House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer Delivers Pro-Israel Speech at AIPAC

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer Delivers Pro-Israel Speech at AIPAC

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House, came under fire from progressives Sunday night after he used his address at AIPAC’s policy conference to attack left-wing members of his caucus and throw his full support behind a resolution condemning the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.

“I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically,” said the Democrat from Maryland, whose remarks were immediately interpreted as a thinly veiled attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). “So, when someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me. I am part of a large, bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel. I tell Israel’s detractors: Accuse us.”

“There are 62 freshman Democrats. Not three,” Hoyer added, in an apparent swipe at Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Omar.

Read Hoyer’s full remarks.

“Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is at AIPAC throwing his own colleague, Ilhan Omar, under the bus. Shameful,” tweeted Shaun King, a columnist with The Intercept. “And in one fell swoop, to fawning applause, he basically confirms @IlhanMN was right all along.”

Hoyer went on to express support for a bipartisan resolution condemning the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which was introduced by House Democrats last week.

Tlaib and Omar are the first members of the House to back the BDS movement. In a statement last week, Tlaib — a Palestinian-American — said the anti-BDS measure “is aimed at suppressing free speech and moves us no closer to peace and understanding.”

“Peaceful forms of speech, including economic boycotts, are constitutionally protected. Where would civil rights in the United States be without the heroic Montgomery bus boycotts?” Tlaib said. “The economic boycott of Israel or any other government based on violations of human rights is about highlighting the injustices that need to stop.”

Hoyer was the first of several Democratic leaders scheduled to speak at AIPAC’s annual conference this week, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Under pressure from a diverse coalition of progressive advocacy groups, a number of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates vowed to skip AIPAC’s event.

As Common Dreams reported last week, Jewish and Muslim organizations are calling on Pelosi and Schumer to cancel their planned AIPAC speeches.

“Giving AIPAC cover right when progressives are finally responding to their constituents and turning away from AIPAC is simply the wrong thing to do,” said Michael Deheeger, congressional organizer with Jewish Voice for Peace.