To appreciate the predicament the Democratic Party finds itself in with respect to Israel, look no further than the speech that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer delivered this week to the AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C.
It was an impassioned and enthusiastically received defense of the U.S.-Israel alliance, punctuated repeatedly with rousing ovations and betraying not a sliver of daylight between the House’s second-ranking Democrat and the hawkish lobbying group. Hoyer framed his address as a barely veiled rebuttal to a freshman member of his own caucus, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and her comments early this month that suggested supporters of Israel were pushing “for allegiance to a foreign country.”
“When someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me,” Hoyer thundered on Sunday evening to a crowd that organizers say numbered 18,000 people. “I am part of a large, bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel—an overwhelming majority of the United States Congress. I tell Israel’s accusers and detractors: Accuse me.”
Hoyer was one of several top congressional Democrats to speak at AIPAC’s sprawling annual conference, even as the party’s leading presidential contenders stayed away from the event in apparent deference to a boycott pushed by MoveOn.org. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke on Monday afternoon, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed the event on Tuesday afternoon. Like Hoyer, Pelosi also spoke out forcefully in support of Israel and against anti-Semitism, although her speech was more low-key in tone. “In our democratic societies, we should welcome legitimate debate about how best to honor our values and to advance our priorities without questioning loyalty or patriotism,” she said, before touting the resolution the House passed that rejected “the pernicious myth of dual loyalty and foreign allegiance.”