Rep. Ilhan Omar Apologizes To Jewish Americans, Thanks Colleagues For Educating Her On “Anti-Semitic Tropes”

Update: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has apologized over Twitter, saying in a statement that she is “grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” and that her intention “is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.” 

She added, however, that she reaffirms “the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry.” 

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House Democrats have called on congressional leaders to condemn controversial remarks made by Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) suggesting that Israeli money has influenced US politics, reports Politico

Reps. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) and Elaine Luria (Va.), who are both Jewish, are collecting signatures for a letter they plan to send to Democratic leaders expressing deep concern over “recent rhetoric from certain members within our Caucus, including just last night, that has disparaged us and called into question our loyalty to our nation.” The letter, which was obtained by POLITICO, is being circulated to Jewish Democrats. –Politico

Omar suggested in a Sunday night tweet that America’s support of Israel is due to donations by pro-Israel groups such as AIPAC, after an earlier tweet responding to journalist Glenn Greenwald was interpreted as anti-Semitic. 

Greenwald had slammed the GOP’s condemnation of Ilhan for embracing the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, which claims Israel has “obligations under international law” to withdraw from occupied territories, remove the barrier in the West Bank, recognize Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel as equals, and advocates sanctioning Israel until this is achieved.

In response, Ilhan tweeted: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” 

This set off a firestorm of debate over the first amendment and hate speech; first – whether Omar invoked the “anti-Semitic trope” of “Jews & Money” as Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) claims, and second, whether it is inherently anti-Semitic to claim that Israeli money in US politics has influenced US policy towards Israel, as opposed to a fundamental belief Israel has a “right to exist” and should be protected from its enemies. Largely absent from the current discussion has been an actual debate over BDS and Israeli foreign policy.

Rep. Omar’s defenders have insisted that she should be free to criticize Israel.

Omar’s detractors such as Nadler and others have warned her to “be extremely careful not to tread into the waters of anti-Semitism or any other form of prejudice or hate.” 

Gottheimer and Luria implored Congressional Democrats to ” join us in calling on each member of our Caucus to unite against anti- Semitism and hateful tropes and stereotypes,” adding “In recent weeks, we have had conversations with multiple members of our Caucus who share our concerns about this rhetoric; we have also raised these concerns with Democratic leadership.”

“We must speak out when any Member – Democrat or Republican – uses harmful tropes and stereotypes, levels accusations of dual loyalty, or makes reckless statements like those yesterday,” they added. 

Both Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) have been repeatedly attacked by the GOP for their critical views toward Israel and support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which targets Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. But Omar’s latest tweet earned rebukes from members of her own party, including from freshman Reps. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) and Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.).

We hope that our Caucus will take swift action to address these issues in the coming days by reiterating our rejection of anti-Semitism and our continued support for the State of Israel,” Gottheimer and Luria said in the letter to leadership.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has threatened to take disciplinary action against Omar if Democratic leaders remain silent. One option under consideration, according to his office, is forcing a vote on a resolution from Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) condemning anti-Semitism.

GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) also called on Omar to lose her seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee. –Politico

Others accused Omar of breaking an election promise not to boycott Israel in addition to anti-Semitism.

Politico’s Jake Sherman weighed in, only to be promptly owned by his own pen. 

Others, such as the Washington Post‘s Dave Weigel, notes that Omar has undermined her own cause with “glib tweets.”