,” according to video of the event posted by Jewish Insider.

Rose’s remarks are the latest example of the fissure within the new Democratic House majority over the US relationship with Israel and the influence of pro-Israel supporters on US foreign policy. Last month, Omar, who is one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, apologized after she suggested money was behind politicians’ support for Israel, and later generated controversy after she insinuated that pro-Israel groups were pushing “allegiance to a foreign country.”

The comments were seen as trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes and were widely condemned on Capitol Hill by both Democrats and Republicans, with Rose saying at the time that the remarks were “deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself.”

At Tuesday’s event, Rose spoke at length about the issue.

“The first thing I did up here is apologize that I couldn’t protect us from it. That’s the first thing I did, because this is about being a being a leader,” Rose said at the event, which was organized by Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island.

He later said, “I went on national TV, and I said that as a Jewish, Army combat veteran, her comments were deeply hurtful and offensive and I have allegiance to the United States of America.”

An exchange between Rose and one of his constituents grew contentious when Rose was pressed about why he eventually accepted the freshman congresswoman’s apology.

“You know why I did that? Because I am an adult. That’s why I did that. Because my goal was to continue the quiet and non-glamorous actions of coalition-building and trying to protect the people in this room from those comments being made,” Rose said.

Rose also said he agreed with House Democrats’ decision to not remove Omar from her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But he vowed to remain “vigilant” in protecting the Jewish community from those comments being made again.

“I’m going to continue working as hard as I can to make sure that these comments are not made again,” he said. “That’s what I owe you, irrespective of who you support, that’s what I owe each and every one of you.”