The Democratic Party is facing an impasse: How do they manage anti-Semitism from freshman lawmakers, most notably, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), without alienating their progressive colleagues from the caucus?
The solution, so far, has been to hold several private, closed-door meetings, which lawmakers believe foster safe environments to be frank with one another.
After Omar's latest round of anti-Semitism, in which she questioned the loyalty of pro-Israel lawmakers, a group of Jewish and Muslim Democrats met together on March 5 for what was supposed to be a "moment meant to be about listening and learning," according to The Washington Post.
Instead, the meeting devolved into "anti-Semitic jokes and unapologetic members of Congress," the Washington Free Beacon reported.
What happened at the meeting?
According to the Post, which first reported the gathering, Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) organized the "formal event" with the hope that lawmakers within his party could both share differing perspectives and address rampant anti-Semitism that has come to define the Democratic Party this year.
To comfort Omar and Tlaib, Levin invited Bend the Arc — a deeply progressive and anti-Israeli activist organization with ties to George Soros — to moderate the discussion. He also invited Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Omar and Tlaib's closest allies in Congress.
The lawmakers discussed their family lives in an attempt to humanize everyone for nearly two hours before Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) addressed the elephant in the room. He characterized Omar's controversial comments the as "tips of the arrow" of American anti-Semitism.
Lawmakers who spoke to the Post privately said Phillips then urged Omar to apologize and "publicly affirm Israel's right to exist and protect itself." The request "stunned the three Muslim Democrats in the room," the Post reported. Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.) was the third Muslim at the gathering.
According to the Post, Omar did not respond to Phillips' request. Instead, the conversation shifted to Palestine as Tlaib broke out in tears when describing the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on her family, like her grandmother who lives in the West Bank. Others saw racism in Phillips' suggestion.
The Post reported:
Others in the room saw racial undertones in Phillips's comments, offended that a white businessman representing an affluent suburban community was suggesting a black refugee such as Omar incited fear.
Tlaib's reaction reportedly stunned Phillips, who later embraced the freshman lawmaker and expressed interest in meeting her grandmother.
"It wasn't planned, and it wasn't what we expected. But I think it was cathartic. It certainly was for me," Phillips told the Post.
The Free Beacon reported that a representative for Bend the Arc engaged in anti-Semitism jokes at the gathering, lamenting "about Jews and money." Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) rebuked the jokester and questioned why it was allowed at the sensitive gathering.
"It's not okay. These [sorts of jokes] are off-limits. It's confusing for someone like me who is trying to learn," she later told the Post about the incident.
However, the Post has since removed this detail from its story. The editor's note at the bottom of the article does not explain the edit, nor does it mention why the detail was removed from the story altogether.